It, was a beautiful spring day. I worked a good day but took off a little early to clean the garage. When Kyle got home we all (except Lois) went to the Muskegon River to fly-fish. We arrived at the river access about 4:30, loaded the camera, prepared the gear and headed down the trail that runs south along the river.
The trees along the bank were in their first tender green buds of spring. The blooming trees were colorful. A few boats floated by. Kyle waded in and began to work the water near the bank. I walked with the children under pines along the river on a needle-strewn path. From time to time a path descended the bank to the river. We all sat down to watch the soothing water flow by. The sun was lowering toward the trees on the far bank and it threw a beautiful shimmering light on the surface of the water.
The dark trout waited near the bank in pools created by a fallen log and Kyle worked his way along the bank. The trout were rising and taking flies off the surface every few seconds. Some were noisily slurping the bugs. Others were chasing their dinner clean out of the water with a racket that gave the impression of a much larger fish.
In about ten minutes Kyle was fishing right in front of us. The other five children and I were using the hushed tones of a golf announcer and trying to move as little as possible. Kyle worked his fly artfully toward the pool where the trout were feeding. I wondered if he was serving what they were eating.
Sometimes he drew the rod strait back toward his right ear and let the featherweight nymph flutter down to the surface. More often he used a side-armed roll-cast to work the fly in under overhanging branches. With a steady breeze bowing down-river, that seemed to be a little more effective.
He was natural and relaxed. You would never have known by looking that he was still looking forward to landing his first trout. He had prepared for six months for this afternoon. For a young man of his tender age and modest means he had invested in good quality equipment.
Last fall we searched out a mentor to teach him the sport. Kyle and Chuck and I had listened intently as the older man- a veteran of many rivers regaled us with tales, tips, and lore with a light in his eyes that still radiated a boyish enthusiasm. There were fly-tying tips and demonstrations. He even gave Kyle his first vise and with paraphernalia Kyle added he was soon spending winter nights under a lamp in his room creating little hairy imitation insects. They looked like the ones in the book, but I wondered if they would attract fish or merely amuse them.
With snow on the hood of our little Explorer, we had made our way to our favorite outfitter over and over again throughout the winter. We listened to the guide’s sweet stories of adventures in far away places. We paged through volumes of stories, ideas, tips, and beautiful water-color illustrations. We poured over magazines, read everything in our local library on the subject, and waited for spring too chase a stubborn winter out of our northern state.
Once or twice we even tried our hand at winter fishing, snow lining the White River, as cold as it was fruitless.
Finally the snow melted, the earth softened, the birds returned and filled the woods with music. The trees budded and blossomed, the air warmed, the flies hatched, the River called, and we came.
I watched the intensity on Kyle’s face and remembered late evenings on my grandfather’s pond with my Zebco spin-castng outfit. This was a higher form of the sport of fishing than I had ever experienced. There was artistry to it, and subtlety.
I snapped a few pictures trying to capture the mixture of anticipation, happiness, and hope on my first-born son’s face. Holly watched and read. Heidi gathered brilliant yellow wildflowers. And after hundreds of casts and hours of study, after months of waiting, Kyles line lurched and straitened, his rod bent, and at 5:04 on April 24, 1998 the spirit of fly-fishing found a permanent home in Kyle’s heart.
For the next hour we snapped pictures like an aunt at a wedding while Kyle took nearly thirty trout of varying sizes and reverently released them back into the freedom of the stream. Lively and beautiful, they flashed from the river, lay subdued for a moment than darted back to freedom again. We all waded and wondered and laughed and celebrated Kyle success. Chuck and I even landed one each. Wes fell into the river (in a very shallow spot) in an untended moment. (Don’t tell Mom this happened). Then, with the sun resting on the top of the trees, we drove home through a beautiful spring evening toward home and dinner.
One of the greatest sources of joy for a parent is not what you do, it’s watching what your children do. When I watch my children play and learn and worship and grow I am in awe of God’s good creation. And on spring nights when the trees line the river in pastels, I feel blessed that we live so near such enchanting corner of His magnificent creation.