I won’t sit here and feed you a line about why it’s not called “catching” or about the crushing continuation of a beatdown that started on a fishing pier above some wily sunfish almost a year ago now; but the best thing about fishing with a 3 year old is that they always think it’s just nice be out. And the Monster still has that skunk on her back.
Dairy Farm Run was uncharacteristically vacant today; then again it’s coming down from 5 times its normal flow and still getting snowmelt: cold and brown-colored. But the sun was warm and there were a handful of midges out doing whatever it was they had to do, and it’s been a slow winter. We took turns casting, the Monster with a woolly bugger under a big red and white bobber and me with soft hackles, her picking the stations, then both of us sitting on the bank just watching the water. “It’s a great day to go fishing, isn’t it, dad?” she commented, never getting bored by the lack of trout or discouraged by the cold breeze off the cold creek.
Really, though, this was about process: imprinting upon the Monster the excitement of assembling the gear and loading it in the car, of getting our asses out of Babylon, of squinting into the sun and watching hawks soar and ducks come skidding into frog water. Because there’s the nuts and bolts of fishing, which are just the nuts and bolts of fishing; and then there are the rituals of fishing, which is what elevates it.
When I was a little older than the Monster is now, part of the ritual was riding in the backseat of a ’77 Impala and looking out the rear window to make sure my hand-me-down fiberglass rod wouldn’t blow out of grandpa’s boat; and it involved a stop at the halfway point in Rossville, IA for a glass bottle of pop at a general store that seemed preserved in amber from a previous century. The quickening of the pulse at dropping down into the river valley, the feeling of going so far off the map of the quotidian that you might as well be in the Mesozoic as on the banks of the Mississippi in the Yellow River State Forest.
You’re killing me, nostalgia. Our ritual is a cheeseburger on the way there (perhaps from now on screamed for in toddler falsetto as soon as the drive-thru intercom crackles to life – that was a great touch); it’s talking about where on the river to go (although today it was a pretty one-sided conversation); it involves a proscribed litany of platitudes and in-jokes (I gotta teach the Monster to say “streets is tough”); it involves a vanilla malt on the way home but only if you earned it (you can earn it by catching fish [celebration] or by not catching fish [balm for the wounded psyche]). She’s still too young, really, for very much nuts and bolts so I’ll share with her everything else and hope she remembers it fondly when she’s older.
So she will choose a college based on proximity to fly water. Come on, parent’s weekend.