Slipping out into the current of the crystal clear, knee-deep water I eased towards mid-stream in order to put myself within casting distance of a small pod of sipping trout along the far bank. Any disturbance would put them down for at least 20 minutes and to make things more difficult my 10 year old son was in tow as well. It was his first day with new hip-boots and his virgin sojourn into "fishing in the water" versus from the bank. His chatter punctuated by my insistence to "take it slow" was unending. However, much to my surprise it lacked the usual random nature of comments and questions that a parent grows accustomed to from a 10 year old boy. Instead, he was asking me how to step on rocks, commenting on how the cold water squeezed against his legs through the hip-boots, pointed out 2 Canadian Geese that honked slowly by overhead, and even once told me to slow-down because we were getting "awful close" as he put it.
Our goal was to get in position for me to make a cast showing him the correct approach, and then he would get the rod. Stopping in range, I positioned him to my left to watch as he would be out of range of my right-handed casting. Glancing over at him he was bent over slightly at the waist with his hands on his thighs, intently observing the entire event as if he was a major league umpire. "No pressure Dad", I thought as I stripped out line for the cast. My first cast was on the mark and after a short drift brought a rolling rise but a swing-and-a-miss on the fly. On the short-rise he looked over at me in complete seriousness and declared, "You almost had him Dad. Give it to him again!" I chuckled to myself at his instruction and asked him if he wanted the rod now.
"No", was his reply, "I want to see you catch this guy" and with that he turned back to his umpire mode.
It took a couple more casts but eventually we got the rise we wanted along with a clean hook-up. The little fish came to hand nicely. It appeared to be a stream bred brown of about 5 inches, and a beautifully colored example of what a trout can be. "We did it!" he exclaimed as I held the fish up for him to see. He intently looked the fish over, commenting on the orange spots along the flank, and the gold in its pectoral fins. He wet his hands to get a personal look at it, and then it was put back. But his comments lingered on at just how awesome that fish was. I again asked him if he wanted to fish more himself, but he answered no. Having worked most of the morning already on his casting he was done, intent now to simply wade along with me and flip the large flat rocks along the shore in search of crayfish. Not wanting to push things I let him go about his business. Having already shown promise in his casting, I figured his fishing lessons for the day were about complete.
We would catch one more fish of about the same mold a bit further down the stream and then we packed it in for the day, heading back towards our friend at the cabin and a welcome fire. As any 10 year old, his energy was unstoppable. But the fire was a welcome relaxation point for Dad. Finally as the day drew to an end, he finally came over and opened his folding camp choir next to me for a few minutes. I asked him how he liked his day fly fishing. "It was awesome!" was his reply.
"I'm glad bud" I replied. "Too bad we didn't hammer them though. Maybe next time" I offered.
He looked up at me puzzled. "What do you mean?" he asked. "We caught fish".
"I know" I acknowledged, "But maybe next time we'll catch better fish."
He never even blinked with his response, and while still staring straight into the fire answered "Did you SEE those fish Dad? They were beautiful. Do the colors get better when they get bigger?"
I just stared at him as he watched the fire. "No Bud, not really" I answered.
He looked up at me and with the honest eyes of a 10 year old child, gave a small shrug and replied, "It don't really matter then does it?"
I was speechless for a minute, unable to do anything but smile. I was just looking at him as he looked back at me expecting an answer to confirm his thoughts. "Nope, is sure doesn't buddy." I answered. "You are right."
He pondered my answer for a moment, and then with what looked like the wisdom of an age-old fisherman of many years, turned and nodded as he looked back into the fire as if to say, "Just as I thought."
I had just been reminded by a 10 year old boy just why it is that I am drawn to trout waters. It can be found in the beauty of the places in which they haunt, and in the moment of bringing a fish to hand. It's a place of near perfection, where some of life's most important lessons can be learned from a 10 year old boy and one small trout.