People often ask me about my first fish. Honestly, I don’t remember it. Something interesting happens when I’m asked about my biggest or best fish, or the one that got away. The fish I think about aren’t even my own...they’re my daughters’.
Ella and Delaney have never been wildly passionate about fly fishing. For them, it’s a like, not a love. I imagine it’s similar to how my old truck is stuck on my favorite radio station, and their only option is to listen to music that they didn’t choose. Sometimes they like the song and sing along...but usually they just endure it. They’ve been thickly immersed in fishing culture throughout their lives, so I’m not surprised they sometimes resent it. While fly fishing has taken me to remarkable places, it’s taken me away from them. There have been band concerts and softball games that I’ve missed because I was on the river or the salt. Their clothes have been ruined in the wash by floatant and flies I forgot to take out of my pockets. It’s no solace to them that they’ll always have a summer job in my fly shop...they’d rather it was a pizza joint or bakery. When Ella was in seventh grade, she told me she was “over it”. I asked why, and she said because a boy had come up to her at school and talked her ear off about the new fly reel he got for his birthday. And she was thinking, “dude, I don’t care...I’m not my mom.”
Since then, I’ve been more keen on taking them fishing when it’s their idea...not mine. They know I’ll let them bring their friends, listen to music on the boat, eat unhealthy snacks like those nasty Peachy-O gummy rings, and lounge on the beach in the sun throwing rocks as long as they want. I’m careful not to buy them fishing-related gifts, I don’t decorate the house in inescapable fishing decor and I no longer coach them through every cast. The result is that we are happily fishing together more often.
I still remember the northern pike minnow Delaney caught on a handline with a hook and a Cheez-it. I remember the whitefish her best friend Julia caught on a fly she tied just an hour before in my fly shop. I remember the rainbow Ella thought was a stick until it jumped. Oh, and wait, now that I’m recalling all this, I DO remember my favorite fish! It was a cutthroat that Ella saw eating midges along a cliff wall and expertly rowed me into. I missed that fish three times, and every time she caught the eddy, rowed me back up river and gave me another shot. When I finally hooked it, she tried to hide a smile and mumbled something sarcastic about anglers who think they’re professionals. She rowed into the eddy again where she dropped anchor and Delaney netted the most important fish of my life.