Awhile back I asked my brother and sister what they remembered about fishing with our dad. Although my dad occasionally fly fished, we mainly fished with spinning rods and reels. Lessons from fishing are some sort of a universal learning, though, right? On this Father’s Day, here are some memories — and memories in the making — in recognition of fathers and fishing.
After some laughs about bologna sandwiches on white Wonder bread, bags of fried pork rinds, and Coca-Colas, our conversation turned to the lessons learned and the memories made. Deb remembered and appreciated learning one of the very basic elements: tying a cinch knot. “Who knew that all these years later, I’d still be using it.” Phil remembered tying Renegades with my dad in the basement of our house on Cascade Avenue. But he also remembered sitting on the shore of Monument Lake on a chilly evening “passing one rod back and forth for each cast. We were shoulder to shoulder warming in the delight of the anticipation of the fish to rise.” I remembered the late afternoons at Rainbow Falls. The wind would whip up, we’d probably have an afternoon rain, and then Phil, my dad, and I would resume our famlly battle to catch the most fish. (Phil usually won — much to the chagrin of both my dad and me.)
So I posed the question to our friends on Facebook: “What memories and lessons learned with fishing and fathers do you have?”
Fathers making memories
Rick sent in a couple of photos of Penelope — his three year old daughter — “learning the finer points of fishing.” As he said, “she is going to grow up to be serious and avid angler! We spent the day catching perch and a few bass out of Monument Lake. We discussed the need to release all the fish back unharmed so they could return their mommy and daddy fish and why it was important to be very gentle with all the fishes.”
Jon Easdon, one of Angler’s Guides, shared pictures from a “monumental day” with his daughter Madi. The last day of their family trip to visit some friends, Madeline wanted to go fishing. We drove to a small lake and I proceeded to throw some casts. It didn’t take long and we were hooked up. I knelt down behind her and helped her hold the rod. We fought it and eventually landed it. She was so excited, making little squeaky noises and laughing. I caught my first fish at age 3. Madi was 2 in this picture. I feel blessed to be able to pass these experiences down to my daughter. They are lifelong memories, for all of us. She named this fish "Guido" and frequently talks about him. This will be her third Fathers day coming up. We have spent all 3 on the water together. Year 1 was Beaver creek. Year 2 was the inlet of North Catamount. Year 3 — location yet to be decided and discovered.”
Fathers living the lessons
Brad Kilgoe was unable to send a picture — but he sent in this story. “When I was about 15 years old (25 years ago) I got the bug to switch from the “bubble and fly” to an 8 wt. Fenwick Featherlight (which is all I had available in the garage to learn on). I sequestered my father's knowledge; however, the only problem was that my father was in the stages of MS that didn't allow him the physical ability to demonstrate any technique due to balance issues. Luckily for me, he was able to explain to me the do's and don'ts of casting. After showing me the correct setup and watching me "cast" ghost flies in the front yard for just a couple of minutes, he was laughing at the sound of those tiny sonic booms on every backcast. He made me start tying on kleenex to the end of the leader telling me that every time it cracks off imagine lighting $2 on fire...needless to say i learned how to cast! In addition, my dad fostered my interest in tying my own flies as well. Days before my father passed eight years ago, having no physical abilities to do anything for himself, he still wanted me to set up my vice and tie patterns that he loved to fish with: grey hackle yellows, renegades, black ants, hairs ears, scuds, etc! I'm so blessed that I was able to receive these lessons of a lifetime...Happy Father's Day!”
It’s not about the fish
Stacia works for Ramble House, a historic fly shop in Creede, CO. Ramble House is owned by Shane and Susan Birdsey, and their children, Cole and Kaitlin. “Cole has inherited Shane's passion for fishing.”
“This photo — Cole, mid-cast, and his proud father and family lab — was taken during the West Fork Complex fire last summer, which understandably devastated business. This was a very stressful, scary time for Creede and the Ramble House. This photo symbolizes Shane and Cole finding the light in the situation, and accentuates the fact that nothing can stop the love for fishing!”
Rachel Leinweber, whose dad is familiar to most (if not all of us!): Since the beginning of fly fishing, fathers have been teaching their sons to fish. It is an art that gains importance and meaning by being passed down from generation to generation. A special manly bond is created between father and son when they can share the thrill of the “hunt” for the perfect run, the perfect pig of a brown trout, the relentless pursuit of bigger and better fish.
However, something special happens when a father teaches a daughter to fish. It takes a special man to develop a love of fly fishing in his daughter and to encourage her in such a male-dominated sport. As a daughter, I know how much patience it sometimes takes to teach a little girl to fish. We can often be more interested in the nearby wildflowers than any potential fish, no matter how big. We (even at 23) can have a tendency to talk more about friendships and feelings than the caddis hatch we are about to miss. Our feelings can be fragile, getting hurt by a missed set or fishless day. It takes a special father to be able to take his daughter fishing and give guidance while at the same time giving her the independence she needs to become a confident fly fisher. It takes strength to help her trust her own instincts by letting her choose when it comes to fly patterns, locations, and casting when he already knows the right answer.
As a fly shop owner, my dad is no novice fly fisher, yet despite having a wealth of knowledge and experience to share, he has never forced it, and instead has let me make my own mistakes, on the water and in life, and learn from them. I developed my own love for fly fishing not because he made me, but because he let me. Since I was a little girl he has invited me into the sport and had patience with my wandering focus and endless talking to, from, and on the river. He has never winced when I call a trout “adorable," pick a fly simply because it’s pretty, or almost cry when a released trout doesn’t make it. He taught me that fishing isn’t about the size or the number of fish you catch, but the experience as a whole. He’s a great example of an adventure seeker as much as a fisherman, preferring longer hikes into small streams with 6” brook trout to giant fish in wide rivers.
Some of my most treasured fishing memories have been with my dad, and honestly, I don’t even remember the fish.
Orvis 101 Introduction to Fly Fishing
Early season stillwater Fundamentals-Classroom