** 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 . . .
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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.
T R O U T B I T T E N