Fish Are Dicks
Fish Are Dicks – By Dan Tigchelaar.
It’s summer in Whistler. Lake Season is in full swing. Tourists are everywhere. I am booked for a three-hour mini fly fishing trip with a family of five from the Midwest. Our booking system tells me I have four absolute beginners and one intermediate fly fisherman. Should be a pretty good day.
I pick them up from their fancy hotel and head for the lake. Mom, Dad, Jackson in his sports affiliated hoodie and energy drink, Aubrey running around trying to pet Canada Geese, Hunter in his plaid shirt and Tilly hat. Dad says that every kid had their choice of activities and this was Hunter’s. Not hard to see who the aspiring fly fisherman is. Hunter had fly fished a few times and done his research on what flies to use in BC. Even brought his own nippers and hemostats.
A Whistler fly fishing trip
Getting a family into belly boats is like herding kittens. Except for Hunter. Hunter has a printed off a bathometric map, easily slides into the Fishcat and heads for the honey hole after requesting a pumpkin head leech. I had already awarded him my personal rod for the day, now he has my heart. Dad noticed the crowded sunbathing dock and thinks there may be good fishing that way. He hasn’t even put his line in the water.
Mom and Aubrey are clipped into my boat on either side to keep things simple. Before I have even gone through my spiel of how to fight and land a fish we hear Jackson. “I got one”! “Nice work”, I yell and ask him to paddle towards us. Turns out to be a beautiful 17-inch rainbow trout that Jackson lands like he has done it 100 times. “Way to go” says Hunter from the honey hole. You can hear an edge of pain and jealousy in his voice as he puts his head down and slow twitches the leech. Textbook retrieve.
“Next one is yours Hunter” I call out. Not to be. Time goes by and we hear another hoot from Jackson. And after a brief fight, another nice bow. At this point, Jackson paddles over to Hunter and says “How many fish have you caught? Oh, right. None. Maybe it’s because… YOU SUCK”. Mom laughs a little, tells him to be nice and snaps another selfie. Dad is enjoying the scenery too much to intervene.
Mom and Aubrey are still tethered to me. Suddenly Aubrey’s rod tip starts bouncing, she has a fish on. She immediately starts crying and throws the rod in the water. Little vegan. Luckily I had been warned about small sensitive children by more seasoned guides than I and had tied the rod to my boat. I retrieve the rod, notice the fish is still on and Mom reels in a smaller but still gorgeous fish.
Time to switch things up
Ok. Change tactics. I unclip from the ladies and head over to Hunter for a pep talk. “Let’s switch to a floating line, long leader, and a scud. They seem to be getting them up top”. Hunter has a look in his eyes I have seen before. Shaken confidence. Hurt. Anger. I tell him fishing is not a competition. He says he knows but still really wants to win. He just stole my line and another bit of my heart. The change of gear sparks some faith in him and he doubles down on his effort. I notice Mom and Aubrey going for the lily pads and head off to intercept before the lines get hopelessly tangled.
And then it happens. Time is up. The three-hour mini trip is over. But I can’t take it. We can’t end like this. Rules of the lake are two rods per person per boat and a single barbless hook per rod. I clear the family off the lake aside from Hunter and me. We go full trawler mode. One full sink line with a booby fly. Two intermediate sink lines with a Gompheus nymph and Mohair leech. My “day saving” secret fly that consistently catches is tied on the floating line. The full force of my years of experience beside him. We can’t lose.
In the end
We do. Overtime is over. The fishing trip is over. Aubrey has had a run with the goose and is crying. Mom is yelling that Jackson needs a Big Mac. Jackson suggests that he could have had a Fillet o’ Fish but…. YOU SUCK. Dad is MIA.
Finally, as we kick back to the shore I lean over to Hunter and say the only words I can think of. “Fish are Dicks”. But as I say it I see another look in his eyes. He knows it already. Fish can be cruel. And he is resolute. He will not be beaten down by this.
He will learn and learn again that no matter how much effort you put in, how pretty your cast is, how many flies you put on there will be days like these. And it will be hard but he will also learn that it’s not always about catching fish but also about spending time with people you care for in a setting you love. I think of this as we walk back to his hangry brother, crying sister, duck-faced mom, and missing dad and realize the last lesson may need some time to sink in fully.
Dan Tigchelaar is a Chef, Fly Fishing guide and a Hook And Vice Ambassador. Dan’s favourite Hook And Vice cap is the Traditional Cap – Bear.
Follow Dan on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/danamo73