"Big Fish right there. Do you see him? Right there!"
The words have been spoken in a million different destinations. Were these in
particular spoken on the flat, pointing out cruising Bonefish; or Salmon on the
Tweed; or man-sized Tarpon down South?
It could be. It could be big Kings on the Sound, Stripers on the Bay, Browns
on the Test, Atlantics on the Miramichi, or any number of exotic locals from storied
fish, but it isn't. This is a little stream no one has ever heard of near my house.
Plenty of people fish it, but it isn't a renowned locale, nor is it too remote. I like
it, and my clients like it too.
A ripple breaks the surface.
"Oh - big fish! That's a big fellow!"
I'll admit I'm exaggerating here. There are no substantially sized fish in this stream
in the summer. I try not to stretch it, but every now and then I find myself
inadvertently over-sizing the estimate. It happens. It isn't as though I'm trying
to deceive, but I get carried away. The factual part kicks in with an explanation
of what we're seeing:
"He's taking those Callabaetis duns off the surface. Here come
one . . . I'll show you."
I swipe one off the surface and show it to my client. He chuckles at the somewhat
stubby mayfly and reaches out to take a closer look. Opps! The fly has dried off
enough to take flight from my hand, and does so. My client reaches down to pull
it from the current, but comes up with only a wet hand. Oh well, it won't be long
before that one is a source of protein for a little salmonid.
"I'd use a #16 Adams on 4X. These guys aren't too picky."
My client doesn't reach for his fly box. He just smiles at the fish surfaces again,
leaving evidence of his excursion in expanding circles where the Callibaetis
was a second ago. My client doesn't seem to have his box with him. Actually, he
doesn't have any. He doesn't have a license, either. The only tackle we share
between us is a pair of polarized sunglasses to help keep the glare off the water.
What are we doing out here, you ask? This is our favorite way to fish!
The reason my client is tackle-less is because he doesn't have any tackle. He doesn't
seem to care, though, so that's up to him. He never argues with my observations, and
doesn't seem to mind my occasional exaggeration. Is he crazy? No, he's remarkably
perceptive, at least for a guy who isn't two years old yet!
My client is my eighteen month old son and he is having a ball. We haven't been out
long, but the outing so far has consisted of wildlife viewing (a grey squirrel and some
seagull,) explanation of local flora, (he'll smell any flower with utter abandon,) and
reading the water. (He likes throwing bigger rocks because they make bigger splashes.)
He enjoyed the rising trout and the Callibaetis hatch, and even though
we never wet a line, he considers this a successful trip. Yes, and so do I.
You see, I've taken plenty of trips that were of the magazine-story type. There are
some nice places in the world where one can enjoy a few days of fantastic fishing,
but you miss out on something, even on those expeditions. I brought back some
nice memories and some lovely pictures, but those trips didn't really come home
with me. I received some entertainment, some people received some money . . .and
now it's gone. It's over.
Our little trip is almost over, too. We've only been here an hour or so, but I can see
that he is becoming tired, so it is time to go. I point down to the water where that
trout has shown himself once again. "Say goodbye to the trout." He stoops down
and moves his hand in the familiar clench-and-release motion that is so universal, I'm
sure even the water's residents must understand it. The hand reaches up to find mine,
and we walk back to the car, in no particular hurry to get there.
My favorite client still needs a little bit of help getting in his car seat. He struggles to
pull himself from the ground to the floorboard, then from the floorboard it take a
boost from dad to get to the seat before the gymnastics required for a proper
seating position. He gets himself seated, then stands again.
My client can't really talk yet, but he makes do with some hand motions. He
exercises one now, touching his hand to his chin and flinging it out again with
gusto. The meaning is clear - thank you! He reaches his chubby arms
out and puts them around my neck. A loud "mwaaa!" plants itself on my cheek,
then he sits, waiting for the restraint to be put down. When you client is your
baby, what better payment could you receive?
I'm taking this trip home with me. This trip will stay with me because it isn't all
about the fish. It isn't necessarily about the waters or the locale. It's about creating
a bond, helping from a good citizen, and sharing time with someone you love. He
will probably never remember this particular trip. The details will be gone before
he returns home, but that doesn't matter. We'll be out here again. That's for sure.
These are the fishing excursions of a lifetime. And we didn't even go fishing!
~ Thomas C. Duncan, Sr.