Housatonic River Connecticut
The Housatonic River in western Connecticut.

As a parent, you want your kids to grow up to the best people they can be. You hope to provide them with enough of what they need to be happy and successful however one defines that term. The trouble is, there's no scorecard. You never really know how things are going and you just trust that they'll sort themselves out in a fashion. It's terribly nerve wracking stuff.

One of the things you try to resist is turning them into copies of yourself. It's tough. While it seems you share enough genetic material to preordain a path, you quickly find that the little buggers are infected by free will. Regardless of your desires, it all conspires to foil any efforts at duplication.

Sam and I have been fly fishing together for a few years. We started with guides, him in the front seat getting instruction, me in the back proudly watching, casting, smoking a cigar, snoozing. A few times a year we'd hit a small stream near the house. It was close enough that if the fishing was slow or we were inclined to do something else we hadn't wasted a whole lot of time in the car. Last year, the first of his teenage years, it could have been a moment when he zigged away from the water. Instead, he zagged. Our trips to small streams were replaced by more frequent trips to bigger water.

We really hit our stride during the heart of the summer when water temperatures soared. The smallmouth bite is hot on the Housatonic in late July and early August. We started fishing with one rod taking turns casting, catching and talking about those things that seem to come to mind when one is on the water. As the summer waned, Sam turned up his game a notch. He scrounged an old waist pack and filled it with borrowed gear. He practiced tying a clinch knot on his own. On the water he strung up his own rod. He fished a dozen yards downstream. We could still shoot the breeze but the gap was there. The distance was growing and I was no longer doing those things that came naturally as a parent. It felt odd to not be doing the things I had always done for him but that's probably the secret of parenting, knowing when to back off. This was one of those moments.

On our last trip of the season, he mentioned that the boots on his waders were a bit cramped. He had been wearing old boot-foots dragged from a tangle of ancient waders piled between the work benches in the garage. There always seemed to be a pair that met his needs but he had grown two inches since April and his feet were also on a spree. It was time to take his gear up a notch.

We stopped by Housatonic River Outfitters and Torrey sifted through a stack of Simms boxes searching for the right size. While I've still got an inch or two on him (and about seventy pounds) his boot size is now the same as mine. It was late in the season and the only thing Torrey could find in his size were a pair of G3s.

When I started fly fishing I bought cheap gear. I've learned to appreciate quality gear since then but I never thought I'd be starting Sam at the top. I don't think he considered it either. But there we were, a couple hundred yards downstream from eager smallmouth with $200 separating us from them. We fished till dark, new boots and cleats gripping slime covered rocks. The bass were eager, our rods bent, and the ride home was spent recounting fresh memories.

I sense momentum is building in my young angler though I don't know if he is destined to be as passionate about this thing as I am. I hope he'll find the things that I've found on the water. I hope he'll figure out a way to keep it in him even if he steps away from it for a while. Who knows, maybe someday he'll buy his own child her first set of boots.


Great, heartfelt read, Steve.

Endeavoring to get my kids started as early as possible. They're still young yet, though.

How old was your son when you first got him started?

Thanks, man. Sam and I started fishing together when he was seven or eight. We'd go fishing at a small pond for bluegills during the spawn. The fish are aggressive so it was easy to get on a tug on the line. He was probably ten when we went on our first fly fishing outing for trout.


Steve: great perspective and read. Been there, done similar ! I still remember the first bluegill fishing expedition with my son. He caught three and we put them on a stringer in the water because he wanted to take them home and eat them/show his mother, etc. We saw an odd swirling and pull on the stringer line, pulled it up and we had only heads! So he learned about bluegills and snapping turtles all in the same trip!

Thanks, Tony. Bluegills are a lovely thing in the spring when they're on the redds and aggressive.

I've only fished for bluegills in the summer months. It is hard to imagine they could possibly get any more aggressive than they are in August. Must be quite a sight. :)

I'll drive by some small ponds during the weekend to scope out the redds. Once water temps in the shallows hit 50 it's game on. #12 Parachute Adams.

Yeah or #10 cigarette butt or #14 gum wrapper. It all works.

Don't give away any secret patterns...

Well said.

The best thing we can do as anglers is pass on our passion for the streams we fish, the fish that inhabit them, the places they exist in and our stewardship for them.

Thanks, Corey. There are some days when I'm reluctant to take the kids. Sometimes I just need some solitude. But when I bring them I've never regretted it. And now they're attending TU events teaching other kids. Very rewarding.