All of our favorite rivers were high, but clearing. Joey is ten years old now, so he knows the drill. We fish, because trout like water. And it’s the water clarity that matters, not the flow so much. We find wadeable pieces of river in almost any conditions, as long as the river isn’t the thin, brown color of Yoo Hoo.
Last weekend, sandwiched between two big days of baseball games and long team practices, we short-planned some time on the water together.
“Can we fish for stocked trout today, Dad,” Joey asked as we loaded the truck.
“Sure, buddy. But why?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I just want to do something different. Let’s go back to that place we went in the fall, beside the busted up campground,” Joey said excitedly.
“Oh, you want another haunted adventure!” I said it with a shaking voice and ghostly hand gestures.
“Yeah, that was fun,” he said. “And the fishing was easy!”
Joey was right. The fishing on that small section of water was pretty easy. It always is. The stocked trout are eager, and the fishing is as close to predictable as anything with a fishing rod and moving water ever is. It’s about hitting the honey holes and skipping the rest. You just have to figure out whether the trout are setup at the head of the hole or in the middle. And that doesn’t take long. If you catch one, you’ll probably catch another, and on the good days you can keep pulling in trout until you’ve caught them all or scared the rest.
It’s a different experience than fishing our wild trout rivers of central PA, and that’s what makes it fun. We like doing something outside the box once in a while.
“Let’s get out of here before it really starts pouring,” I suggested. “And bring your raincoat, because I’m sure we’ll see some storms.”
Joey is old enough to gather and pack his own gear now. And just like being on a Little League team, I use fishing trips as a way to teach life lessons about preparation and accountability. It’s a hell of a lot easier to get out of the house with Joey at ten years old than it was with him at six years old. But the truth is, if we hadn’t gone fishing so often in those younger years — if everything was still new — these trips would not go so smoothly. Joey’s a good fishing partner now.
I’ve always approached fishing with my sons as an adventure. It’s as much an exploration as a fishing trip. If they ask to walk the side trail up to an overlook, we do it. Skipping rocks, bird watching and hunting wild mushrooms is just as important as catching trout — sometimes more. But now, the older they get, our trips are more focused on fishing. As they grow confident in their wading, casting and drifting skills, they take on the challenge of catching trout, because the rewards are there. Because it’s fun.
But the adventure always comes first. We might look at maps ahead of time, tracking down island sections to fish after a good walk in. I know these runs and ditches inside and out, but the boys have a lot of fun discovering and suggesting the next island braid to target. It’s that sense of wonder and adventure that drew me to these rivers in the first place, and I do all I can to foster that in my sons — to build some discovery into each fishing trip.
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Parked a couple hundred yards off a two lane road, behind an overgrown fallow field of mixed weeds and budding saplings, we geared up at the tailgate. We tramped down a rough circle of tall and wet summer-green grass. Joey proudly stepped into his new waders — his first pair of breathable boot foots — and we talked about our plans.
“This misty rain is about to turn on us,” I said. “It’s gonna pour. So what do you say we hit the first couple holes and see how many trout we can catch before we wander down to explore around that campground?”
Joey agreed, and we walked the overgrown trail a couple hundred yards upstream. I looked to see the tops of the weeds well over his head. He loved it.
The fishing was as I expected — just like it’s supposed to be. The trout required decent drifts, but not much more, and any number of simple flies produced. But it took a while before Joey got into fish. And I let him change patterns a couple times before I told him the truth . . .
“You have to get a dead drift on those nymphs, Joe. These stocked fish still need a good drift. Tuck it in a little and give a touch of slack at first, or they won’t eat.”
Skeptically, Joey handed me his rod. “You do it,” he said.
I agreed. And it took no more than a handful of casts before I’d found the right part of the seam. Together, we landed that trout and then another before I returned the rod to him. Joey learned by watching me, and he quickly reproduced the same drift in the right seam. Fish on!
It went that way for a while. The rain grew into a downpour, and we just kept fishing. It was all part of the adventure. We yelled against the roar of heavy rain hitting the leafy earth and rushing water. And Joey laughed at the waterspout pouring off his hood.
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When the rain stopped, we walked downstream and toured the haunted campground again. It’s nothing more than a few beat up campers from the eighties, a lot of muddy beer cans and some scattered fire rings. Off in the corner, there’s enough lumber to finish the small pavilion that made it halfway to completion before life got in the way or ambition failed the infrequent campers. The lumber is moldy now, with patches of moss in the wettest places — just like the run down trailers.
Joey and I spent nearly an hour exploring together and making up stories about the history of this unusual place before we made another cast.
Even when we did fish again, we knew we were pretty much spent. After one more honey hole and a couple more stocked rainbows, we walked back to the truck, skirting the edge of the woods in the adjacent field.
Across the wide valley, we could see another storm moving in. The pregnant clouds were nearly bursting. We could feel their weight hanging from above. But we didn’t rush.
“Let it rain again,” I said.
Yeah! I don’t care.” Joey replied. “Fish like water, Dad.”
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N
What a great day. Can’t wait to take my 5 year old grandson on more outings. Caught his first wild cutthroat at 4, with a little help, and he was most interested in the ice cream sandwiches I packed in ice in the cooler, as a surprise.
Ahh………the youthful exuberance! That’s good stuff right there. You’re a great dad.
Way to go Joey! Great job Dad!