In honor of Father's Day, our friend and local fly fishing expert, David Cannon, shares the story of his first father-daughter fly fishing adventure.
By David Cannon
A Father-Daughter Adventure
This day was the culmination not of simply packing the car and heading to a trout stream but of careful consideration of what would make this a truly special and memorable day for our daughters. For me, a bit selfishly, there was a lot riding on a day like this because it had the potential result of two new and very special regular fishing buddies for me…or not. For our girls, we wanted this day to be about adventure, learning something new that they could continue to do well into old age if they like, enjoying time together as a family in the great outdoors, and having some of their favorite food as part of the agenda.
We started talking about this day with them a couple of months beforehand to both build excitement and manage expectations. Step one was getting them geared up, so I bought them some waders and wading boots, fly rods and reels, and even a couple of little practice fly rods so that they could do a little practice casting inside our house or in the yard. I honestly didn’t think that they would be excited by these gifts they didn’t ask for, but I had them all laid out on our dining room table when they got home from school one day, and I think the presentation made it seem special and exciting. In terms of managing expectations, we didn’t want them going into it thinking that there was no chance they would actually catch a fish, but I also didn’t want them expecting to net as many as I allegedly have landed on trips that they’ve heard about. An appropriate amount of hope was the goal, so I explained that successfully enticing a trout to eat a fly, hooking it, and skillfully fighting it to the net are impressive achievements, especially on a first-time fishing adventure.
In The Stream
The big day finally came and we ventured north of our home in Georgia to Brevard, North Carolina. We parked our Bronco on a high bank overlooking the Davidson River and started the process of getting the girls “wadered up”. Between April and October, I generally opt out of waders and instead, go with some wading boots and some quick-drying pants like Duck Head’s Harbor Performance Chinos. Once everyone was geared up, I helped the girls stealthily enter the stream. Now, if you’ve never waded a stream in waders, it’s a pretty unique sensation. You have the freedom to go almost anywhere in the river with the benefit of staying dry and comfortable. It’s become commonplace to me after two decades of trout fishing, so hearing the girls comment on that in amazement, as if entering a new world, was a reminder to me of simple wonderment.
The girls were eager to dive in, taking to the water like naturals. We fished our way upriver, taking turns casting and reeling in rainbow trout. I guided my daughters, Shiloh and Afton, through the process, helping them hook and fight the fish. Towards the end of our time on the water, the girls were itching to try independently, and I was not going to stand in the way. While one fished, the other netted the catch. Afton had hoped for a brook trout but knew it was an unlikely feat. After many attempts, she finally saw the indicator plunge beneath the surface and reacted immediately. Shiloh was ready with the net and we were all full of excitement as we watched the battle ensue. The giddying speed of the catch sent us into celebration, and my wife captured the joyful moment in photos that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.
After a day full of unforgettable firsts, we drove to a nearby park in the Pisgah National Forest to cook and eat dinner. Our plans for this meal were delicious, simple, and things we know our girls love. Some wild salmon from a recent trip to Alaska and some venison steak from a deer I took last winter made their way into the cooler. For sides, we grilled up some sweet potatoes and paired them with mixed greens salad.
We made the somewhat unorthodox choice of bringing two Big Green Egg MiniMax grills for this meal. They’re the second-smallest offering by Big Green Egg and are easy to carry on adventures. When we arrived, we found some large, flat boulders streamside. It was the most unique and beautiful cooking spot. With the Eggs in place, we all began working together on the meal. I lit the Eggs and started bringing them to temperature, then we all started to prepare sides, cut meat and potatoes to prepare for the Egg, and set the table nearby. When everything was ready, we moved the party to the table, gave thanks for a great day and our family, and enjoyed our meal.