Trout fishing was my religion growing up. My dad introduced me to wilderness travel by taking me fishing—and it was always for trout.
He brought me up in a traditional sense—to always work hard, be honest to others and know that the only valid fish to catch is a trout. Why? Trout are hard to catch. You need to work extra hard to find them, and you need incredible skill to catch one. They represent, at least to me, the essence of true wilderness values. A speckled trout clearly defines it. The moment water becomes tainted the trout disappear, along with what they represent.
As a child, the act of fishing itself was my doorway to time spent outdoors. Even at a young age, I knew catching the fish was anticlimactic. The exciting part was trying to catch a fish, and the more difficult the species was to catch the more robust the memory of the event and the more respect you gave to the species itself. Trout was always the unyielding species to angle for.
My early years were spent just dangling a worm in a local creek. It wasn’t until my pre-teens that my father took me to a bonafide trout stream with deep pools and rapids to cast a small spinner. It was on my 16th birthday my father gave me a fly rod. By my early twenties it was rare I’d replace the fly with a worm or spinner.
Fly fishing is a lot like golf. The more you try, the worse you get. But the moment you give up and don’t care if you strike the darn ball or not, you get a hole-in-one. By then you’ve figured out the groove. Timing and feel are the two crucial elements. The line is flung behind you, and if you abruptly stop the rod at the appropriate moment, it just feels right. The line straightens out and you sense a slight tug of the tension which travels back down to your grip. It’s at this particular moment you initiate the forward cast, making the fly land on the water as nature intended it.
I continued this ideology with my nephew, Todd, while he was growing up. The poor guy. I used to tease him unmercifully when we’d gather during family holidays and share fishing tales. He’d share stories of catching big bass or pike and I always rudely interrupt him halfway through by blurting out, “So when are you going to catch a real fish—a trout on a fly?”
Years later, I talked about trout fishing with my nephew. It was at my father’s funeral. Todd had been away fishing in northern Canada and came home for the service. After spinning a few tales, trying to make light of the situation at hand, Todd asked if he could place something in my father’s casket. I said yes, adding my dad would appreciate the gesture.
It was a trout fly Todd gave my father, not a bass jig or pike spoon. We hugged after he had said his prayers and I whispered, “I guess you went on a real fishing trip while you were in the north.” Todd smiled and quite enthusiastically replied, “I caught speckles the size of a champagne bottle, Uncle Kevin. It was fantastic.”
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