...at one venue - a hybrid of sorts - only this place didn't have million dollar churches, parking lots, desks or chalkboards.
Given our new location, we can throw a bunch of stuff in the little Saturn and sprint over to a local state park with relative ease. We did that on Sunday. Despite being one of (if not the) most popular park in MN, it was pretty much dead, being an off night… so we got our choice of sites. We ended up in close earshot of the river, but also near the restroom (practical considerations are important when kids are along). Perfect really. Weather was perfect too.
We arrived just in time to capture our dinner. We walked ~3 minutes through flood-ravaged forest and found a changed stream channel… but water that still held plenty of fish. We took a page from the Brian Stewart book of “prospecting” with a dry fly and started winging an elk hair caddis around. Withing 15 minutes we had three fish to hand, all of which were played by JD. To date, he has caught a number of fish, and eaten a few… but he had not witnessed a stream-side “capture” and evisceration of a trout. Seeing a fish be “cut” hurt the kid to the point of pretty intense crying. Not because he was squeamish about it… but because he couldn’t bear to see a fish that he wanted to hold and study be injured I think. He cried and wailed and kept asking me “why did you cut him, Daddy?” That hit me like a brick and we proceeded to talk through the whole bit. We talk about food often – where it comes from, why we eat, etc., but there are still some gaps in his understanding (he’s not yet four years old). Hell, there are gaps in my understanding and I'd venture to say some BIG gaps in overall societal understanding. From that point on, I asked him about every fish – do you want to keep it, or let it swim home? What he wanted to do was hold each one and carry it around, but not cut it. We ended up keeping this rainbow anyway, because JD, having played and landed it, held it too long and dropped it on rocks a few times… it was in rough shape so we ate it. He dealt with the second killing… same shock and worry but toned down a little. We talked on this into the night – while we were eating, and when we were getting ready for bed. He gained some clarity I think… and I went away with a valuable reminder: it’s no small thing to take life. Kids are innocent and they are good indicators I think… they have a clean mental/emotional slate in many respects and their reactions are telling. It’s right and good to eat what the river can offer up, but it’s no small thing and the fish deserve respect and the act of killing should come with proper thought.
All said we caught ~10 trout – all on dries – all great takes. I missed maybe ~5 more. EHC fooled seven of them I think. Craneflies were coming off, and I was able to get two more on this hairwing imitation that was close but not right on. I read some correspondence from TD (local TU guy who has offered up advice regularly) and recalled his note that craneflies do not dead drift – they skitter across the water laying eggs. I was dead drifting that hairwing and now that I think of it, the two fish I got on it hit it right away as it was landing… Got one more on an emerger pattern. It was absolutely excellent to get these fish on dries. Great feeling. I didn’t want to “push” fishing on this little trip, but because we were five minutes from some easy water, it worked out fine – we walked down to the river a few times and on two occasions we fished until JD got bored or asked to leave (the second time I hung on just a while beyond his interest level because I was trying to figure out a dry fly puzzle – never did get it though).
The other highlight at the river was turning over rocks and photographing bugs. We managed to find plecopteran, ephemeropteran and tricopteran representatives.
He loved the tent, and loved the food. Great time. The weather was near-perfect. I went to bed when he went to bed… like nymphs, split shot and indicators – alcohol was not part of the bit and I didn’t stay up late drinking beer at the fire (sounds pretty good but wasn’t a good fit on this trip). I did get up at 3 AM though because I’m not used to going to bed that early… laid around until 5 AM when I got up and made a morning fire and some cowboy coffee.