“How long have they been fishing with you?” he hollered. The old man leaned over the wooden railing of the walking bridge and gestured toward my sons who were wading upstream. As Joey fished some thin pocket water in the shade, Aiden searched the shallows for anything unusual to add to his daily rock collection. The sun-drenched day was warm enough for wet wading, and the boys had been out with me for about an hour.
I waded downstream and stopped under the walking bridge to visit with the stranger. We watched my sons and chatted for a while. He told me stories about his childhood in Connecticut, of rivers and rope swings and cheap fishing gear. When Aiden turned downstream to hold up a new prize, and when Joey yelled down that he just missed one, the stranger and I waved back and replied with a big thumbs up.
“So, really . . . how many years have they been fishing?” He asked again.
“Well,” I said. Aiden is six and Joey is eight. I think they both started casting fly rods around five, but they cast spinning rods a little earlier.”
I explained that, from the beginning, Going fishing with these kids was less about catching trout and more about taking an adventure together. What can we see today? What will we find? Those are the questions to focus on more, rather than, How many will we catch? . . .
Drop shotting makes a lot of sense. Placing the weight on the bottom of the rig and tying in the flies above provides some significant advantages. Anyone who has tied a tag dropper somewhere above the point fly understands the effectiveness. Trout whack a tag fly riding anywhere from slightly above the streambed to mid column or even higher. They do it a lot.
I’d like to share the two most interesting points that George Daniel made about drop shotting. We got around to the subject about midway through lunch at Happy Valley Brewing Company in State College, PA.
Parenting is mostly guessing and then hoping you were right. My design all along has been to get the boys beside a river as often as possible.
Will they be fly fishermen at fifty? Will they take on fishing as a way of life? Will they need it as something to help them through difficult times? I don’t know. But I’m giving them that chance.
Joey waded through a knee-deep riffle, toward a bank side boulder that he’d never reached before. We’d fished for two hours with the fish count as zero as the skies unloaded a hard rain into the river. I waited underneath the half-shelter of a large sycamore and watched my son from twenty feet away . . .
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Up top or underneath, we must cover water to catch river trout. My days astream are a constant push and pull between reasons to stay and reasons to move on. Hanging around in a tailout for an extra fifteen minutes may be wise if I see swirls and flashing trout at the lip. But moving on and working more water is my default approach. The challenge, then, is knowing when to give up the ship and knowing when to stay on. And for that, I have a strategy — hang up or hookup . . .
I wanted to sit down with George because I knew he’d have interesting and unusual answers. George says things you don’t expect. I discovered this about him when we first met fifteen years ago, while he managed the TCO fly shop.
I wanted to dig deep into a few topics, into a few specific nuances of the tight line nymphing game. George is the mentor who helped me dial in my own understanding of mono rig tactics and all that is possible, and I knew he’d have thoughts that run as deep as we had time to dig. As usual, George’s answers were unexpected.
Hours earlier . . .
I walked behind Dad to the river. I kept my head down through the steady morning rain, watching water drops grow on the brim of my hat and then fall in rhythm with each step forward. On a muddy side trail I followed Dad: my boot tracks into his, my wide and awkward gait to keep up, the sucking sound of mud and rubber separating with each step, and more water rushing in to fill the hole behind — then the splashing of my own half-sized boots into his full-sized tracks.
We walked until our path finally ended underneath a stand of spruce trees at the edge of the river. Dad looked back . . .