The First Fish

FisherDad (aka “Pops”) with his eldest grandson at the Cold Creek pond. My seven-year old grandson caught his “First Fish” on this day. Coincidentally, I caught my first trout on a dry fly in 1977 from the Cold Creek headwaters that are now partially diverted to create this pond. My first “dry fly” trout, hooked on a ratty-looking dry fly that I tied on my vise, was caught on a 7 weight, 81/2 foot rod… which is a whole other ridiculous story.

The process of transferring your hobby or interest to another can be a tricky endeavor. It becomes more challenging when the other person is a family member. Some parents hope their children follow in their footsteps. Sometimes those footsteps involve career choices. Other times it could be hobbies and recreational interests. The closeness of family often results in members opting to participate in the hobby of another simply to experience the togetherness rather than any real interest in the activity. I don’t view that as a bad thing, choosing to participate just so you can be with your loved one. I sometimes hear stories of parents and children sharing deep affection for hobbies, and even career interests. My experience indicates those shared interests are rarer than most might think. Nonetheless, I believe family members that compromise on these joint activities tend to develop tighter bonds.

As we drove down the rocky road we noticed some large animals behind the mountain mahogany tree that resides at the northwest corner of the pond. As we got closer they revealed themselves to be Rocky Mountain elk, a cow and a young bull with his spike antlers covered in velvet. It was a remarkable sight that I don’t think my grandson will appreciate until he’s old enough to realize how unique this encounter really was.
My son Tom posing with the cooperative elk. One has to assume these elk were not afraid of us because some misguided Cold Creek residents put out feed for them. A normal reaction for wild game is to flee from the presence of humans. This sort of “domestication” also occurs with the feral horses and burros that live around the town of Cold Creek. 

I remember encouraging my sons to go on hikes and camping trips with me. When I was in my 3os, I was certain they would experience the same curious exuberance for the the Great Outdoors as I did. Never mind they might be too young to keep up, or too immature to manage their fear of the unknown. They likely came along only because they wanted to be with their dad. On the other hand, dad learned to coach little league baseball only because my sons wanted to play that sport (I admit my low appreciation for baseball grew as I spent that cherished time with my sons). I also attended one or two punk rock concerts and skateboard contests because I wanted to support my sons and learn about their passions and interests. These attempts to share, learn, and support each other’s interest is what friends and family do to help stay connected.

After our “elk” amusement subsided, I presented my grandson with a fly rod I built in 1977 while I was in my final year at the university. It was a 71/2 foot fiberglass rod for a 5 weight line, but it’s probably best when loaded with a 4 weight line. I inscribed my grandson’s name above mine on the butt section just above the handle. I have no idea if he will ever take up the sport of fly fishing (7-years old is a little young to learn casting), but even if he doesn’t I am confident this rod will be treasured by him when his Pops is home in heaven.

Growing up without a dad, I took on the hobbies and interests of my two older brothers. One brother was a highly recognized high school athlete, and the other was a woodsman (i.e., a person accustomed to life in the woods and skilled in the arts of the woods, such as hunting, fishing, or trapping). As I entered puberty my athletic brother attempted to develop me into his image, which I did not resist as it helped me become a “big boy” on campus in the eyes of both my girl and boy classmates. But it soon became apparent that athletics was not my calling. As I hit my mid-teens through my college years, my other brother introduced me to the quiet, reflective life in the mountains pursuing wild game and fish. I eventually grew weary of the hunting, particularly the killing and cleaning parts. “Catch and release” as a fish conservation method was introduced in the 1950s, but my brother was a slow learner, or perhaps he just loved to eat wild game as much as our father did back in New Hampshire. As for me, catch and release was a perfect way to enjoy angling with a fly while still releasing the fish to enhance the future fisheries.

Video of the “First Fish” event. Not sure who was more excited, my grandson or me?!
Tom’s son beaming over his “First Fish” ever… a Rainbow trout from the Cold Creek pond on the high-desert slopes of the Spring Mountains to the west of Las Vegas. Who knew, right?

Almost exactly two years ago, two of my sons and I took my eldest grandson camping in Cave Lake State Park. I think his dad felt 5 years was the right age to introduce him to camping and fishing. In advance of this trip, his dad bought him a Bass Pro Shop toy casting rod which I erroneously assumed would not be useful for fishing. So my plan at that time was to spend no more than 30 minutes fishing because we had other activities on our trip agenda. If I hooked something I would hand the rod to Atlas and let him real in the fish. But, truth be told, I could not get a hit let alone hook a fish… even FisherDad has tough days.

The fly, an olive soft hackle with a red head, dropped from the plastic fish on the end of the toy rod’s line, that caught the “First Fish.”

