I received a wonderful email the other day. It showed a photo of a young boy with a trout. Now, as you might imagine, I get plenty of photos from readers/friends showing off the fish they catch (always fun to see). This photo wasn’t of a particularly big trout, though it was a nice rainbow. But it was one of the most special fish photos I’ve ever had sent to me. You see… the boy is my 11-year-old son, and I received it while I was on another continent at the time, working on a story for Field & Stream magazine, thousands of miles from home.
He wanted to show me the fish he had caught by himself.
It was a bittersweet moment. Like any dad, I naturally wished I had been there in person. (Mom was, she took the photo.) But it also dawned on me that I couldn’t remember a time when he’d ever caught a fish when I wasn’t standing at his shoulder coaching him along. And I couldn’t help but feel an immense sense of pride and satisfaction in knowing that some of those lessons had apparently sunk in. Perhaps more profoundly, I was happy to know that that spark of interest in fishing may have just caught fire on its own.
To tell you the truth, I’ve never pushed the fishing too hard with him. It’s always been around our house, and he’s always been able to go, whenever he wants. But I’ve also been concerned that fishing would become a “dad thing.” As we approach the teenage years, I suppose we’ll sort through some of that. But I know he has angling in his heart, and that makes mine soar.
Many of you already realize this, but there is absolutely no joy on the water that matches that which can be found by teaching another person—especially a younger person—how to fish. If you don’t know that now, I encourage you to find out.
You can catch all the big fish you’ve ever dreamed about, take the photos and hang them on your wall to preserve wonderful memories, but there’s no photo you’ll like more than the one sent to you by the one you taught to fish. Become a fishing ambassador, and you’ll see what I mean.
Of course, now I’ll have to up his allowance so he’ll tell me where and how he caught that trout. But that’s a trade I’m willing to make.
Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large for Field & Stream, and the editor of Trout Unlimited’s TROUT magazine. His latest book is The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing.