Fatherhood and Brook Trout

… the visions that we leave

The fog clung tight to the water, as the run poured over moss-covered rock. The hemlock and birch along the banks crowded over us, making it hard for the sunlight to stream through. To look up or downstream you found yourself leaning forward, head up, eyes squinting, straining… trying to make out what was real verses what you only perceived in your mind.

This would be a short outing, a little stream close to home. We should have been in church, but it was our only chance in a four week stretch to be together on the water; and it was Father’s Day. What did I want for Father’s Day? The same thing I want every day… to search for brook trout.

In three hours of fishing we landed ten trout. Beautiful brook trout, still brightly colored from the cool nights and frequent rains. They were only particular about one thing… they wanted big dry flies. Adams size 12. And on this day something happened that had never happened before….the little boy turned man outfished his Dad, and Dad was glad. All those years on the water, the many lessons of reading water, on being quiet and delicate, on noticing the details and being deliberate in approach….had come together. He can now do this on his own.

We had been on the water for nearly two hours, when I stopped to change flies. With my back turned to the stream, headlamp and readers on so my aging eyes could thread the eye… I noticed something. I could hear the stream. I could hear the water pouring over rocks behind me, cascading into pools below, continuing the journey started in the mountains high above. It caught my attention. It made be close my eyes.

As I stood there, eyes closed, still…. I listened and considered that it was the first time all day I had actually heard what surrounded me. I took a deep breath and smelled the air… fresh, heavy with moisture, clean… And in a moment, all of the busy of the weeks, all of the colliding thoughts in my head, all of the anxiety and distractions, the hurry and the frustrations… were gone. I opened my eyes and looked up stream in time to see my son, now a man, land another trout.

In that moment I was reminded of how much of my children I have missed. They will both start college this fall, and our work as parents is different now. Twenty years passed as quickly as a morning on a trout stream, and so many moments slipped by without appreciating that, like the water over the rocks… they were gone and not to come back.

There is an easy lesson in life that so many of us miss, and it is the greatest blessing we can bestow… it is this: for every encounter we have with someone – let them leave it feeling better for having had it. May they feel encouraged, heard, appreciated, helped, stronger, and simply happy to have spent those moments with us. And in so doing we get a gift in return – the gift of having been present in that moment, of hearing the water, of smelling the fresh air.

The same holds true with our children. As they age and navigate their own lives they will look back, and the images they see and remember will frame their own thoughts of who they are, and of how they see the world. As the memories fade, and they have to lean-in to remember through the fog of life – may the images that remain be of beauty, happiness, peace, and encouragement. May they remember us the way we hope to be remembered.

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