Maybe the best “catch” of my life…
So much in fly fishing has to do with family and passing the tradition down from generation to generation. Dads teaching daughters, mothers teaching sons, and all that. Which is wonderful. That’s the thread. And that’s what makes fly fishing amazing. It’s never, ever, really about the how many, or the how big… it’s about where you are, and who you are with.
And sometimes, just the mere understanding… the acceptance and respect… the willingness to let a child chase a dream… is as important, if not more than any lessons or mentoring.
I love my father to the moon and stars, but he has never fished a lick. It was never his deal. I don’t know if it was a genetic anomaly or what, but I, on the other hand, was full-on captivated with fishing from a very early age. And I had mentors—my grandfather, my wife’s father, Charlie Meyers, John Merwin, and others prompted me down the course I’m now on, for better or worse. Yet Dad always supported this stuff, even when I moved to the Rockies, so I could be in a place where I could go fishing more often, and just maybe, carve a living out of this passion.
My dad was never a fishing mentor. But he was a mentor in thousands of other ways, and always a supporter of my fishing dreams. And that was more important to me than anything else in the world.
So not too long ago, I finally got him in my boat.
We floated the Colorado River with my wife, Sarah, up front in the dory, and my dad in the back. Sarah threw a hopper-dropper combo, and I set my dad up with a simple nymph rig that was easy to cast and manage. But truthfully, with the water being a bit dirty, I figured it would be a sightseeing float… appreciating the eagles and hawks, marveling at the red rock formations, but not much more.
Sarah scored! (She always does.) And not long after, I heard Dad say, “Hey, I got one!”
He surely did! It was a beautiful brown trout, which we netted and quickly released.
Now… I’ve netted and released many trout. But that one (and the next one Dad landed), were among the most special, important fish I’ve ever boated in my life.
Because in those moments, in that beautiful place, the son was supremely proud of his father. And in those moments, I knew father was also proud of his son.
Most importantly, I knew Dad “got it.” I knew he understood why his son would leave a comfortable East Coast lifestyle, and career in the corporate world, and chase a life (and career) that involved this silly world of fishing, and floating wild rivers, watching eagles glide over the canyons, and all that.
To be sure, Dad had always supported me anyways, out of faith, and love, and unconditional support that a father would give to his son. I knew that.
But I so, so much wanted to show him how much I had appreciated this support and run with it. So usually when I float and fish, “catching” is a mere byproduct. That day, it was different. Dad needed a fish.
The eagles, the hawks, were icing on the cake. But having Dad feel the tug was paramount.
My deepest wish for anyone who fly fishes for trout (or any other species) is that you have at least one chance to share the experience in a way that matters with someone you love. It literally doesn’t get better than that.
After all, it’s ultimately never, ever, really about “how many” or “how big.”
It’s about the people you share the experience with, the how and the why. And those people don’t necessarily have to be hard-core anglers. Sometimes, indeed, the less they fish, the more it can matter.
Make every fishing day matter, one way or another.