It was just two years ago that I announced "the future is now" after an epic backpacking trip to Summerland with both girls. On that trip they proved they were capable of an adult-level trip that got us into the Mount Rainier backcountry most people will never see.
It was just last year that I predicted "a great [fishing] season ahead" after a day of fishing firsts with Grandpa Jack. (And it would have been if not for a minor shattering of my hand less than a week later.)
After our first fishing outing of the season I can confidently say this will be a great year on the water and the fish better watch out. (And I'm going to do my best to not get injured again.)
Davis Lake is not an alpine lake that you fall in love with at first sight. It's not a hidden gem requiring a five mile bushwhack to gain access to. In fact, it has only a few redeeming qualities. You can drive right to it. It's close to Grandpa Jack's cabin. And it's loaded with a million hungry fish. So, actually it's got a million redeeming qualities.
Of the kids, only Clara had used a belly boat before and only twice. This time all three of the kids would be in belly boats. The big challenge wasn't moving around. That's easy. They'd be sitting in the water wearing flippers so all they'd have to do is kick.
The big challenge is handling the flyrod. Except on that one trip last year, none of the kids have landed a fish they hooked themselves. All our previous fishing had been more sitting in the raft while I managed two or more flyrods. Clearly, this would be a big change.
I needn't have worried. We wound up a set of flippers short, so I had Henry tethered to my boat. He didn't mind because he had a free ride. Lilly paddled next to Grandpa Jack while Clara stuck by me.
Within 20 feet of having our lines out I had a fish. Not a big one, but that set the tone. Clara picked up a couple of fish and then the magic happened. I saw the line bouncing under Henry's finger and told him to strike. When he felt the fish pull against the line his face lit up like Christmas morning. He got some coaching, but brought the fish to our boats all by himself. I've seen him proud at the top of mountains and when he does well at Tae Kwon Do so I knew he felt good having caught his first fish.
On the other side of the lake Lilly was having a ton of success, too. Each time I looked it seemed both she and Grandpa Jack had a fish on at the same time. Since it was close to lunchtime and not wanting to miss out on Lilly's successes we paddled our fleet closer. Lilly announced she'd caught 20 fish.
20 fish, huh? Right. This was where I remembered that my father was a retired lawyer and a lifelong fisherman so he had a tendency toward fabrication and exaggeration that seemed to be spreading. However, the more I watched the more it seemed plausible that Lilly had really caught 20 fish in the hour and a half we'd been there.
While the kids took a break and polished off a tube of Pringles we adult fisherman took advantage of not worrying about the kids' rods and fished for ourselves. I've always preferred lots of smaller fish to a few big fish so this was a great lake for me. I don't think I got to 20, but I caught plenty.
Rather than push our luck, we headed back to the boat ramp before the kids lost interest. Even more important than when hiking, calling it quits when you're ahead while fishing with kids is crucial.
It was a half mile paddle so there were more fish to be caught on the way back including a couple just casting distance from the shore. By the time we got out I was about done. Clara had latched on to Henry so I was pulling both of them by the end.
Lilly reveled in her final tally of 26. Clara insisted she only caught two, though I think there were a few more. Henry was under 10, but I kept reminding him he caught his first fish completely on his own and that kept him pumped up. Grandpa Jack was ecstatic that the kids had enjoyed themselves so much.
I think he's looking forward to the next time we can all go fishing together. I know the kids and I are.