The plans were laid, car packed, and we were off. I had settled on the place long before...a lake with brook trout about an hour’s drive from our house (a long time for a kid to be in the car when it’s already past his bedtime). Finally, upon arriving, he burst from the jeep and ran straight up to the lake in his rain boots and started...fishing? Nope...throwing rocks. After calming him down and putting the rod in his hands (he’d been practicing in the back yard) he made about 3 casts and was done. Despite my "patient" urging, he couldn't have cared less about the rising fish near the bank. These were freely rising brook trout, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Do you not realize the gravity of this experience? Why..you ungrateful little…. A glance at the brookies I was catching and he was off again, running along the shore. Long story short, we spent the rest of the night splashing in the water, throwing sticks and rocks, and talking about star wars (his passion at the time.)
I don’t think I've stumbled upon any ancient wisdom here, but I did learn a few things. First and foremost, my kids are not going to appreciate the serenity of the situation. As much as I may have tried to impress it upon him, he’s a KID! Also...and this is a really important one...they don’t really want to fish, at least not in the conventional sense. They want to have an experience, and fortunately I was able to realize this fairly early in their lives after the initial butt hurt subsided.
We don’t really go “fishing” together anymore. We go for adventures that involve the following:
1) a river or lake, as serene as possible (for me) but this is no longer mandatory...must be within a reasonable distance from the house
2) a fishing pole or rod of ANY kind
3) a trip to the store to pick out any snack they want, and a drink of their choice (this is the most exciting part for them) Don’t tell mommy.
4) about 15 minutes of actual casting and fishing
5) acceptance that we may not even end up fishing
6) mumford and sons on the drive there...substitute any truly good music
7) long talks about nothing and everything
8) no expectations whatsoever...difficult, but possible
9) the occasional fish caught, almost never trout. (this was a hard one for me) yes bass are fish too, yes they’re fun to catch. Yes pan fish can be fun too…but, but, they’re not trout!
The thing is, my hope is that they grow up and inherit my love of the outdoors, of rivers, solitude, contemplating life on a trout stream, trout, all fish...all the things fly fishing encompasses, but there’s a good chance they may not and that’s OK too. But if they don’t, I want to be damned sure it wasn't because I tried to shove it down their throat.
If by chance we meet on the river someday, and I’m standing with one or both of my kids, you can bet that this dad’s heart is bursting through my worn out waders with elation. But...if it’s just me standing there, contemplating this evening’s rise or stalking a fish, they’re there too...in the forefront of my mind, bursting with pride as they pursue their dreams somewhere else.
(Just hopefully not on a tournament bass boat)