These days, I don’t get to fish like I used to. The days of fishing 2-4 days a week after work have been replaced with overtime at work, working a side business, housework, exercising in an attempt to keep up with a slowing metabolism, and being a father and husband. The weekends are reserved for more housework, guide trips, and catching up on lost family time. When you decide to grow up and have a family, there are many sacrifices you take on. You learn the meaning of selflessness. But this transition is not one of duties and recreational activities. It’s an inner transition; a realignment of priorities. So when I had a chance to do some fishing last Saturday, I made the decision to invite my fishing partner in training. In making this decision, I accepted the fact that there would most likely be more throwing rocks and jumping in plunge pools than catching. And the realization made me smile.
Lisa wanted to come with us, so her parents (thankfully) volunteered to watch Wyatt. At 15 months, it would be unfair to keep him on the sidelines. We headed to one of my favorite brook streams, windows down and Van Morrison on the mic. Once we crossed the railroad tracks, I smelled the aroma that every fisherman yearns for. The spring wildflowers. The fresh cut hay fields. The plunging spring water. I was in my haven.
We got out of the truck and started rigging up. I’d given Emma Jo one of my never been used Fishpond chest packs. She immediately made me give her one of my fly boxes to store in her new “bookbag”. I started putting together my new Orvis Recon rod, and was abruptly commanded to put her Echo Gecko together first. I gladly complied.
She helped me run the line through mine, then proudly began instructing Lisa on casting while I finished.
We started walking, picking up speed with anticipation. As I felt her hand slide into my palm, I thanked God for the reminder of what is most important in my life.
Her mother was certain every leaf was poison ivy, so I was tasked with carrying her through the woods between the road and creek. Between the briar bushes and Emma Jo playing the drums on my head, I was happy to get on the water.
I set my rod down and helped her work her little woolly bugger. It amazes me how well she listens to instruction (at least when fishing).
She was quite concerned with me falling while I retrieved her fly from a submerged branch…
She had on her rain boots, so needless to say it didn’t take long to fill them up.
Those in my circle know I have two things going on… a little mix of OCD and ADHD. Unfortunately (per her mother) Emma Jo shares my traits. I quickly found myself competing with the creek rocks. She started off with a little one. Then another. Then a handful. I put the rod down and joined in. After a while, I decided to educate her a little. I started grabbing big ones and turning them over. She always forgets there are bugs living under the rocks; the thrill she exhibits is so refreshing.
I carried her around between runs a bit more, soon realizing we needed to take this party to some slower open water. I grabbed my Recon and began trying to catch her a native brookie or wild bow to reel in. I wanted only the best for her. I threw on an elk hair caddis and went to work. Slurp. I knew right away from the take it was a creek chub. But in that instant before my mind registered the fact, I’d already set the hook. It’s amazing how muscle memory works. My disgust with this less than desirable specimen quickly turned to optimism as I told Emma Jo we had a fish on. Her eyes filled with excitement. I handed her the rod and she immediately began reeling in the line like there was no tomorrow. I helped keep the rod tip up, and in no time grabbed the little fish. I took the fly off, handed her the fish, and for a moment she reminded me what it was like to be absolutely thrilled with a catch, even if it was a chub. Daddy! Daddy! He’s so pretty! He ate my fly! Her smile is so very contagious. After a kiss, she returned the fish to its home.
We stood there for a few minutes, talking about how hungry the fish was. Within a couple minutes, she fell on her butt in the cold water and mama ordered us to come to the truck so she could change.
On the drive back, Lisa and I talked about how happy Emma Jo was with her little fish. I realized something that day. My 3 year old had just schooled me. We get so caught up in catching select species, big numbers, or big fish. There are plenty of times I almost get annoyed in catching a rainbow when I’m searching for brookies. Or days I get frustrated when I only catch a few. My little girl reminded me that it doesn’t have to matter what you catch. She could have cared less what kind of fish it was. She was happy just to catch a fish. We all started out that way. Somewhere along the way we lose that mindset. I learned a valuable lesson that day from my girl, one I hope I don’t soon forget. Just enjoy it for what it is. Enjoy being in nature. Enjoy catching a fish. Enjoy as many of the little things in life, that actually matter, as you can.