“Do you really want all these rocks…?”
With the western sky giving off the last orange glow of daylight, my daughter and I were busy on the far side of the river, packing up our things. Bats had started their hectic nighttime feeding flights, and the first fingers of an evening mist had started to slowly slide through the river valley.
“Well, not really all of them, I guess,” was her hesitant reply.
The amateur geologist in me had taken over as I recognized some of her collected “treasures”: a chunk of mundane sandstone, a lump of non-descript basalt, a small pebble of plain white quartz.
“OK then, which ones do you want - what are you going to do with these, anyway?”
“They’re for my collection, Dad.”
Of course, how stupid of me. I rolled up the hat that she had filled with stones, and placed it in the creel, next to the two fish that would be her breakfast the next morning.
It had been an excellent night. We arrived to the river late, and managed to find a deserted few hundred yards of river where we could do “our thing”: namely, my daughter putters about in the river while I fish. Seven years old and intensely curious about river things, she’s good for perhaps twenty minutes of actually fishing with her dad, then it’s off to explore, to gather, to collect.
The fishing was good, but very demanding. A sparse few caddis were hatching, and we had some luck fishing a variety of patterns. She managed to hook a couple of fish on a BiVisable fished quartered and down, but couldn’t hide her disappointment at their size.
“I suppose we can’t keep that one, huh?” she asked hopefully.
“No, he’s pretty puny. Here, let’s put him back in,” I replied. We laughed as the 6-inch fish splashed her as she leaned down to release the small brown.
I constantly switched patterns, as I am oft to do during sparse hatches like the one that night. I counted at least three different and distinct types of caddis flies coming up. We caught fish on nearly every pattern we tried, but it wasn’t until I put on a green-bodied deer hair parachute that the fishing got exciting. The first cast next to a tree extending over the water produced a hefty brook trout. Somehow instantly appearing at my side, my daughter took the fly rod as I handed it to her and excitedly fought the fish to (my) hand. We released the little gem, but a few casts later we were able to land a legal rainbow. I showed her how to quickly dispatch the fish by breaking it’s neck, how to gut the fish, and how to pack the creel with wet grass to lay the fish in to keep it cool.
She eventually bored entirely of fishing, and was off again in pursuit of something else. Intent on fishing, I concentrated on drifting my flies across the feeding lanes. Since my daughter was with, I was armed with two rods, one holding a dry, the other tipped with a wet. I alternated between the two: often times a rise and refusal to the dry would be followed up with a solid hook up on the wet, and vice versa
I was suddenly enveloped in cheap perfume; it was as though a giant church lady had folded me into her huge, bosomy embrace. I looked up, and behind me stood a small bush of white, pink and red crab-apple blossoms.
The shrub shook with laughter, and spoke in the high, piping voice of my daughter:
”Look what I found for Mom!”
I managed another good fish that night, a brown of about 13”; with the rainbow I had caught earlier, we had enough for breakfast for the next morning. By then, she and I were ready to make our way back home, and started the process of packing up our stuff.
As we arrived back at the car and put away our things, I couldn’t help remembering a time years ago, following my own father from the same spot on the river to a car parked on the same road, next to the same bridge. I remember feeling the wet lump of rocks and shells in my pocket; I remember the smell of fresh trout covered with grass.
“Do you really want all these rocks…?”
As I remembered my reaction to the same question posed to me over 30 years ago, I quietly smiled. And so, next to the tube of fly rods, and on top of the wet waders, the dripping, muddy hat full of stones that my daughter had found was placed, nary a one of the priceless gems being left behind.