Thursday, January 07, 2010

Fathers, Sons, and Flyfishing

Everyone needs a mentor, someone to look up to. In my case with flyfishing, that person was my dad, who got me fishing at the age of 2 and flyfishing at the age of 7. I will look fondly back at the many times that my dad took me out in the riverboat or wading when I was younger. Almost everytime we went a-fishing, I managed to lose at least a dozen of my dads freshly tied or boughten flies. However, he was patient and helped me reach the point where I now take him fishing, and I enjoy watching him hook up even more than myself.

As a father of a 13-month old, I can only hope to pass on the same qualities to my son. Maybe some day I can get him to take me fishing. The other day, I was talking to my dad about one of my favorite stories involving my first nighttime "hex fish". It was by no means a remarkably big fish, but to a 10-year old, a fourteen inch brown trout caught in the middle of the night was a pretty huge accomplishment. Everything from that trip is stuck in my brain, from the smell in the air to the feeling in my young muscles when helping my dad lift our 300 plus pound cedar planked Au Sable riverboat onto our winchless trailer. It was one of those nights when time truly stands still. As we paddled up to the honey hole, I remember my dad saying something about catching big fish here in times' past. After we dropped the chain anchor, we waited for what seemed like an eternity until we could hear the ever-increasing pitter patter of mayfly wings. Hex flies. The very bugs that put an extra hop, skip, or jump in any Michigan flyfishers step. As they descended slowly onto the rivers surface, small fish could be heard feeding in the distance. When the flies seemed to increase in volume on the rivers surface, so did the rises all around us. My dad told me to pick one fish to cast to. I decided upon one holding relatively tight to some wood, making big, splashy rises. Dad put me into position, and then the work began. After casting over the fish for 20 minutes or so (while missing several rises to my fly), dad told me to give him a rest, and he changed my fly for me. Even though he knew that this fish was nowhere near the biggest fish in this particular stretch of river, he knew how bad I wanted this fish. He knew that this fish meant a proper introduction to nightfishing for me. He was right.

After several more minutes, I managed to hook and land the fish. As we stared at the gasping fish in the bottom of the net, I decided to keep it and we tossed it in the bottom of the livewell. By the time we finished with the fish, most of the other feeding had ceased. Dad and I paddled out at this point. I can recall all the thoughts that were going through my mind on the way out. Thoughts concerning anything from excitement for my first nighttime brown trout, to melancholy over not being able to experience this feeling forever crossed my mind. As a young boy, I was uncertain about a lot of things, but there was one thing I was certain about; that I was hooked on nightfishing. And I could only thank my dad for introducing me to what became one of my passions for what has been going on 15 years, and hopefully many more.

My son's love affair with trout has already begun ;)

My dad, the sole person I can credit with my flyfishing obsession

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