by Greg Grime
A great way of ensuring that your children will respect your choice of becoming a trout bum is to begin their indoctrination early. Even as newborns, nothing is wrong with letting them see and touch your premium pelts and feathers as they marvel at your fly-tying station. And when they see the finished products, as you feverishly crank them out of your vise, carefully arrange them in your fly box, followed by them playing with and cleaning up the myriad of scraps-they will be hooked-for life.
No child is able to resist the allure of a smorgasbord of fly-tying materials. Right in front of their eyes, they watch as something already interesting in itself -thread-feathers-fur- of varying colors, shapes, patterns, and sizes, meld into nothing short of a masterpiece by the same hands that feed and hug them when times are good and bad. What you craft is nothing short of a van Gogh to them and they look at you like you didn't just hang the blue-moon but you built it and hired the Man on the Moon to keep watch.
The moment you know they are hooked for life comes when they are old enough to understand they may actually catch something with what they’ve built and they wake you at the same hour as Christmas morning, not able to contain their excitement about getting on the water to try their new fly pattern. Even if the pattern looks as frightening to you as Frankenstein’s post mortem pictures and the temperature is hovering right above freezing; it makes no difference to them. That is when you know all hope of them not following the path of a trout bum in some form or fashion is lost. A fine morning that is-indeed.
The advantage of beginning this campaign so early in their lives you ask? By the time anyone suspects you of brainwashing them-it’ll be too late. But let’s face it, there are so many things for our children to get hooked on these days, I can’t think of a better thing for them to get hooked on-nor a better way for them to pass the time. Even if your agenda is discovered, you’ll win the argument in the end because everything being offered to them is wholesome.
Yes, I know. You are thinking, how could I possibly articulate a potent argument based on fact? Something with real teeth. No worries, I’ve got your back! Here are some scientific facts to use while asserting your position to those that call you out. Fly-tying keeps the creative part of their brains running full steam ahead while the field work of pursuing fish keeps them active and outdoors. Fly-tying and casting hone their fine motor skills while just getting to a brook trout population will most likely require them to gain the gross motor skills of an amateur mountaineer. When they’re older, they may choose the solitude solo backcountry fishing provides if needing some space to ponder the future or they may immerse themselves in the social aspects of the lifestyle and commune with other trout bums.
Just remember to be patient with them on this journey. They don’t like to fail any more than you do. Don’t drag them along in terrain that is to difficult or ask them to fish water that is too complex. If at all possible, plan to take them when the fish are not just sipping but smashing dry flies with ferocious and unbridled frequency. Not that they won’t enjoy connecting with a fish via a nymph but let’s face it, nothing is more dramatic and worthy of a spot in long-term memory than-seeing AND feeling a take. Let’s also not forget, you will spend enough time just getting their line out of the surrounding trees, undergrowth and bystanders as they cast a dry fly. No need to complicate things by also adding the additional perils and frustration of hang-ups on submerged rock and timber as they learn to effectively cast and drift a weighted nymph. Keep it simple stupid—.
If the fish are not cooperating, let the kids build their small rock temples streamside(if not destroying aquatic habitat), wade if it’s safe and catch aquatic critters. Spend the time with them as you see what you can find. I bet you will come up with some stoneflies, crayfish, and salamanders at the minimum. Teach them the names of what you find but this is not the time to start making them memorize Latin names of fish and aquatic insect species. If a hatch is coming off the water, try and catch whatever it is and look through your fly-box with them for a match. It doesn’t really matter what they pick but more often than not they will pick the right thing when put to the task. Let’s face it, as much as we think, we as trout bums are all that, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to catch a caddis fly and match it to a caddis pattern. Regardless, at this stage, it’s more important to have them memorize the following phrase as soon as possible, “Honey, I don’t understand what you are saying-you can never have too much
Let them be kids. Find the kid in you again and you can’t go wrong. Practice your poker face so that even when they come up with a pattern that is likely to scare off every fish in the entire watershed, they won’t see it in your eyes but you’ll see the sparkle in theirs.
Keep it fun and they will never forget those times and neither will you if you are wise. Remember, you have just one chance-to do this right. Don’t squander the opportunity.
Besides, you’ll not only be doing your part adding trout bums to your family lineage but with their help, you’ll stand a better than average chance of successfully explaining to your significant other as to why you just couldn’t do without that new and EXPENSIVE space-age composite, sonar integrated, anti-snagging fly-rod even though you already own enough fly-rods to collectively arm anywhere from a platoon to a regiment of trout bums for a fishing expedition.