November 25th, 2002

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Evolution of a Fly Fisher
By Paul Dieter (pdieter)

Publisher's Note: This is a trip Paul took this summer, and seems to be especially appropriate for Thanksgiving week. ~ DLB

This past weekend was our first Father/Daughter camping trip solely dedicated to fishing. I've found some small streams this past year that are easily fished from the bank and hold enough trout to keep the action pretty consistent. Most of these fish are less than 10 inches, but there are 14 to 20 inch fish present for more mature stalking. In sort, these small spring creeks are perfect for both father and daughter.

Amalie is seven now and she has been 'involved' in fly fishing since the age of two when she 'fished' the Metolius for the first time from her seat in a backpack. She's been fishing with one grandpa often, catching sunnies off his dock in Minnesota. She has always enjoyed sitting on my lap while I tie flies and this year she started some of her own tying. Mostly we've gone lake fishing with a casting rod and bubble with nymphs or buggers. I made sure we ate most of the first catches so she knew what the sport was really about before introducing her to the stark reality of resource management.

But this trip was different and we both knew it. Just the two of us stalking streams for two full days. I wouldn't venture a guess which of us was more excited as the weekend neared. I knew the key was to make it fun for HER but I also knew that I am a shameless addict and often loose possession of better judgment when in the proximity of fine fishing waters. I could see the perfect cycle in my mind; her fun equals my fun, equal's Nirvana. However, like seeing a rising fish on the far bank there are still mountains of skill and fortune involved in the ultimate success.

The first hurdle was to be 3.5 hours in the truck but neither one of us has problems with either conversation or monologs. Whether with a 7 year old or my standard curmudgeon fishing partner these car conversations are cherished parts of the experience. We did quite well on the ride but by the time we make it to the creek she'd had enough and was ready to get out and walk. The only problem was I had taken the opportunity to scout a new section of the stream and it wasn't suitable for a small child. We took a small hike to confirm the situation and discuss the merits of respecting private property (I gotta believe having her with me to ask a farmer for egress is going to be great but I'll leave that for future trips.) Grudgingly she got back in the truck to drive upstream to a spot I was already familiar with.

She got to see how daddy drives a bit too fast down jeep trails on the way to fishing. At the end of the road we stopped and finally got out the equipment. While I rigged up both rods I set her down to an early lunch, for all parents know fuel is key to any hope of happiness. Soon enough we were walking down the railroad tracks scouting for likely water. Under a trestle was a fine pool we set to it. Soon she had her first fish on and reeled in a small Squawfish. I couldn't imagine muddling her brain with rational of such things as "game fish" so we rejoiced in the first fish of the day landed by the youngest angler.

We fished an hour or so longer and found no fish to sustain our desires and Amalie's mind to the anticipation of setting up a campsite. Every fiber of the fisher in me needed to continue fishing into the evening but the father checked his watch, estimated the time back to the truck and to the campground and conceded it was time to move on. Walking the tracks back we found a Killdeer that had been struck by one of the two trains that passed while we were downstream. We examined the bird for potential tying materials and left it undisturbed; Amalie was saddened by the pointless death of something so beautiful, we held hands as we walked.

We camped between two small lakes guarded by deep coulee walls and Amalie was hesitant about camping without the normal forest surroundings. I admitted the uniqueness of it but pointed out the beauty of the sheer cliffs, dramatic clouds and clear water; somehow she listened and left room for the possibility. For the first time in her experience there was no tent to set up, we were going to sleep in the back of the Explorer. This idea had intrigued her all week, she hadn't ever considered the possibility and she had no idea Dad often did it while fishing and exploring on week-long solo trips. I had hope to cull some of the 10 inchers from the stream but brought hot dogs for back up; we had dogs.

After dinner we examined some bugs seined from the outlet/inlet next to camp under the projection microscope my parents sent her for Christmas. A ton of scuds and one mayfly nymph were seined and one scud and the mayfly were squished, examined and discussed. The rest of the evening was spent in the truck playing cards in our sleeping bags.

It rained hard all night and around 2:00 a.m. I considered the wisdom of camping in a canyon between two lakes next to a 100 foot long stream that connected them while it poured rain. I remembered noting the high water mark on the stream of only plus one foot or so and considered the unlikely prospect the BLM would put a fire ring and table in a flood zone. I attempted to calm my flash flood savvy Colorado ancestors with a prayer and managed to fall back asleep.

The morning was windless and much warmer than I anticipated. The lakes were even more beautiful without the wind blown waves of the previous day. We drank cocoa and practiced casting from the boat launch dock. As we broke camp the temperature dropped several degrees and the wind picked up 180 degrees from the previous day. Black clouds were racing up the coulee and I told Amalie we only had minutes before it would hit. Camp was struck in record time and I turned on the wipers as we climbed out of the coulee headed for breakfast.

Breakfast was leisurely and drawn out as we watched the rain pelt the streets of a one-horse town. The day's destination was just a few miles out of town and I had no expectations of my daughter toughening out rain and wind. But she informed me the rain was light enough and it was time to head out, so I did as I was told. Tough it out she did and we fished the last half of the morning away in a light mist and firm wind, catching just enough fish to keep her mind off her cold hands.

Now I will tell you I enjoy catching all sizes of fish and don't need to be into ones of respectable size to have a good time, but I certainly lost the talent of a child for reveling in catching 8-inch fish. Each one was greeted with unabashed enthusiasm and awe. Her favorite was the 3-incher that went flying past our heads on the hook set. "It's just a baby!" I also stopped counting my catch years ago but the daily tally comes naturally to a child so once again I can tell you how many fish were caught. . .but I won't.

We broke for lunch and the sun came out for the rest of the afternoon. We hiked upstream a hundred yards and finished the day out fishing the head of a pool side by side. I showed her the fine art of the multiple last casts and we left the stream an hour later than scheduled. The fisher in me again desired to see the day out standing mid-stream but the father left the water as content as any man deserves to be, looking forward to a long drive and listening to the thoughts of his favorite fishing partner.

I've been evolving as a fly fisher for several decades and somehow I had gotten the idea that it was a linear progression. I already knew life isn't like that so I had no idea what lead me to think fishing would be. The goals I thought I was evolving towards became so much less important this last weekend, replaced by the contentment of seeing fly-fishing through the fresh eyes of a child. The Theravadas instructors in Kandy told us many years ago that they considered parenthood as the greatest exercise in selflessness, at the time I was too young and too self-full to understand what they meant, but it had the ring of truth to it and I always remembered the words until I finally understood them about 7 years ago. ~ Paul Dieter (pdieter)

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