I remember a time, a time many years ago. My daughter of 3 years , perhaps it was 4…at any rate, it was a time when my little girl still believed that I was the most important thing in her life. It was mid-summer, two weeks into July to be more precise. Where we live, the second weekend of July is when they open the streams to fishing, following the spawning of the Cutthroat Trout. An aptly named fish for the red slashes with run on the underside of its jaws. It was during that time, all that time ago, where I took my daughter on her first daddy/daughter camp.
I loaded the car with our tent, sleeping bags, and a small cooler full of food. My fishing gear was stowed in the car like it always was. In my life I think it blasphemous not to have some small portion of tackle no matter where I might be heading. It was cool up the mountains and we were soon warming ourselves next to a crackling fire, and roasting hotdogs under a star filled sky.
The following morning, we crawled out of the tent as the sun touched the tips of the southern mountains. We opted for a cold breakfast of Pop Tarts and a steamy cup of hot chocolate. We ate in the car as we drove the five miles to the small stream that awaited us. I use the term stream rather loosely. At its widest it may stretch five feet across and at its narrowest one can easily step across it. The stream ran shallow with a gravel bottom, perfect for spawning fish. Tufts of grass, wild brush jutted out above the undercut banks. Most of the time the water holds a decent population of four, to six-inch fish, products from lasts years successful spawn. During the spawn however, the larger fish would travel into the small streams to lay their eggs.
Other anglers were out for the opening as well. We secured a spot that offered us a few narrow riffles and a couple bends with eddying pools. My daughter was no novice to fishing. She had reeled in dozens of fish over her short life span. On that day we chose to fly fish. The wild fish were wary of predators. The long length of a fly rod gave us the extra stretch we needed to stay concealed. I threw on a whopper of an Elk Hair Caddis. One big enough it could be mistaken for a grasshopper. Together we fished, side by side. Me setting the hook and her reeling them in, and everyone once in a while reeling my own fish in as she would tell me “it’s your turn to catch one”.
The proudest moment was when I helped her layout a roll cast into an eddy. A hungry Cutthroat broke the surface, inhaling her fly. I was hollering like a mad man telling her to set the hook. She did. It was the first time she had made the cast, and hooked her own fish on a fly rod. The light action 4 wt. rod, with a 10-inch fish attached, gave her the fight of a lifetime. I’m sure the two of us could be heard for miles around, celebrating, as she got the fish to the shore. A quick photo and she turned it back to fight another day. This picture now resides on my wall of fame. Each time I see it, I am reminded of that day, and how proud I was of my baby. I miss the days of being her hero, but I’m always proud of the lady she’s becoming. One that gives me moments everyday where I am proud of her.