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Monday, January 21, 2013

Hooked on fishing and the great outdoors

On the mighty Willamette River!
Today, my daughter and I went on a date. Just to spend a little time together. Connect. Life's been a bit crazy for her since...well, since her brother was born, since mummy's business took off, since Papa went back to school, since she started at another school, since...you get the picture. When she was an infant/toddler, we used to get a lot of time just her and I. And we still get some time, but not enough to satiate either of our thirsts.

So we took half a day to just be together. And it rocked! Figuratively and literally.
Finding agates and quartz along the riverbanks.
After seeing me head out fishing several times in the recent weeks (early one morning here, late one afternoon there), she'd started asking me to take her steelhead fishing, too. And I had promised I'd find a time. Today was that time.

And let me tell you, she was excited!

Truth be told, so was I.

We packed her pole, my fly rod, some snacks, plenty of warm clothing and headed south along Highway 99 for places yet to be explored. We peered through the fog at geese hunkered down in foggy farmers' fields, played the animal guessing game, talked about school (and a bit of misbehaving in school last week), and just let the discussions ebb and flow as they may. After about twenty minutes, we found ourselves around Old River Road and decided to drive the back roads looking for a couple of County Parks that had thus far eluded us. In all the dense valley fog, they still eluded us. So we landed at one of our favorites, Irish Bend County Park.

We grabbed our gear and headed upriver toward a familiar gravel bar, wondering what adventure awaited us ahead. The water was running low for this time of year so we had our pick of spots along the bar. We found a spot that looked good and set down our gear. I asked Finn, "Are you ready?!" to which she replied, "Yep, but let's collect some agates first." So off we went in hot pursuit of semi-opaque rocks.
Oh the beautifully structured nonconformity of a gravel bar.
After a while of searching for and finding lots of various sized and colored agates and quartz crystals, we decided it was time to wet the lines. Finn set about her casting with aplomb, zinging her teardrop bobber and fly half way across the river with nearly every cast (she's been a pro caster since the age of 2!). Eventually she got her line a little fouled up and brought it to me to fix. I had her hold my fly rod while I untangled it. I could see her looking at my rod/reel with interest and she wondering aloud if she could fly fish sometime. I assured her she could and asked her when she'd like to try it to which she responded "Right now!" I asked her to wait for just a minute so I could finish untangling her line. I set about the task of releasing the knot in her line totally absorbed in my task only to be jolted back to reality with an incredibly piercing pain in my lip. I look down the bridge of my nose and am astonished to see a size 2X bullet head wooly bugger protruding from my lip, the recognition slowly dawning on me that this fly looks strikingly similar to one of the ones I have tied to my fly line. A fraction of a second later, the pain piercing my lip crescendos in rhythm as Finn continues whipping my fly rod around, wondering where the fly went.

It all happened so fast, I could hardly believe it. But there I was, attached to the end of my own fly rod at the hands of my beautiful daughter. I held the line firm, slowly tugged the hook to see how deeply it had set (it was fully through my lip) and hoped beyond hope that I had remembered to pinch the barb down. Luckily, I had so the extrication was without issue...except for the blood spurting from my lower lip. I looked up at Finn to see a look of shock, horror and mild bemusement on her face. I assured her that I was OK but it must have been met with disbelief as the look on her face wasn't one of comfort. We had a brief talk about listening to parents and unintended consequences, I washed my lip off and we both had a good laugh about it.

At this point, we decided to hang up the rods for the day, which was probably a good thing since it was so cold we'd had to keep breaking our lines free from our line guides as they would ice up every few casts. It was her first (but surely not last) experience with her line guides icing up. In her words, it was so cold, "It feels like my hands are dead! This is awesome!" But before we left, I wanted Finn and I sit down at the river's edge, in quiet, and just listen to the sounds for a few minutes...see where our minds wandered. I told her that this was one of my favorite things about being on the river, just letting my mind clear itself and wander. So we did. At one point, she asked me to close my eyes to listen. I obliged. Then we shared our thoughts. She was reminded of the sounds from a multi-day rafting trip down the John Day River a couple of years ago. I was washed over with emotion thinking about how much I love this wonderful creature that Cat and I brought into this world. She looked into my eyes, smiled, gave a muted giggle and hugged me.

Melt. My. Heart.
Listening to what the river has to say.
We beat feet back to Corvallis and I tried to convince her to have some spicy Mexican food with me but she had her heart set on a hand-spanked Painted Hills Natural Beef burger and fries from Block 15's menu. Reluctantly (riiiight!), I obliged. And was glad I did because the waitress captured a wonderful shot of Finn and me. We tweaked the image in Instagram because Finn wanted a "black and white, older look". We were both happy with the outcome. And I was pleased with the French Cognac barrel-aged Louis le Whopper craft beer I had with my spicy chicken grinder sammy and mushroom/sage soup of the day.

It was a winning day, all around. Gosh I love this girl...
Lunch date at Block 15
In answer to your question? No, this experience will not keep me from sticking more fish lips. But I AM glad that this little lesson for Finn seems to have stuck.

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