Being that the Holiday Season is here, I enjoy looking back upon where and how I grew up and road I chose in life. Much of that reflection leaves me quite thankful, because as I start at the beginning and retrace the steps to where I am now, I have had and am having an awesome life.
Every male in my family, with exception of 2 that I can think of and remember growing up, fly fished. Both grandfathers, nearly all my uncles and great uncles, dad (obviously) and even grandmothers and some aunts, basically everyone did. Many of my cousins wanted to do it more than they got to so I was “lucky” by their standards.
No question there was some turbid water between the early days and now, I definitely lost my way for awhile. Some friends remind me that I would try to hide in the morning to avoid going winter steelheading with my dad and I remember trying to stay at friends houses on nights before when I knew he was wanting to be on the water.
See when your parents are divorced and you live with one of them, they typically can’t just leave you home for the day while they go fish. Cold, rain pouring off the bow of the boat in sheets on the Nestucca, me melting anything I could get my hands on in the propane heater just to stave off bordom, just wasn’t always my cup of tea.
Dad put in some solid efforts though. He bought me a couple of pocket knives, taught me to whittle wood and finally how to make a sling shot. Thereafter I would gather rocks at the boat ramp and launch them into his water, imagine how that went over.
He learned quickly. Typically he would anchor the boat far enough from the bucket I couldn’t get a rock into it with my sling shot. Then, he would be tired of walking back up to the boat after swinging through a run. Then opportunity knocked, for my dad. One summer during our lake trips to the Cascades, he taught me how to pull up anchor and row the boat, cued by our black labrador’s whistle. One whistle, “stop and look at me”, 2 consecutive whistles after the first, “pull anchor and row down to me”, I was a quick learner as by age 6 or 7 I had it down pretty good. Our 16′ Koffler was a second home, one I came to love and still do.
Now I look at my 4 year old daughter and think, how can I mold this little McCoy into me, like my dad did. Sitting here, reading her a book called Fish is Fish, teaching her to cast yarn in our living room to our cat like a streamer to brown trout, having her catch her first fish on a swung fly at age 2 1/2 (beat me by a couple years), taking her flats fishing for her 4th birthday in Hawaii and reading her the introduction to Dec Hogan’s Passion for Steelhead then naming her stuffed rainbow Mykiss……I am lost here, I just don’t know how to plant that seed. Suddenly I realize it is spring, and not only has the seed been planted it has begun to sprout.
The most difficult thing I have ever had to do was tell her she couldn’t go fishing with me one day when I stopped by home during lunch on a walk and wade trip. She began crying when I said no and it was like having open heart surgery with no sign of an anesthesiologist.
She almost doesn’t have a choice the poor thing, but if the powers that be have any say, she will grow to be a happy, healthy, tough, nature loving, wild fish pursuing conservationist with a Scottish temper to rival any Irish one out there.
As I spend more and more time with people on the water, I realize why the adage, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” is so widely used. In my mind, it is undeniable truth. If you were raised by passionate and loving parents or relatives, emulation is the grandest of compliments and as humans, we are all striving for that nod from our elders.
Happy Holidays to everyone and to my dad, thank you, I love you and remember, 2 whistles means pull anchor and come pick you up.