When Rachel and I first moved to Montana we fished. If we weren't working or sleeping, we were fishing. Long hikes deep into Yellowstone's grizzly country to toss streamers in small lakes for giant brookies, long slow drives on questionable forest service roads, searching for grayling in tiny creeks --- That's why we moved to Montana and that's what we lived for.
Then came Henry, our firstborn. Our fishing slowed a bit, but we could stuff him in a baby carrier and still hit the streams that were closer to home. As Henry grew, the carrier became a backpack and eventually he got tired of not being able to get around on his own.
Most of the time Rachel and I would take turns fishing and playing with Henry. He'd run up and down the banks or splash downstream in the pools of the tiny mountain streams we found ourselves fishing. The streams got smaller and smaller as he became more mobile --- the fear of watching him stumble and being pulled away by a big brawler like our beloved Madison was terrifying.
We recently had our second kid, a beautiful baby girl we named Hazel. Shortly after she was born Henry, my sister-in-law and I skied through migrating bison and out to Hebgen Lake where Henry caught his first fish on his own. He insisted on keeping it for supper and while I cleaned the big, bright rainbow he asked me if we could put him back together. All through dinner he alternated bites of fish and muttering, "Poor trout".
Family kept us pretty busy through the spring and the beginning of summer, but Hazel is three months old now and we final got her out on the stream for her first fishing trip. She slept soundly in the carrier we'd used with Henry while Rachel and I took turns hucking salmonflies at hungry Gallatin River trout. Henry explored the banks with us --- poring over different flowers, bugs and rocks. We found a salmonfly emerging from its shuck and watched as it struggled free and began drying his wings.
Henry asked, "Is he coming out of his cocoon, dada?"
Our trips may not be involved in the way they were when we first moved to Montana --- no maps to study, less banging around on bouldery roads --- but we've found a whole new challenge in the herculean task of gathering all the gear necessary for spending even a few hours outside with a very active three-year-old and an infant.
While I look forward to taking them both out in their own waders, with their own rods and reels, I'm also loving spending half of my time turning over rocks and pointing out bugs or sitting on the bank with a warm, sleeping baby on my chest. As it is with many other things in fishing, being able to enjoy yourself requires you to survey the conditions, assess the situation and find a way to place yourself in the thick of it.