November 25th, 2002
The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
Evolution of a Fly Fisher
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .
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
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
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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