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. 

"And as their skills and desire grow, they’re catching more fish. And I remember every one."

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.


6 Responses

Allen Sarkozy
Allen Sarkozy

May 17, 2018

I love these stories about great family fishing experiences, it make me really like everything about fly fishing, I found my way back to the waters after my brother-in -law who first took me fly fishing when I was 20 passed away years ago and I inherited his Sage rods, I never looked back or looked at golf the same way I scan across a river in Colorado. I remember the times I caught a very elusive fish then shared the experience and a cocktail with my fishing buddies. BTW, I have more fishing pictures with friends than pictures of golf courses!

Gary Leischner
Gary Leischner

May 13, 2018

Sometimes it is not about the fish or how many were caught but instead how many frogs were caught instead or how far the flat stone was skipped! Had to laugh about the Chees-it as my wife caught a nice trout on a squished Bing cherry once when no else was catching any.

john cunningham
john cunningham

May 13, 2018

It is the lives of our children interwoven with the midges and streamers of everyday fishing that make us complete. Wonderful story. Happy Mothers Day to a terrific lady.

Michael Washburn
Michael Washburn

May 13, 2018

Henry David Thoreau once said “Many go fishing all their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.” Sometimes it takes a while for us to realize what is really important in life, and some never find it. Hilary, you have everything that matters in those memories with your daughters, congratulations! and Happy Mother’s Day!!

Frank Dalziel
Frank Dalziel

May 13, 2018

Great story. I really chuckled when you mentioned your that your daughter wasn’t interested in the boy’s new fishing reel. In another place and another country, that boy could have been me. Your daughters are lucky to have a great Mom. Hope you get a nice treat on Mother’s day. All the best.

Richard Arambula
Richard Arambula

May 13, 2018

Beautiful story. It sounds like you and your girls are lucky to have each other. Happy Mother’s Day!

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