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An Unexpected Gift

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I recently spent the day fishing Rocky Mountain National Park with my family. We’re a busy bunch, always moving and doing. My son just came off of a 19 credit hours semester in college while simultaneously working a job and completing an internship. Just how much more can be squeezed into a 24 hour day? This summer he’s taking it down a notch. That translates into one summer class of 3 credits, a 40 hour work week with an internship with the City of Boulder and continuing his other job with a finance company that is holding at about 15 hours a week. Did I mention the hour commute each way to and from school and work? The busy gene definitely got passed on.  

To get my son to “disconnect” takes a little effort and the event needs to be scheduled and planned. Father’s Day was coming so this was the perfect opportunity to spend together time, unplug (literally, since we don’t have cell service in Rocky Mountain National Park), and fish of course.

We were packed and out the door without too much effort and hiked our way up, and then down, to a staging area perfect to suit up in waders and choose a line and a fly. This process, which used to be torture for a person (me) bordering on attention deficit, is now swift and pleasant, thanks to tenkara. In honor of Father’s Day, I had committed to being my son’s river caddy all day - getting him into fish and letting Papa Bear enjoy his own time on the water. When you guide and you teach, you spend a lot of time watching others cast and catch. Today was his day and he deserved it.

After handing the rod to my son, I followed up with a combination “water strategy/pep talk”. Go Team! As I’m pumping him up and reminding him how to dissect the water, “BAM!” he gets a hit while the rod is casually hanging over his crossed arms. “Yes!” That’s the best pep talk I could ever conger up. There’s a twinkle in his eyes and a boyish curl on his lip. He casts for the first time and within a moment he gets another hit. Hungry, happy, jumping fish. I want to grab the rod from him, but as a mother I must make sacrifices. I give him encouragement, try not to dictate, criticize or say anything to embarrass him, which as a mother, is hard to do. He continues to get hit, after hit, after hit. He hasn’t fished in a while. His hook set is slow, but he is excited, grinning and totally focused. Papa Bear is in his own groove, quiet, purposeful, intent, catching and releasing, catching and releasing. This is the gift from my sacrifice. At that moment, all is good with the world, with my family, with my life. The day continues on like this and I think I am in heaven. Eventually my son finds his rhythm as well as the fishes’, and his hook set get quicker. All it takes is practice. His line management is good, his cast clean, and his drifts are surprisingly soft and light. The fishing gene definitely got passed on too.


My son relaxes, he looks natural and comfortable in the river. He lands fish and gently releases them as any environmentally conscious, politically active, at-one-time-a-vegetarian would. He stops and hands the rod over to me so he can sit on the bank and eat the lunch I packed him. I cast and target my fly. I work the edges, the pockets and the seams. When did I become so comfortable on the water?

Papa Bear eventually joins us and we all rest our rods and enjoy the sunshine, the clean air, the scenery and the moving water. Before long my son is asleep. This is a sign of letting go, of releasing and taking nature in. Papa Bear wants to fish more, so do I. I take advantage of my son’s exhaustion and fish while he rests. Within a short time his eyes open, feeling refreshed he takes the rod back from me and we move on to another gorgeous spot with more hungry, happy, jumping fish.

On the way home my son says he had a great time, one day he wants to teach his kids to fish. He says he wants "all this" to be here for them too. I know it was Father’s Day, but it kinda felt like Mother’s Day too. 

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