You did well today. Casting a silver-blue Panther Martin over and over. Under overhangs. Over stumps. Placing the lure within inches of the bank, as if you’d done it before. But you hadn’t. I’m happy I got waders for you. Even if we never enter the water together again, I will always remember today. You fished for two hours in icy water, in unpredictable current, and navigated rough spots with confidence and ease. Only once you reached to hold my hand so I could guide you through the current.
I appreciated the excitement in your voice as you talked about the rocks, the water, the trees. You found two snails—one big one and one small. That’s the only time you put your rod down. You kept at it, casting into pools and around deadfalls as I suggested. But the best luck you had was when you found a dark, deep spot of water under a thick, fallen cedar—your own hole.
I saw the fish hit. Your pole bent, lighting your face with surprise. That’s what it’s like trout fishing. Being part of the stream. Finding a place that feels just right and not giving up. You cast again, but the excitement won out, and you got tangled. I moved to help—I was twenty yards away, flicking a blue dry fly into a swirling pool—but you waved me off.
“I got it, Dad!” you said, smiling.
“All right,” I said.
My line spooled out and I didn’t care what it did. I was looking over my shoulder, watching you. Blonde and rosy-cheeked. Water up to your belly. My determined little girl.
“I’m not giving up,” you shouted. “I’m gonna get him.”
You had him once more, hooked enough to get half-a-dozen cranks, but he got off.
The sun shimmered on the ripples. Water gurgled and flowed all around. Blue jays called to each other from deep in the woods. I didn’t have to look at my watch to know our time was nearly up.
An odd thing happens when wading a stream, fishing for trout.
The layers of the everyday fall away. The old you—the one you’re made of—the one that splashed barefoot through puddles, chased fireflies, ate snow and wild strawberries, and wanted to be outside running under the wide-open sky long into the night—comes alive. You remember and reconnect, and feel good about life again.
I got to feel that with you today.
I’m not sure if you felt. After all, you’re still young and in tune, and you were disappointed you didn’t catch a fish. But one day, when you do, I hope you’ll remember this day. The one when we waded together, fishing the Trout River, and only once I had to hold your hand.