These days my 18- and 21-year-old daughters are more interested in boyfriends, shoes and the latest iPhone apps than they are in fishing, but I think it’s just a phase they’re going through.
It wasn’t long ago that their favorite summer activity was threading a worm on a hook and casting into a bluegill pond. Interestingly, with my girls, the big fish wasn’t what they were after. Often, the smallest fish got the most squeals, oohs, and ahhs. To that end, I found myself using small fly-fishing hooks with a worm and bobber, all in an effort to catch the smallest sunfish possible. In their world, where they had tiny doll houses, with matching miniature cars, clothes, and furniture, it made a lot of sense that a small fish was better than a big one. After all, who doesn’t like kittens more than grown cats?
Even traveling farther afield with Dad, the smaller fish got the most attention. On one memorable trip we camped in the Canadian Rockies on the banks of the Kootenay River, and took the 4X4 deep into the backcountry to fish a tributary rumored to hold big, native cutthroat trout.
On our way to the river we hiked through a clear-cut and saw a large herd of elk grazing on the greenery sprouting up from the traumatized ground. We crawled (upwind) from stump to stump so as not to disturb their feeding. I had my eye on the larger animals—not because I’m much of a hunter, but because I don’t like getting stomped, and I wanted to maintain a safe minimum distance. The girls, of course, picked out the smallest animal they could see and told their mother all about the “baby elk” when we returned.
The creek had an impassable falls near its confluence with the main stem, and upriver, there were indeed, untarnished Westslope cutthroat trout up to 18 or 19 inches—not bad up in these mountains. We had one fly rod between the three of us—intentional because with kids this age, you need to leave plenty of time to pick flowers, build rock weirs and collect pretty stones along the shoreline. In some pools, the fish were close enough that the girls could make a cast and catch a trout on their own. In other spots, where it was more of a reach, I made the cast and quickly passed the rod off to one of them. (They were already to the age where they realized that there was more to the fishing than just reeling in a fish after I’d hooked it.)
The “trophy” of the day was a 9-inch cutthroat that was dull-colored compared to the large, golden-yellow adult fish in the river. And because its mouth was so small it had a hard time even drowning the #10 Royal Wulff, let alone getting the hook into its mouth. I made the cast up into some deeper water along a logjam. Big fish water, I thought—and passed the rod to Ashley. The little trout poked at the fly one, twice (she shrieked with delight), and on the third time the little cutthroat finally got ahold of the fly and hooked itself.
Of all the trout we caught that day, the “baby” was the one they wanted a picture of, and it’s a photo that has sat on my desk every summer since then.
Those girls might not fish right now, but they’ll come back to it. Maybe we’ll even go back to that little creek with my granddaughters.
Summer is a great time to fish with the family to create some great memories. We asked our editors to tell us about their favorite memories of summer fishing and family. Here’s what they had to say: