Some joys in this life can’t really 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. I suspect too much thinking gets in the way of feeling.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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 certainly 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 (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.
From there, I spent the next hour either hooking, losing, fighting or releasing fair-sized wild browns. It was easily the best streamer action I’ve 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 may 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 the net man.
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 the 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 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 probably 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 got 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.
T R O U T B I T T E N