Wade Outdoors 3-13-21

Trout fishing out West is a bit of a culture shock when you find yourself in dry, arid, almost treeless terrain such as the Spanish Fork near Springville, Utah. But, the mountains store vast quantities of snow melt and the streams remain flowing and cold all year round even without rain. When my pregnant daughter developed a powerful hunger for fresh trout, what could I do but take her fishing. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a quality picture of her from that day and you’re forced to see me.

I opened an old journal from 18 years ago and read.

Suddenly, my eyes were filled with tears as poignant memories returned so powerfully. I’ll share them with you, dear reader.

The door opened silently, except for the tiny click of the latch, a triangle of yellow light slicing across the carpet as the quiet voice said, “Dad?”

It was 5:30 a.m. and I was already awake, waiting. I climbed from bed and slipped through the door, my clothes were arranged outside the bedroom on the couch, since I didn’t wish to wake my wife.

My daughter Julie stood there trying her best to smile at this early hour in the morning. She was six months pregnant and we were going trout fishing.

During previous trips to Utah visiting Seth, Julie and little Kylie, my repeated pleas to seriously sample the nearby mountain streams were ignored, my requests treated as some form of mental illness. But, thanks to the strange cravings of pregnancy, Julie had a powerful urge, a demand for fresh trout and fried potatoes as only I can prepare them. Life became suddenly very promising.

We ate a quick, light breakfast and climbed into the car. As we traveled south on a car-free Route 15 from Provo, the eastern sky began to lighten and jagged mountain peaks cut jagged silhouettes against the lightening sky. Rearing up to 12,000 feet, their huge bulk loomed, projecting angular, stark black silhouettes against the delicate pinks and yellows of the coming dawn.

Peace and a quiet anticipation filled the car as we drove, talking quietly, remembering the fishing trips we’d made when she was but a young girl. Soon we turned up Spanish Fork Canyon and headed for an area a friend had told us about. Several miles later, we turned right up the Diamond Fork and pulled over at a faint road with a barbed wire gate he had clearly described.

We rigged our ultra-lights and trudged down the dry trail, little clouds of dust flying up at every step.

The mountainous country here is semi-arid, with few large trees, mostly sagebrush, stunted juniper, willows by the creek and sparse grass fields. It was somewhat of a surprise to find a lively, rapidly flowing stream some 30 feet wide rushing down the canyon floor. The high mountains in this part of Utah receive heavy snowfalls, storing huge amounts of water in their vast rocky slopes. These water reserves keep the streams flowing and cold all year long. This stream looked great, but were there any fish in it?

FOR THE first quarter-mile, fishing was slow, just a couple small browns.

Then the stream began to twist back and forth, creating some deep undercut banks. Julie, who hasn’t fished in years, managed to get hung up with amazing regularity. I was starting to get low on hooks after an hour. But, the knack of accurate casting and deep, drag-free drifts was coming back to her quickly.

She snagged yet again, broke off, grabbed my rod out from under my arm while I was retying hers and, with an evil giggle, whipped a cast to the top of the rapids, letting the current sweep her bait down a deep run next to a willow and grass undercut.

“For crying out loud,” I mumbled in exasperation. “I didn’t bring a tackle store with me and now your stealing my rod so you can lose hooks even faster.”

I looked up to see if she appreciated my sarcasm just in time to see her set the hook. Figuring it was just another small trout, I turned my attention to crimping a couple sinkers on when I heard the drag scream and Julie yelled for help.

AS I raised my head, I could see immediately from the bend in her rod that this was no 9-inch trout.

A loud splash drew my attention; a wide gold side flashed in the current across from me where a big brown trout well over 16 inches was doing his best to tangle himself in the overhanging willows.

What a circus. The drag was too light, the current swift, and Julie in her excitement had forgotten how to properly fight a fish. I was shouting directions and we both were slipping on the rocks laughing at the absurdity of it all, yet still deadly serious about landing the trout.

Somehow, she kept the fish from tangling in the brush, I tightened the drag and Julie wore the fish down. No net, of course, so it was a little tricky scooping the trout out of the current and up over the bank, but eventually our combined efforts landed the fish.

Julie was ecstatic over her big brown, laughing and bouncing up and down just like a kid. It was a special moment and we hugged.

We moved upstream and caught several other very nice trout 15 to 17 inches from the bigger holes. It was a wonderful morning’s fishing, full of laughs, excitement and appreciation.

About 10:30 a.m. Julie became tired so we headed back to the car, laughing as we walked and keeping a sharp eye out for the occasional rattlesnake.

Oh, how terribly inadequate language is for expressing your deepest feelings. Words and figures, so exact, so precise for building or calculations, yet so curiously empty at transmitting our emotions. Giant skyscrapers tower up toward the distant sky, planes of every shape and size hurtle through the skies, atoms are split and men have walked on the moon. Yet how rare it is to tell a loved one the feelings of your heart, so difficult to construct a phrase of love or thankfulness that even approximates the true feelings of your heart. How many children or parents have ever in perfect accuracy expressed their deepest emotions to one another? No, language is for construction, an imperfect tool, not made for the deepest stirrings of your soul.

“Oh Dad!” Julie exclaimed, her eyes shining as we sat down in the car. “What fun we had!”

My heart was filled with joy, I felt light, overflowing with plain, simple, honest happiness, a blending of past and present, almost as if I was floating upward out of my body. Again, I was frustrated at the inability of words to describe my feelings. Instead I turned, touched her hand and simply said, “Yes, I can’t tell you how nice it’s been to spend this time with you.”

It was only when our eyes met that our hearts truly understood what words cannot hope to express.

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