Tuesday, May 14, 2013
The Last Trip to the Ranch?
When Nick turned 16 in October of 2006, I bought him a fly rod for his birthday and took him fishing. He’d fished with a spinning rod on earlier summer vacations, but some experts I consulted with said 16 was a good age in terms of having the maturity to handle a fly rod.
That autumn we made the first of several trips to a ranch in the Mt. Shasta area of Northern California. We were there a day, and the fishing wasn’t good at all. The fish, as they are wont to do, simply weren’t feeding, and nothing we tried worked very well. But the weather was pleasant, the ranch is a singularly beautiful place (no relation to the one in my mystery, The McHenry Inheritance), and we had a good time. Fishing can be hugely pleasurable, even without the fish.
We returned in subsequent Octobers, and the fishing was better, which made the trip even more fun. The birthday fishing trip became a father-son ritual that we both looked forward to. I was starting to think about this year’s fall fishing trip in late March, when something unexpected happened.
He’s In the Army Now
On the first of April, Nick announced that he was joining the Army, where he’d been promised an assignment to the training program for Blackhawk Helicopter mechanics. Linda and I never saw it coming, but in hindsight, we should have. He’s crazy about planes and flying and wants a career in aviation, so some military background would be a real plus.
After the decision sunk in, I made an executive decision. Since we wouldn’t be able to do the fishing trip this fall, I booked it for the end of April, just before Nick had to leave for basic training. I don’t generally believe in “fronts,” but this clearly was a case where an exception was called for. I booked the guest cabin on the ranch for the nights of April 29 and 30, which meant we would have two days of fishing between Monday and Wednesday afternoon.
Spring weather in the mountains can be unpredictable; I’ve experienced snow as late as early June. But we caught a break. Monday afternoon was warm and a bit overcast, and Tuesday and Wednesday were bright, warm and breezy.
The End of a Tradition?
We had a really good time. There was no dry-fly fishing when the wind came up, but the fish were still feeding on nymphs under the surface. When that activity slowed down, I taught Nick how to fish with a Woolly Bugger, which imitates a leech or minnow, and he caught and released several nice fish that took it.
At the time I booked the trip, I thought maybe this would be a good chance for me to give my son some fatherly advice, but when we got there, I decided to forget about that, and simply let this be a fishing trip. It could turn out to be one of those instances where what wasn’t said is every bit as profound as anything that could have been said.
For the next six years, the Army owns Nick’s time, and there’s no way of knowing when, or if, we’ll be able to do a fishing trip. It also turns out that the ranch we’ve been going to for eight years now is for sale, and there’s no guarantee that the new owners will be amenable to fishing guests. Either way, this trip could be the end of a tradition. But what memories we’ll always have!