Daughters on a drift boat

Daughters of Trout Unlimited:
Dustin Wichterman

Associate director of TU’s Mid Atlantic Coldwater Habitat Program (daughter Brooklyn)

Dustin and Brooklyn

“The why?”

It’s the sleepless newborn nights, looking out the window wondering what it will be like when you can take her.   

It’s putting her in a chest pack at 11-days-old and cautiously stepping into the stream to catch the fish that shares her name.    

It’s accidentally dipping her one-year-old toe into cold fall morning waters while landing a 13-inch brook trout while she’s in a chest pack. 

It’s watching her wide-eyed reaction to the cold toe and the touch of a fish for the first time.  

It’s when she falls asleep on your chest as you land a brook trout from a springhead laden with watercress, encircled by wildflowers with bird songs in the background.  

It’s when “river” and “fish” are among the first 10 words she speaks.  

It’s turning around after only an hour on the stream because she asks to do so.   

It’s watching her jump at the touch of her first crayfish.   

Its eating wild ramps and watching butterflies.  

It’s watching her rap your fly rod on the rocks and not wincing, but rather giving words of encouragement.   

It’s her saying, “Daddy, look it’s the beaver ponds!” 

It’s having truck snacks on hand at any given time.   

It’s the first time she asks, “Daddy, can we go fishing?”   

It’s hearing, “I told you I could do it Daddy, I TOLD YOU!” after landing her first native brook trout by herself.   

It’s explaining that we can’t eat this one, or that one.  

It’s watching her instruct grown men about proper casting technique.   

It’s watching her cast 10 times to 10 different rising fish and having the patience to let her do it on her own, then watching her land her first brookie on a dry fly from an emerald spring-fed beaver pond at age six.  

It’s when she lists her special talent at school as “fly fishing.”  

It’s the fact that she is better than me now at finding stream bugs and morels, and still gets excited every time.  

It’s about the constant reminders from your elders that these are some of the greatest days of your life, and allowing yourself to be in the moment.   

It’s when she curls up on my knee in the middle of a bow and arrow cast and tells me this day is the best.  

It’s when she scolds me for cows still being in a stream that I should have helped the landowner protect with a fence.  

It’s when she jokingly refers to me as Mr. Trout Unlimited.  

It’s small bits of independent growth.  

It’s praying daily that she will still want to go when she is older while taking care not to push it.  

It’s playing with wildflowers, frogs, salamanders, and stream bugs.  

It’s when it’s only me, her and the forest around us.  

It’s a kiss on the cheek when I carry her across a deep run or through valleys of stinging nettle.  

It’s singing Taylor Swift while stomping through the spring creeks on the walk back to the truck.  

It’s excitedly telling her that her great great grandmother, great grandmother and Grandmother Betty all waded through frigid mountain waters for brook trout, and that her great grandfather fished the same pool from which she pulled her first brookie this year.   

It’s in her blood, like it is within mine.   

It’s writing this with tears in my eyes.   

It’s realizing, as her father, that the reason you were placed on this earth was to make it more hospitable for her and that your connection to the health of the water around you is not within your control, then bathing in the intrinsic warmth that connection makes you feel.

This series of stories about daughters originally appeared in TROUT Magazine.