Whip Finish


Ralph Long - May 2015

It began as a struggle; an emotional struggle, mostly on my part. It was the first day my 11year old son was on the water with a full rig of his own on an opening day of trout season. My goal was to get him on fish, but they had to be on his own. Nothing dad hooked would work. He was past the "Here's another one bud, reel it in" phase. He had new waders, and a new Tenkara rod.it was on him. However, unbeknownst to him, it was nearly killing his father with pressure to make it happen.

I on the other hand, was carrying a new glass rod. The new 7 foot 4weight had been my winter's desire. Yet now that it was finally on the water, was relegated to something I awkwardly used to occupy my hands while I watched him work the kinks out with his new rod. If I stopped fishing he asked what I was doing. He didn't want me over him. He's stubborn, like his father. So I stood downstream of him, flipping line and half-heartedly roll-casting to nowhere in particular as I tossed in small instructions, which for all accounts he appeared to ignore.

I was however, becoming aware that this little glass rod had a great balance to it. In my casual casting, it was proving able to handle most any cast I asked it to accomplish. Light in hand, it had that soft action we ask of glass, yet it had a snappy tip section which seemed to want to follow your hand giving for very nice accuracy. "Dad! How can I get my line over there?" he yelled over the sound of the water. He was pointing to a seam up-and-across from his position.

"Hang on!" I yelled back and began to move upstream.

"No stay there! He replied. Just tell me what I need to do. Don't stop fishing." He was waving his hand at me gesturing for me to stay put.

"Ok, OK" I said trying to hide a smirk. "Just let the current take your line all the way downstream, and when you feel the full pressure of the current loading your rod, flip your rod hard upstream and point the rod tip right at the spot you want to hit." He paused for a second to ponder it all, then smiled and nodded as if to say "Got it". And turning to look upstream he did just that, as if he were an experience fisherman who had just learned a new technique and figured he'd try it. I'll be damned, I thought to myself as I stood there watching it all take place. The current however proved too much for him to get a good drift where we were, so after a short time I suggested we move downstream to a softer pool.

This time I set him up below me and got him to look over the pool he was about to fish. We identified the deadfall which was a target for a likely lie, but a danger to his line as well. And we identified the main seam he would target and where to cast to get the right drift. And with that he said he was good and looked at me to move out of his way so he could cast. I backed off above him and stood with my rod under my arm watching him. He paused and looked back. "Are you going to fish?" he asked, as he nodded out in front of me to where I could cast.

"Yup" I said nodding. Then returned to my posture of watching him through the glass I was still carrying around to hide behind. That's when it all happened. With the next two casts he proceeded to hook and land an 18" brown, and a 16" rainbow; beautiful fish for any person choosing to wade waters in pursuit of trout. It had happened, and for both of us it was a mutual sigh of excited relief through smiles. A couple of high-fives, and then after a slight pause, he turned and got ready to cast. This time, he didn't look at me to move. I guess he figured I was a big boy and knew well enough when to give room. Still smiling, I moved upstream slightly and decided to check out that deadfall. Stripping out some line for my first real cast of the day, the rod snapped the size 10 Little Pine Streamer on the money, and in the first drift it was hit hard. On the sound of the fish breaking the surface I heard a loud "YES!" from my son, and looking he had stopped fishing to watch. At one point the fish came past his legs downstream and he yelled back "It's a big one!"  Landing the fish he was more excited than me as he commented "Look at the colors. These fish are beautiful ain't they Dad?"

"Yes they are Bud" I replied. And with that I knew that he was seeing more for the first time than simply wanting to catch a fish. I went back to my spot and though I fished and caught another fish I was about as content as any father or fisherman could have been. I had found another rod that I truly enjoyed and even christened it with a very nice fish. Yet in the end the most enjoyment it had provided was as a window, allowing me to watch my son become a fly fisherman through that dark green glass.

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