July 1st, 2002

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The Next Plateau
By Paul Dieter (pdieter)

I thought I'd shift gears a bit this weekend and take my six year old daughter out on a small local river. I figured to make a fun outing from it and throw in a little fishing for her as well. What I got was a wonderful reminder that children grow very quickly, a glimpse of the joys yet to come as well as another day in my ongoing education of living with more love than I knew was possible.

The day started with her getting up an hour earlier than usual, barely calm enough to eat breakfast, soon we found our way to the banks of the Snoqualimie River, WA, just below the pass. The fish were small but plentiful and the action was fast enough to keep her entertained. Then the young girl who wouldn't touch a fish for the last five years suddenly wanted to hold, examine and release these bright mountain fish. I showed her how to slowly reduce her grip on the fish and have it calmly swim away. It's very hard to explain but there was something in her reaction to this small experience that connected us on a DNA level. She seemed to revel in the feeling of having the creature firmly in hand and then calmly having it swim out of her grip and then hold a few inches away. Something in her demeanor was well beyond her years and in that moment I knew she knew, and another connection was made leading to our future together. A cycle of fishing that goes back four generations to the waters of Colorado and a small cottage on the N. Fork of the S. Platte.

The main addition to my usual cache of equipment was a small cooler stocked with lots of snacks and drinks. This was obviously critical as she needed a lot of fuel to keep going but couldn't sit and eat for any sustained period, continually pushing me on to the next hole.

I learned a few years ago to always give her way more information than I think she can understand because she understands way more than I think possible. So I gave her a quick lesson on reading 'fishy water' and seined the water for what few bugs were present. Almost immediately she was directing our casts to various pockets and seams with the utmost confidence. The fish were often small enough that hookups were hard to secure but to my amazement she didn't miss seeing a single rise, even the one lazy slurping rise we had. Her focus startled me.

There was a fairly good trail along most of the river but if you have fished in Western Washington then you know that just 10 ft of brush between you and the river can constitute impassable; bush-wacking can be a nightmare. She got to experience it all, climbing over log jams, crossing the river piggy back, having to punch on through all kinds of sticker bushes and walking through the dark silent spongy forest floor under 400 year old cedars. She hung right in there and demanded more; I couldn't have been more proud of her.

I've been waiting these past few years not wanting to push her too hard but continually offering her opportunities to experience some fishing. It started in a backpack along the banks of the Metolius and has been received with various results. The first fish she caught herself (an 'U fish' pond) were cooked and eaten with grand ceremony, another time was cut short by deer flies (you can't expect a 3 year old to put up with being bitten by giant flies) but all of them have been watched carefully by a father barely able to contain himself at the prospect of having his daughter become his 'go to' fishing partner.

This evolution of a fisher (both of us) is still in its early stages but it seems we have progressed to a new plateau with many more opportunities than the previous stage. Looks like it's time for a 'Fly-O' and an excursion with our ancestors along the banks of the Platte. I don't think she will be able to help but be a fly fisher; it's in her blood. ~ Paul Dieter

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