I have been on hundreds, maybe even thousands, of fishing trips…all of them good. There is no such thing as a bad fishing trip. Some are just better than others, but I’ve pondered in my idle moments just what the perfect fishing trip would look like. I remember when I was a kid, not quite big enough to wade the swift water, my dad would carry me on his big shoulders through the rough spots. He would set me on a big rock where I could safely fish without being washed away. In those days, the limit was ten and it was seldom that we did not catch our limit. Sometimes, the whole family would go and we would camp on the creek for a week at a time. My mom would fry those trout over a campfire, along with fried potatoes and onions, and corn fritters. I remember drifting off to sleep with a full belly. I could hear the crackle of the fire and the gentle clatter of my family as they recounted the events of the day. I remember feeling perfectly content.
As I got older, I was able to venture out on my own. I fished Linville Gorge, North Fork of the French Broad, and the Big East Fork of the Pigeon. I fished the Davidson River, Turkey Pen, North Mills, and Harmon’s Den. I’ve fished Cataloochee and Jonathan’s Creek. I’ve fished everywhere and anywhere and caught lots of fish. I’ve even had the pleasure and privilege of catching a twenty-eight inch brown on Hazel Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I also had the privilege and opportunity to go to Alaska a few years back on a mission trip. I thought they said fishin’ trip, so I signed up. While we were there, I got to fish with a guide on the Kenai River where we caught King Salmon…and in the ocean, where we caught Silver Salmon. I’ve fished at Hatteras for Tuna and Dauphin.
I am now in my 68th year and still fishing. I have wonderful fishing buddies and every chance we get, we head for the woods. I have many fond memories of our trips and experiences, and many of them are probably contenders for the perfect fishing trip, but I think they all fall short of my “Perfect Fishing Trip” on Father’s Day 2019.
My cell phone rang, it was my Son Zeb, who is also an avid fisherman. “Would you like to go fishing on Father’s Day?” I said, “Sure, where do you want to go?”. “Let’s go to skinny dip,” I said. “Sounds good, let’s do it.” I was excited and anticipated a quiet father and son day on the creek. When I arrived at his house, I soon realized that the whole family was getting ready to go. Five kids, the wife and the family dog…so much for quiet.
We all piled into the family minivan and headed out. We had a wonderful day. The kids were a real joy to be around. The dog was content to be with his people and I felt very privileged to be a part. No one complained about anything. In fact, I was impressed by the apparent cheerfulness of everyone. Even little, three year old, Forrest was content with a handful of gummy bears.
We stopped at a store to pick up a few things for lunch. The kids were instructed to stay in the car while Mom went inside to buy. There was no argument or begging. When Mom returned, she passed out chips and snacks to munch on during the trip. They were passed around and shared with no fuss. I was impressed and awed at this display of harmony. We arrived at our destination and enjoyed a short hike to the creek. I sat down on a log to assemble my fly rod. Zeb was already fishing. Alana, my Daughter-in-Law, spread out a blanket and began to prepare food. Little Forrest stripped off all his clothes and waded out into the creek. Rose and Fionna, his two older sisters, were close by and watchful of little brother. Liam and Joe explored, skipped rocks, and cooled off in the cold water. The dog tried to keep up with everybody.
Zeb came up out of the creek to where I was still fumbling with my fly rod…he had already caught two fish. Food was ready, so we ate a bite and then decided to move further down the creek to a deeper swimming hole. About a half mile down, we found the perfect spot. As we approached the hole, I saw a fish dart across the bottom into a rock crevice. Zeb saw it too and we both tried to entice it out, to no avail. Soon it was forgotten as we swam, laughed, threw rocks, and explored every nook.
Zeb was casting a Rooster tail across the hole and was letting Forrest reel it in just for fun when all of a sudden, I saw that fish dart out from hiding and grab the Rooster Tail. Two hundred years of fishing instincts kicked in, Forrest set the hook and reeled that ten-inch brook trout right up to his feet.
Everybody, especially Forrest, was proud of Forrest. It was the perfect ending for the perfect day.
As I mused about our trip that night, I realized I had not caught a single fish. I cannot remember a day that enjoyed more. It was the Perfect Day.
Ben Bailey, is a native of Western North Carolina, Master Carpenter, Avid Angler, and Naturalist.