Aiden’s First Brown Trout

by | May 12, 2015 | 22 comments

** Note ** This is a favorite Troutbitten story from 2015.

Some joys in this life can’t be described, and maybe that’s a good thing. It’s probably more important to feel the best moments rather than understand why they provide satisfaction and happiness. Because I suspect too much thinking gets in the way of feeling sometimes.

As father of two boys, I find nothing more rewarding than seeing my sons beam with wonder and confidence when they accomplish something that was previously out of reach. And Aiden had one of those moments today.

Actually, Aiden had more than a moment. Our whole excursion this afternoon was something special.

Lately, Aiden is overflowing with pride every time he pulls on his waders. And the way he walks through the woods with purpose reveals the self-confidence he’s gained from now being able to walk where his brother walks, where his father walks and where is grandfather walks. He seems born for all of this. He moves without fear and is absorbed with curiosity as he senses the magnificent balance of everything around him. Aiden is a natural soul within nature.

And so today, at four years of age, Aiden caught his first wild brown trout by himself. And that means something to me because it meant a lot to him.

This is Aiden’s, “I’m trying not to smile” face.

My day started with Aiden at pre-school. I took a good, long walk from the truck, back through the woods into a remote place that I feel is at least partially my own, because I’ve never encountered anyone there. No doubt it takes some effort to find the place, and I don’t detect many signs of other fishermen. Early in the season like this, there’s a rough path reporting the presence of  a handful of others in the last few weeks. But by mid June that path will be invisible to anyone who hasn’t walked it before, and my treasured, anonymous spot will be forgotten and obscure once again — just the way I like it.

It’s a piece of water that always seems to reward me with something exceptional. Once, at the end of a late summer morning of good fishing, I happened upon a tomato plant at the tip of the small island. A random seed had found a fruitful home in the soft dirt, and single plant had grown among the river grass. The red, sun-ripened juice was hot. And with my Border Collie sitting by my side, I sat on the bank and ate three full tomatoes like they were apples. Today the rewards were straight forward and came quickly.

Last night’s thunderstorm colored the water just enough to call it murky (not dirty, and definitely not muddy). It was just the right amount of water injected into the system to push more baitfish into the shallows and become available to trout — hopefully big ones. I heard a few slurps and slashes from smaller fish near the inside of a soft break. They were probably eating caddis, but I didn’t care. I’d need a real good reason not to start with nymphs or streamers in water like this.

The fish were eager.

Most of the good browns took my top streamer (a small, white variation of a Burke creation) and my large, articulated point streamer received only chases, refusals, and a couple hook-ups with second class citizens (stocked rainbow trout). On a day like this I was after large wild browns, so I finally took the cue and swapped out the point fly with my favorite sculpin imitation. I call it a Bunny Bullet.

READ: Troutbitten | Troutbitten Fly Box — The Bunny Bullet Sculpin

From there, I spent the next hour either hooking, losing or fighting fair-sized wild browns. It was easily the best streamer action I’d had in recent memory. And then . . .  I had to leave. I needed to walk out, change and pick up Aiden from preschool. But I knew exactly what we should do with the rest of our day.

— — — — — —

Watching Aiden walk a trail or bushwhack through the woods toward the creek always reminds me to stop — just as he does — and be impressed with the things around me.

It took twice as long, but we walked right back to the anonymous spot. I hoped the fish stayed as active as they were in the morning, and that Aiden might have a chance to catch his first solo trout.

Usually I fish and Aiden is the net man. Or I hand the rod off to Aiden with a fish on, and he gets practice fighting fish while I’m on the net.

READ | Troutbitten | Category | Fishing With Kids

Whenever he wants, I hand Aiden the rod, usually with a nymph and indicator attached. I teach him a couple things and let him start slinging. He’s gotten remarkably good at it, but his size and arm strength are prohibitive, so he gets short, mostly poor drifts. He’s caught a bunch of fish in the last year, but it was always with my help on the cast or the drift.

I helped him for a minute. Then I took a few steps back and knelt into the cool water to watch my son. With his back to me, Aiden was up to his waist on the soft edge of a picture-perfect stream that holds a bunch of trout. The water was murky and the fish were on. It was the kind of spot where even a four-year-old could catch a fish. And then he did.

