My daughter has in her hands a nine foot five weight fly rod for the first time ever. She is twelve. We're on the Iron River in northern Wisconsin trout fishing. I'm offering many pertinent points on how to fly fish. “Dad I got it”. She does not want any more pointers from me for the rest of today. So I just coach like I’m talking to myself about keeping the back cast up, don’t forget the ten and two o’clock position. “YEAH Dad”!
As her fly hits the water she casts a glance at me and then back at the rivers surface. I say, "it’s a good idea to watch the strike indicator instead of me", so she will not miss quick hitting fish. “Watch for the fish to hit, okay? “Concentrate on the casting and the fishing okay? “Dad if you stop talking I could”. So in my fatherly head I think, “I hope a fish hits” that will teach her.
The rod silences me as it snaps taught. Even Gods on her side. The arc is telling and she responds by raising the rod. Now she is playing the fish by just holding on. Talk about a burst of upstream questions. I reel up and drop my rod on shore as I come in behind her. She asks “what do I do”? Feather the line through your fingers as the fish lunges”. “Honey back away to the shore for more solid footing but keep the line tight”.
This is not a moment of just my little girl. The fish has its own ideas and me as well. The fish rips upstream and goes deep. The rod almost lays parallel to the water. I bark to quickly, "lift the tip", she responds slower than I’d like but she gets the angle back on the fish.
“Dad will I get this fish”? “Should I stay right here”? “Where’s the net”?
“Honey hold on now”. “The fish will start to run, when it does you need to slip line back through the guides fast and keep the tension on”. “Use your fingers to pinch the line with your reel hand against the rod grip if you have to, ok”? “When the fish comes at you, just let the slack loops fall but don’t trip on it okay”? “The trout’s running again, move up shore, watch your step, and keep the tip up honey”. She does not argue, she reacts.
The fish about butts and it’s off on a downstream run. The rod swings in a three plane twist and she is being rod run led by the unseen. “Stay with the fish Kass, just shuffle down stream and keep it tight, keep it tight honey”. The reel drag speaks and she looks at me and I go full dad on her. “Watch the fish honey, watch the fish”.
Half way to the trout it reverses direction again, now its running back upstream. “Kass strip in line fast”. “Lift the rod way back over your head”. My little girl looks like she’s whipping a rodeo whip that’s stuck on a fence post spike, but she’s into her fish solid. Too much rod, to short a daughter, so I grab line and get the rod back under her control. The fish has the river for leverage, Kass has me.
The rod pumps, little rips and then she gains line. She’s winning. I take my net off my back and move in to the river from her downstream side. “Don’t tow the fish Kass, just keep it snug honey”. We both see the brown trout at the same time. The tail comes into the net and I scoop with a forward thrust.
Dotted spotted and the color of butter is her summer brown trout. “Dad I want to let it go”. “Can I congratulate you first”?
See this is where I know her mother, who died when Kass was almost four years old still has something to do with her parenting. Me that’s meat. I’m into catch and release to the skillet. But from my own mouth comes “sure honey, it’s your fish”. “Thanks dad”. Well today both the girls, one here next to me, and one above, have gotten the last word once again.