Wednesday, October 21, 2009


David taught me how to fly fish for trout with dry flies on the North Fork of the American. A generous and patient teacher, he talked me through the process of stalking wild fish in clear water. I was especially grateful to David last week—not only for teaching me how to fish these streams but also for teaching me how to teach my nephew how to fish them. Let me untangle that sentence though the following story.

Last week, I took my ten-year-old nephew fishing near Kirkwood Meadows. The trip started with a hearty breakfast at the Lucky CafĂ© in Sacramento. We both ordered silver dollar pancakes and bacon—appropriately hearty fare. During the drive along Jackson Highway, Riley called out the clues for the crossword puzzle in that day’s newspaper. We spent nearly two hours trying to solve them. When we reached the trailhead, we geared up on the tailgate of our pickup. We followed the creek through a small meadow and scrambled alongside it as it plunged into a valley—where it resumed its meander through another meadow.

Catching one of these brookies would require stealth and Riley was intrigued by the idea of thinking like a predator. We crouched in the pine tress and crawled through the bunch grass to observe the wild fish from the stream banks. They were feeding voraciously. Riley and I applied all the techniques David taught me to catch and release fish after fish that day. There was a moment—when I was moving Riley into position to cast and telling him just where to drop his Cutter Caddis—that I realized I was coaching him the way David coached me. I was using the same words.

I called David the next day to thank him for teaching me, and now Riley, how to fish that creek. He demurred and asked if I’d teach him how to swing for steelhead.