I want to, but I don’t want to

by | Nov 3, 2016 | 26 comments

** Note **  This one’s from a couple November seasons back. And as I fished past the same spot today, the memory of this day came alive again . . .

— — — — — —

My favorite eight-year-old looked at me exasperated, with his signature furrowed brow and troubled eyes. He animated the short speech with both hands and turned up the volume on his words. “Well Dad, I want to, but I don’t want to.”  Ahhh yes. That’s my son, because I’ve felt like that my whole life.

His tortured answer was a reply to my easy question: “Should we fish today?” But life decisions are hard for a boy so full of ideas and new plans for each day. I know it. I feel it. I remember it.

At that age, I hadn’t yet learned about the bargains we make with time — that we may do this thing now and the other thing later, accepting that upon fruition the second thing may be only half as grand as we’d hoped, if only because it wasn’t done first. These decisions are desperate when you’re eight years old.

He’s stuck right in the middle of two eras — old enough that the adults aren’t regulating every facet of his life, and yet not quite adept at wielding the freedom of choice. It’s overwhelming sometimes. I see it. I get it. I remember it.

In 1983 the summer was longer than you can imagine, and it was wonderful. My days were endless — until the sun went down. Every moment was all there was. Not the next thing — this thing. Time was big, and the days were stuffed with opportunity. But my infinite plans had me stumbling forward sometimes, chasing my adjoining intentions.

So I relieved my son of the decision: “We’re gonna go fishing for a little bit,” I said. “Let’s go.”

And when my youngest son heard the good news, he asked to come too.

Gearing up two young boys for fly fishing has enough moving parts, personal preferences and checklist items that it would challenge the best wedding planner. There’s a lot to it, and maybe that’s why we’ve done so much worm & bobber pond fishing since mid-summer. It’s much simpler.

So there’s two of everything: the right pants, socks, shirts, coats, hats, glasses, gloves. Bring enough bananas, granola bars, gummies and sunflower seeds. Then pack the rods, vests, nets, fly boxes and waders. And get my own stuff together. Over time, I’ve learned to prioritize the critical steps and mix in the rest. Aiden still needs help with the buckles. And every pair of waders has two legs. “Dad, can you help put these on?” Sure — I want to, but I don’t want to.

I didn’t grow up patient, but I’m growing into it. I’ve learned to pretend, and I’m crossing the line where I’ve faked patience enough that it’s becoming a real thing for me.

I tied the last soggy lace on my own wading boot and started the truck. Finally the stuff I didn’t want to do was done. And I really, really wanted to go fishing.

That’s all it takes. Just enough gumption to clear the hurdle of I don’t want to, then the reward is in front of us. And there’s really nothing like being with my boys on the water.

Once we’re out there, it’s all pretty good.


Keeping them happy on a river has gotten a lot easier now that I’ve learned to simply say, “Yes,” as often as possible. “Dad, can I fish up by that tree?” Yes. “Can we build a rock dam?” Yes. “Can we go home now?” Yes — because we’ll be back soon enough.

The on-stream challenges have smoothed out too. The boys are more stable, less like wide-eyed, shaky-legged newborn fawns. They’re now strong and confident because they’ve fallen in a few times and gotten back up. They’re more like little men than little toddlers anymore — stuck right in between two eras.






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. That’s so awesome. My five year old is still more excited about the snacks we’re bringing than the fishing. I think my daughter is actually more into the bonding time than the fishing. I appreciate going with each of them in different ways. My son reminds me of the goofiness I have either forgotten about or outgrown. My daughter reminds me that they won’t be kids for ever and each moment we share each others company is special.

    • Nice, Kevin. “My son reminds me of the goofiness I have either forgotten about or outgrown.” I love that part.

      Kinda nuts trying to get out the door with them, isn’t it though? 🙂

  2. Even though I don’t have kids to deal with any more, it certainly reminded me of another time in my life. Well done once again Domenick!

  3. Thanks for taking me back to those days, they seem like yesterday but they weren’t. I want to, but I don’t want to go back to the day.
    Treasure this time together because it slips by quickly. (I can tell that you do!)

  4. The one point that I forget, remember, forget again, and….remember again, is that what I think is important and what my sons (now 14 and can out fish me if he wanted to…and 8 who just enjoys life) think are important can and are often different. Case in point, while visiting Colorado, we got caught in a huge traffic jam on the 4th of July. As my frustration, and blood pressure, continued to rise, the kids were laughing and having fun writing funny messages back and forth to the other motorists. Out of the 2 week vacation…that is still their favorite memory. I still forget to stop, build rock dams, look for bugs under tree limbs and enjoy my boys, and daughters, and the excitement and love of outdoors they remind me of. Fishing…..maybe we’re simply fishing for time and memories. Look up “Fishing is a Joke”….great perspective.

  5. Very well written Domenick. Life is full of choices and understanding how a child thinks while putting yourself in their shoes is a very admirable skill. You and the child grows through those decisions. As the old adage goes, getting there is half the fun. Life goes by fast, enjoy the ride. Keep the great stories coming.

  6. I remember doing this with my 2 boys years ago and saying to myself ” why am I driving myself crazy getting all this stuff together to go fish for a couple hours then come home and put it all away again”. Well that was 30 years ago, and I wish now I had every one of those seconds back again. The empty nest feeling is not that good, but things are looking up, 2 new grandsons to start it all over again with. I can’t wait!!!

  7. Dominick, thank you for sharing your memorable experience. A fishing story without a mention of the catch; beautiful. Often, the best part of fishing is the company you fish with and the experiences that you share with each other. It’s even better when it’s with your own children, or in your kids experience with their dad!

    • Randy, good point about a fishing story without a detail of any catch. I think I have a lot of those here. Many times, the caught fish are not the memory.

  8. My boys are now 34 and 37, with more than 25 years of fly fishing under their belts. The oldest was playing in riverbeds when he was 3, and his dad was carrying him into canyons on his shoulders. Nothing beats time on the water with your kids.

  9. I went thru the same with my son and now the time based negotiation is going on with my grandsons. Almost 30 years apart and the same issues.

    Keep writing. Your missives often educate and always bring a smile to my face.


  10. A lot of love in that writing.I remember what my dad told me when I had my first child-When you come home from work and you can’t wait to hit the couch and your son or daughter asks “can we do this or that dad?”(fish,hunt scout,catch ball what ever)you get your butt up and do it.Life is short .

  11. Awesome article. Our fly fishing fellowship, the Flyfishers at the Crossing, has a motto that fits this story. “It isn’t about the fly fishing”. My children are much older now and I’d give anything to go back and do it again

  12. Boy, do I remember those days! Would give a million (figuratively) to have them back. Kids catching their first trout on a fly, belly-flopping in cold, clear mountain water. Laughing, teasing and great fun just being there together. Slinging little ones over your shoulder to stand on your fanny pack so you can move to “better” water. Memories that play like a good movie in your mind and never get old. Make them while you can. The years go by fast!

  13. Great pic of you and the boys!

  14. Just recently found out we are having our first child…and that “it” is a boy. I am praying he has half the interest in fly fishing that I do. And I eagerly look forward to the days we can share on the river. Im so excited to show him the places I love….and how to row the boat! HAHA


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