Fishing The True Cast Trout Talk

The True Cast - When your kid rows your boat…

Riding in the back seat of my own drift boat, I’m looking over my son Paul’s shoulder as he sizes up the entry and plots a line through a rapid. It isn’t a terribly complicated run—there are a couple sneaky rocks that might pin or flip a boat if you hit them sideways, but otherwise, it’s a pretty bread & butter, basic chore for rowing a hard-sided dory in this part of Colorado. In other words… no big deal.

Oh the places you’ll go….in a drift boat.

Except, it is a big deal because, for the first time in both of our lives, in this rapid, it’s his hands on the oars and not mine.

Now, I can’t see his face (of course) because I’m in the stern, but I know what he’s thinking. He doesn’t want to screw it up, but perhaps even more so, he doesn’t want his old man chirping in his ear, telling him what to do. And that’s a bit of a conundrum for me because I’ve rowed this run at least 100 times, and I know exactly where the subtle moves should happen and what to avoid because I’ve made a fool of myself (years ago, wink-wink) slamming into some of these very rocks.

Gaining the skills to row means more time on the water with friends….and your dad.

It isn’t that I don’t have faith. Paul is a 23-year-old man now—a pro ski instructor, a pro golf instructor and the dude is as cool as a cucumber. But he’s also “my little dude.” The same human being who barfed up his baby formula as I was carrying him on my shoulders through Kohl’s department store, leaving me looking like the Phantom of the Opera as I searched the aisles for Mom.

This is the same little guy who played center field (meaning he mostly picked clovers and grass) when I was his T-ball coach. The same kid his mom and I bandaged and dusted off whenever he fell and encouraged him to get back in the game. The same guy I taught to fish with a bobber and a worm (just like I was taught) and the same fella who sat on my lap as I rowed this very boat with his hands rested on top of mine, seemingly not all that long ago.

As we were roaring into the rapid, I honestly wondered when the last time was that I really picked him up and carried him around. When they’re little, that seems so routine, but there’s a day when that doesn’t happen anymore. You don’t see it coming, and after it happens, you can’t remember when it did.

Reminiscing about the days when my son was sitting on my lap helping me row.

Of course, I loved watching him grow up. How fun is it to have an actual conversation with the person you read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to? I loved watching him cast and catch fish from the front of our dory. Oh, and despite the nerves, when they earn a driver’s license, and you can send them back to the store to get the ranch dressing you forgot—and they’re fired up to do it… a joyous occasion.

Still… him rowing this river—all 11 miles of our float—was a meaningful benchmark for both of us. As it turned out, on this particularly tricky rapid, I mostly held my tongue but couldn’t help but to gently suggest “a little more to the right,” or “now straighten her out” as we ran through the run—on exactly the perfect line, which he had figured out on his own anyway.

It wasn’t that long ago that my kid was the one in the front of the boat.

After he glided us into the pullout with such aplomb that I barely got my boots wet as I grabbed the gunwales, he secured the oars, and Mom held onto the dog as she’d been doing the whole day, we just smiled and nodded at each other.

“Well, now you can take your buddies fishing, whenever you want, you did a great job, Paul,” I said.

He smiled back and said he’d take me up on that. “But now I can also take you, Dad, and you can cast from the front of this boat.”

I honestly don’t remember ever casting from the front of my own boat.

I’ll have to take him up on that.