It was mostly luck. But isn’t that when fishing is at its best anyway? He plunked the indicator upstream on a decent cast and let the rig drift down to what I thought was too far downstream to be productive. For some reason I kept quiet. And when he lifted to make the next cast, Aiden hooked his first wild brown trout.

“That’s a fish! That’s a fish!”

He burst with laughter and excitement.

Hundreds of times Aiden has snagged the bottom, pulled the rod back, and either asked me if that was a fish or has told me flatly, “I think that was a fish.”  This time, he finally experienced the certainty that a couple of good head shakes from a trout give you.

Aiden went into his trout fighting stance and yelled,

“Net it now, Dad!”

When I saw a good sized fish on the end of the line, I knew it was going to take some more luck to land it and not break off. With the trout in heavier water, and Aiden unable to really move from his position, I waded below and hoped for the best.  I begged Aiden to keep the rod tip up. He strained. Then finally, through a window of opportunity, the trout was in front of me. Against almost all better judgment, I grabbed the line, pulled it left, and netted the fish.

“Dad, that is a BIG one!”

It was a gorgeous wild brown trout somewhere in the mid-teens. I’m sure I didn’t catch a trout of such high of quality until I was in college, but Aiden’s has had a head start.

We released the fish and Aiden said,

“I’ll catch you again.”

“Someday, right Dad?”

I don’t know when the next perfectly joyful moment will happen in this life, but I’ll be ready to soak it in and feel it. Until then, Aiden and I have this one forever.


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. Had tyo be the absolute best feeling in the world! Touching!

    • The best feeling ever teaching your son to fish and finding him exceeding your expectations!

  2. Aiden’s a lucky kid, and you’re a lucky father.

    • Thanks, buddy. I’m definitely the lucky one. He’s a great kid, and I learn things from him every day.

  3. Domenick….BEST ARTICLE EVER!!…..I teach in an elementary school and what you said with your son Aiden is absolutely the best description of a “moment” that I have ever had the pleasure to read…..thank you for sharing ….and thank you for providing troutbitten….my guilty pleasure during lunch time wishing I was fishing!

  4. That is great stuff!

  5. This is why we keep reading and fishing. Nicely done! in all respects.

  6. Love this article…hits you right in the heart. I am curious where you get waders that small?

  7. Hi Dom, great story about your son Aiden and his first brown trout! A real bright spot. I’ll share with my 4 year old grandson who LOVEs to fish.

  8. What a wonderful story – as much as I enjoy all that you write, my favorites are your stories like these…keep ‘me coming!

  9. It just doesn’t get better than that! Congrats kid! And congrats Dad!

  10. What a great story. Makes me proud of Aiden and you too. And we’re not even related! LOL! Lucky dad, lucky lad. May it last for decades.

  11. Very cool both Aiden and you as dad.
    Both of you will cherish forever!!

  12. Absolutely wonderful story Dom. A cherished moment between you & Aiden that will last a lifetime.

  13. What a great father-son story. I’m sure there have been many more fish caught since you wrote this five years ago, but this is one you will always cherish, and neither of you will forget.

    Please continue on, teaching your boys all you know about the outdoors, and the stewards we must be.

    Thanks for the inspiring story.

  14. Great story and pictures Dom. I love the hat he is wearing too. Probably older than he is.
    I bet you have a dozen stories and meaningful to you and him, but the photo tells it all. Aiden might be hooked new too.

  15. Hey Dom,

    I was fishing this weekend with my son, who’s 8.
    He has is ups and downs with fishing and this weekend was no different.
    But about 30 minutes after I started fishing walked away from his video games to come out and see how I was doing on the water.

    I called him over, made a quick short cast, and handed him the rod.
    I told him, “bring it in yourself this time. Just take your time and pay attention. Let me know if you need my help.”
    Then I stood back.
    Seconds later, he hooked a pretty white perch, about 8″ and brought him to the dock all by himself.
    I held the line while he unhooked the fish, patted his head and set him free.
    The smile and sense of pride was priceless.
    Reading your story just drover home the point that times like these are the ones we live for. And will member forever.
    Thanks for putting your experiences into words for us to share.


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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