June 12th, 2006

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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One of Those Moments
By John G. White, (White43)

Fishing trips with my son seemingly always offered unexpected and sometimes outrageous events. Such as the time he got caught up in a tree and it took two of us to climb up and somehow unhook his foot out from a crook. Several moments later we rescued him as he floated downriver, having slipped from the bank. Or when, of all things, a white pelican befriended him at Lac qui Parle one morning, leaning against him as he waited for a bite. Aaron would move and so would the pelican, as if he were a prom date.

There was that time in the BWCA when he inexplicably jumped from the canoe while I was discussing with a friend over whether we should wade into the rapids or portage, and sent me toppling over the back of the canoe into deep water.

Something always seemed to happen.

As a kid, my son's mantra was to catch his fish, then move on to more important or interesting things. Like climbing a tree. He loved exploring, and when he wasn't climbing through the wilds of nature his nose was in a book. "Hey, Dad. I've caught my fish," he'd say. My friends love telling the many "I've caught my fish" stories that have accumulated over the years. "Someday," he told me a few years back, the summer before he left for college, "as I get older, I'll start fishing again."

Now graduated (with honors, brags his proud father), he returned home so his lady friend could join his mother and our exchange student for a belated Christmas present and bonding experience at a nearby organic farm that offers a B & B complete with a sauna and a skinny dipping pond. As the women headed off for their retreat, he asked, "Well, Dad, why don't we go fishing?"

"Where? What for?"

"I dunno. Let's put the canoe on the truck and see where we end up."

"I don't have much for spinning equipment anymore."

"You still have the Ugly Stick, don't you?"

Here I was thinking of a roadhouse steak dinner with some cold beer to catch up on times (and his career) and he was asking about fetching an Ugly Stick.

"You're too big to rescue out of a tree." Fishing with Aaron, like I said, always had a defining moment.

"Tell you what, I've been thinking of wanting to go fishing with you for a long time. And tonight is a perfect time," he said, rocking the porch swing.

"It's been a long time, Dad."

When he left to put his clothes in the dryer, I headed for the garage for the canoe. We live in the lakeless prairie, with the closest lakes at least a half hour away at the unposted speed limit. With the canoe tied down, we rigged the Ugly Stick with a slip bobber and a neat crappie looking fly I received in a swap this past winter. As we pulled out of town a quiet decision was made to head to a small state park lake, a small motorless water nestled in an oak savanna with a beautiful rock substrate and shoreline.

Perhaps we could avoid fighting the wind.

Forty-five minutes later we pulled into a deserted parking lot. We actually had the entire state park to ourselves. Winds that strummed the grasses in the open prairie en route to the lake gently rippled the water surface, and after the first hour we were sitting on a mirror.

Up in the bow, Aaron flung his rig up against the edge of the weeds and brought several small bluegill to the canoe. Two weeks ago one of Rick Zieger's black Boa Leeches had tricked several very nice bluegill into biting. Their hatch-mates must have gone into hiding. With the dimples of surface activity I changed to a Gurgle Pop, and again caught several small gills.

Nothing for dinner.

Late afternoon was settling in, and with the calmed water, we decided to paddle across the lake where deadfall created some wonderful cover. Aaron hooked a very nice crappie as I switched my fly once again, this time to a black Gill Buster. On my first cast a nice bass, probably under two pounds, put up the first meaningful challenge of the night, even doing a tail dance for us.

By casting as close to the downed tree tops as possible we started to tag some of the bluegill we had come for along with some decent crappies.

"I really needed this," he said, turning from the bow.

"I know what you mean."

He told of going to Duluth for a last outing with his college buddies before they spread out across the country starting careers and families, and of how it had turned into a deep jigging walleye experience. Aaron is not one to sit still for very long, and he spoke of his boredom. Indeed, he returned from the trip fishless. "I needed this for my confidence, too," he admitted, reeling in another keeper crappie.

As I turned, the last sun of the day caressed the upper half of the oaks on the bluff across the lake. Above that a partial moon appeared. "Look over your back."

"Nice," he said, smiling.

This was almost BWCA-like [Boundary Waters Canoe Area], for there were absolutely no human sounds. If it weren't for the buoys marking the swimming area and the adjacent handicapped fishing platform, we might as well have been in the most remote of wildernesses. We fished into darkness, each staking claim for a "one last cast."

Either that, or neither of us wished to lose grip of this precious father-son moment - well, we have that, but we also have forged a deep friendship that transcends our forty years of difference in age and the kinship God provided us.

"This is such a great canoe," he said, of my old cedar strip. "I can't tell you how much I needed to be in it again."

"When we get to the pullout, don't jump. Okay?"

He laughed. "I won't. Promise."

At the landing we sat on the wooden dock with our feet dangling in the water, resting, feeling full darkness settle in around us. Mentally I was thinking of how wonderful it was spending time fishing together without having one of those unexpected and outrageous moments.

Then I realized that we had. ~ JGW


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