The idea of “time flying” is never more evident than when one becomes a parent. Sure, it’s something that adults say to kids growing up, but the gravity of the words never really takes. Sitting in third period geometry seemed eternal, as did waiting to turn sixteen and get a driver’s license. Graduating high school and heading off to college was a laborious grind in watching the clock. Then all of a sudden, nine months of a pregnancy goes by in the blink of an eye, and then the bundle of joy coming home from the hospital is crawling and saying, “DaDa” before you know it. Time, once the great enemy for its uncanny ability to lurch ahead at a painfully slow pace, is now again in the crosshairs for the expediency of which it marches on. Thankfully, fly fishing is there to offer up windows during which time stands still, and, even if only fleeting, moments are hatched that become forged in memories that last forever.
Fly fishing was one of the pillars of my youth, and many days were spent on the water with my dad and friends. For me, like so many others, it became a critical part of life that was as necessary as sleep and food. It’s almost as though a day fishing was essential to keep the proper balance. Then, upon meeting my future wife, it morphed into something new entirely. No longer was it a competition to see “how many” or “how big,” but rather what new and exciting moment could be shared with a loved one. One of my most vivid memories of fly fishing with my wife involved her first experience hiking into the Appalachians in search of native brook trout. We fished upstream as far as we cared to, and sat on a log next to the stream and ate lunch. At the time we’d only been dating a few months, but I knew then that this was the person I wanted to spend my life with. To this day I can still picture the spot and hear the tumbling water as we relaxed and ate a sandwich. Time had somehow managed to stand still.
Our engagement came later that summer on the banks of an alpine lake in Colorado. The first hours of our engaged life took place off the grid, away from Instagram announcements and phone calls, as we blind-casted into the lake in search of grayling. While the drive up to the water felt eternal, mostly because of the ring burning a hole in my pocket, the time spent afterwards fishing was pure bliss. At the peak of one of life’s most seminal moments, we decided to go fly fishing. Therein lies one of the truest, and most rewarding, aspects of the sport. In the fast-paced race of the day-to-day, fly fishing is there to remind us to slow down and enjoy the time we have doing something we love with the people we love. I couldn’t tell you how many grayling we got to hand or how big they were, because that becomes secondary to the story.
A year and a half later, my wife was eight and a half months pregnant and lamenting the fact that her chest waders had to be augmented to hip waders thanks to our son who would be born a couple weeks later. We spent a morning on our favorite Great Lakes steelhead stream anxiously (and maybe a bit nervously) talking about how our life was about to change. The conversation shifted to things we were most excited to share with our son, and, not surprisingly, the topic quickly shifted to fly fishing. It would be overwhelmingly fun to take him to all of the places that she and I made so many memories, and a chance to simultaneously make new family memories as we hearkened back on past experiences as a family of two. Fly fishing would give us the opportunity to look back, look ahead, and be ever-aware of the present.
Brecken was born in December, and his first fly fishing trip was on a balmy day in February. We’d gone to great lengths in planning when and how this expedition would look. No longer could we make the choice to go fishing at the drop of a hat and stay out for as long as we wanted. Nap times, feeding times, duration of outside time, and fishing location were all meticulously considered until we finally sprung our adventure into action. At most we would have about ten minutes of fishing time before we’d have to head back to the warmth of the truck and get home for his next nap. Luckily the trout cooperated, and it only took a few casts to bring a brown to the net. It was a nice fish, nothing extraordinary in terms of size or color, but an unforgettable moment that will be remembered and cherished forever.
A month later we were back at the same trout stream, only this time my wife had Brecken adorned in her sling and they’d be doing the fishing. One cast was all it took for her to hook a great brown that ran up and downstream a bit, which turned out to be quite the adventure with the little guy in tow. The fish landed in the net and my heart melted. What an unbelievable moment in our life as a young family looking for peace and fulfillment on a trout stream. Our son was much more alert now compared to when he and I caught our first fish, and that led to some great photos that now adorn the walls of our home. They’re much more than just pictures of a fish, however; snapshots captured in time and immortalized forever is more akin to what they are. Seeing the pictures I am immediately transported back to that day. I can see the indicator pausing, the headshake of the brown, Brecken looking down and reaching for the fish in the net...it’s all there.
There have been more outings since these two, and there will hopefully be thousands more to come, but the beat of time has marched on in an unrelenting cadence as it waits for no one. While it has become painfully obvious that each new milestone Brecken hits or life event we have as a family is fleeting, fly fishing will always give us an outlet to slow things down and be present in that moment. We’re forever thankful that we have a way to share time as a family in the outdoors and create more memories that can be appreciated forever, even as time continues its steady lurch forward whether we’re ready or not.