I’ve enjoyed working with the next generation of fly fishers since I began guiding. Working with youngsters that love to fish is always a pleasure. It takes me back to when I was 7 or 8 years old. My dad would practically have to call in the jaws-of-life to pry a fishing pole out of my hands. I’ve had lots of fun young clients in the past but there’s one future “client” that I am most excited about coaching. On August 1st we welcomed our first child, a son named Sawyer, into the world. There are so many things I’m excited to show him: salamanders, waterfalls, mountaintop sunsets, paddling a canoe just to name a few. Most of all, I’m excited to show him how to fish.
Before I started guiding fishing trips I had a job working in wilderness therapy. We took kids with a broad spectrum of “issues” on 2-3 week backpacking expeditions teaching them primitive skills like using a bow-drill set to start a fire. I was constantly blown away by their disconnectedness from the natural world. The first couple of weeks in the program were dominated by withdrawals from iphones and x-box. One evening after the kids had settled down in their tents a fellow instructor and I were discussing this great disconnect. Were we, (then in our later 20s), the last generation of kids that simply went outside and played? Was these kids’ reliance on sensory overload video games and mindless television contributing to their problems? Sadly enough, we concluded, maybe so.
I am fortunate to live in an area where we are surrounded by nature. I’ve got the French Broad River basically running through my front yard. Pisgah National Forest is just on the other side of town; Dupont State Forest a stone’s throw in the other direction. There are countless options that I have yet to explore within an hour from my front door. We took Sawyer on his first nature hike yesterday. We followed the Upper Davidson River for a short distance before finding an ideal spot to relax and soak in the sounds of nature. A little stream babbling over rocks at our feet, squirrels bouncing through branches and over dried leaves, even the flies buzzing in our ears were a welcome change after being inside for most of 2 weeks. Sawyer slept through most of our short trip but part of me hopes that on some level he was soaking in the experience as well.
Given my chosen career path it is unlikely that Sawyer will grow up with an abundance of materialistic possessions. Hopefully he’ll enjoy the simple things in life like digging in the dirt, crawling on rocks, and waking up early to go fishing. It’s too early to tell for sure but given how much his mama and daddy love these things I think there’s a good chance he will too. He will have a pocket knife and know how to use it. He’ll have a .22 rifle and know how to use it. And bet your bottom dollar he’ll have a fly rod… and damn sure know how to use it. Earlier this summer I was driving to meet a friend around sunrise to go fish a remote stretch of the Chattooga River. As I looked out over the mountains into a beautiful palate of colors I thought, “man, I can’t wait to take this kid fishing!” That moment is creeping closer with each passing day and I am beyond excited for it.