My plan for this cold creek trip was similar to the Cave Lake trip from two years ago. But after observing that my grandson could cast that fish weight about 30 feet, I decided to reconsider it more closely. I realized a tippet could be attached to the fish weight with a size 16 wet fly tied on the end. And within three or four casts, before my son or I were set up to fish, my grandson hooked and landed his First Fish, a Rainbow trout. We could not have scripted the event any better.

The barbless hook thankfully stayed in until we got the “First Fish” into the net. The fly hook fell out as soon as the line tension was released, and the “First Fish” happily jumped back into the pond. The reaction of Tom’s son was priceless.
The elk were not our only amusement. A pair of Mallard ducks were raising seven ducklings in the pond, and my grandson enjoyed following them along the shoreline when he needed a break from the angling.
Father and son, basking in a new adventure.
Pops and grandson, appreciating the moment!
The Lord provided a most awesome day for us. The weather was cool and stimulating, the wildlife was cooperative, we had the pond to ourselves, and my grandson, seated in the chair by the shoreline, caught his “First Fish” ever!

Our world stage is pretty tumultuous today. So much out there causing fear and anxiety. It is a rough time to be parenting children amidst wars and threats of wars, financial and economic difficulties, and the new “wokeness” that seems extremely contrary to everything I know to be true. That is why I am so thankful for my Lord’s presence in my life, for the Truth found in the Word, and for the Great Outdoors He provided for our use and pleasure. I pray that my grandson will be able to find the same peace as I have.

Author: FisherDad

I am a Christian who has been married to my wife for over four decades, with six children and four grandchildren so far. I have retired from a string of successful occupations as a certified public accountant, a chief financial officer, and a registered municipal advisor. I have been a fly angler for almost five decades. My one and only article submission was published by Southwest Fly Fishing magazine (now American Fly Fishing). You can learn more about me by clicking on “About” on the top of my blog page.

20 thoughts on “The First Fish”

  1. Mark,
    I am very, very happy for you. This Grand adventure with your Son and Grandson is a treasure! A Holy Moment!!
    Thank you for sharing this gift with us.

    1. Thank you Dave. I know your grandchildren are a little older than mine and that your Holy Moments are piling up. Our extended families are a blessed gift. Although occasionally full of drama, stress, and pain, moments like these are truly gifts from the Lord. I know we’ll experience many more of these.

    1. I am so happy you like them, Rosemarie! As you can imagine, this one is special. I suppose we’ll be cheering on our VGK tonight. I wish uncle Art was with us so we could share it with him, but he’ll be watching from the bleachers in heaven, eh.

      I pray you are doing well.

      – Mark

  2. Awesome Post. The battles we have with the kids because we want them to enjoy the same things we did is always interesting. Likewise, I just don’t want to play Fortnite either 🙂

    1. Hey Nate, thanks for the comment. You might have noticed I had The Knot Kneedle tool dangling from my fanny pack. I have been using it to tie nail knots as I spooled on new backing and fly lines. Nail knots are a pain to tie, but this is what I’ve been looking for to tie that knot. So much easier! Although I haven’t attempted using it for the Clinch or Kreh Loop knots, I will learn those as well. I recommend my fellow anglers check it out.

      I’m not a gamer, but I get the Fortnite comment.

    1. Thanks Vince! The more folks like us share our common experiences, the more we realize how connected we really are. We are not alone, my friend.

  3. Mark,
    Thank you for the wonderful commentary on this adventure…everything a Grandpa could hope for. God’s Blessings for more of these adventures to share and remember!

  4. Mark, thanks for this post and the video of your grandson catching his first trout. What a blessed boy he is to have you as his fun and godly Grandpa. Your grandson experiences the love of his Heavenly Father through you. What a gift and testimony to all those who know you.

    1. Your post made my day, Randy! We have a photo of our family in our foyer that includes verses from Psalm 127:3-5 on the mat, and although the photo doesn’t include daughters-in-law or grandchildren, we certainly believe they are a gift from the Lord, part of our heritage and legacy.

      I pray you are well and that your ministries continue to shine His light where needed. You should know that is the case for me, as your words always lift up and edify me.

      Enjoy today’s Fourth of July holiday!

  5. I stumbled in here months ago and bookmarked your page.

    I grew up in Butte, Montana. I lived near 5 or 6 of the greatest trout streams in the United States. The Madison, Jefferson, Ruby, Beaverhead, Big Hole, and Rock Creek. I understand your love of fishing and the outdoors. As a kid, I fished once or twice with my pastor.

    Now it’s like a California parking lot. Much of that was caused by Montana outfitters and guides.

    Thank you for writing here and sharing your experiences in an honest way. It has a way of taking me back.

    1. Hey Brian, thanks for your comment. I am sorry to hear that the Montana of your youth has changed. I guess it’s difficult to keep good water a secret. I’ve posted one or two stories about some surprisingly good water in Nevada, only to regret having made the “revelation” later. I hope you’re still fishing and have found ways to avoid the crowds, especially the fishing tourists. May our Lord give you peace.

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