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Being a Mom can be hard.  Like, really hard.

There is this overwhelming reality that you have been given this life to influence and to bring up someone who adds to society and ultimately leaves the world a better place.  There is the hope that they will have a greater, positive impact than you did. Some days, it takes everything you have to hold it together, to keep everybody happy, to wake everyone up, get them off to school, go to work, come home, make dinner, get everyone to bed, and get everything ready for the next day. But, then there are those days where it all just falls in place. Those days are what makes it worthwhile.

It’s 4 a.m. and the alarm goes off.  I roll out of bed with more energy than usual. I throw my clothes on and walk into his room. I gently rub his back and say, “Buddy, time to get up.” As he groggily awakes, he looks up at me and says, “Mama, is today the day? Is today the day we get to go? We get to fish?” I look at him and immediately feel happy that he’s so excited about the thing that I am passionate about. Today is the day. I’ve taken him fly fishing with me before, but today’s a little different. He’s grown older, taken an active interest and asked to go. Today we are fishing with a group and he’s so excited to be the big kid:  the big kid that gets to hang with the adults for the day. As I watch him hastily eat his breakfast, all I can think about is how thrilled I am to expose him more intimately to the lifestyle that has truly become my vitality. 

After we pick up our crew for the day, we drive to the water. We get out, stretch our legs and rig up. To make sure he understands safety while fishing, we spend some time talking about sun protection and the importance of glasses to protect his eyes. The education is beginning. 

photo courtesy of - Brandon Miller Photography

As we prepare, his anticipation grows. Today is the day. Today is the day I introduce him to this lifestyle. Today is the day I teach him to catch and release and conservation techniques. These are the things that are vital to pass along to him in order to carry this life, that I love so much, forward. Today I start impacting the next generation.

photo courtesy of - Brandon Miller Photography

We make our way down to the river; it’s a small stream with beautiful brookies.  As we slowly inch our way to the edge of the creek, I stop and bring to his attention the varying landmarks of the water. “See those pools of water? That’s where we’re going to cast. That’s where the fish are,” I tell him. I take the opportunity to tell him about fish habitat and what fish need to be happy and healthy. We talk about oxygenated clean water, light, protection and food. Eager to catch a fish, I put the rod in his hand and teach him how to hold the line. With my hands over his, I guide him through these first steps. I lightly touch on line management and I tell him to picture a clock as he casts: 10-2, 10-2, 10-2. We make a couple of casts to no avail. He becomes impatient, as we all do.  Another teaching point.

Then, the moment comes.  The cast has force, the line lays out delicately and like a lightning bolt, a fish hits the fly. The set is purposeful and the fish is hooked. We work together to strip line in and start talking through next steps. Keeping the fish in the water, I ask him to get the net. He scurries behind me to grab it and with the pure excitement that only comes with that first fish, he is back ready to net the fish. I guide the fish to the net and tell him to keep it in the water. Once netted, I take the opportunity to show him proper handling to aid in conservation. After removing the fly, I show him how to wet his hands in the creek and have him mirror me. He gently touches the fish while it’s still in the net and in the water, to feel the slimy coat. “This slime is the protective layer for the fish.  Like our skin, the fish needs it to keep its body safe and healthy,” I say. We talk about different areas on the fish to be aware of and where vital organs are, as well as the importance of a soft hold in the right spots. I lift the fish from the water and net demonstrating correct techniques and place it back in. I encourage him to mimic me and hold the fish the same. Great hesitation appears as he squirms at the thought of touching the slime. I reassure him that it’s necessary to release the fish back to its home. He’s excited to be a part of the release and lifts as I do. We slowly lower the brookie into the water, facing upstream. I tell him to maintain the fish there to allow fresh water to run over it. He does as asked and as the fish regains energy, he carefully lets go and watches as it swim away unharmed. He looks at me and I can see a sense of accomplishment and contentment in his eyes that I have had yet to see.

photo courtesy of - Brandon Miller Photography
photo courtesy of - Brandon Miller Photography

The sense of pride he has is enlightening.

The day continues on and we repeat this series of events with each fish caught. We work on casting, different fishing techniques and flip rocks to look at bug life. At the end of the day, as we travel home and I tuck him into bed, we review the day.  His last words before he is off to dreamland are, “Today was the best day of my whole life, Mom! Can we slay fish again soon?”

Our ability as parents to guide the next generation with a soft and detailed perspective is one of a kind. My passion is fly fishing and leaving an impact that allows this lifestyle to continue on year after year for the next generation of anglers who will fish our waters.

The ability to align the outdoor experience to their age and level is key. The beauty of this is keeping the next generation engaged and driven to carry forward what we love. The chance to teach our children our passion about conservation of the outdoor life is so important. As we instill in them the ability to be aware and present, to carry forward the ideals that make our world sustainable, we release something within ourselves.  That is the beauty in it all.

That is the experience to remember for a lifetime.

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