PUGET SOUND – The natural cycle of things is part of every fishing trip to a Puget Sound beach.
The tide rolls in and out, fish boil on the surface, and clams squirt water into the air. Life is all around – in the water, on the beach and in the air.
But something unexpected happened while I fished a beach on Wednesday.
A fly angler wearing a big, bulky backpack arrived as I was casting to a rip, and he started rigging up about 50 yards down the beach.
I wondered what he was going to do with all of that gear in the backpack.
Then the backpack kicked little legs, and out rippled a happy laugh.
“Da, da, da, da, Daddyyyyy. … ” The backpack – actually a 2-year-old boy – burbled to the salty, rocky world.
Angler Greg Fuller, of Shelton, had brought his son to the beach for an hour or so of fishing.
“I’m kind of Mr. Mom today,” Fuller said as his son grinned at me a few minutes later. “And we’re having a great time.”
Fuller, an elegant caster, zipped his streamer fly out into a nearby rip – the seam between fast and slow water – and his little boy had a front-row seat.
Little legs kicked, and tiny arms waved around during each cast.
And a little, slightly squeaky voice had plenty to say.
We anglers are a territorial bunch, and solitude is about as good as it gets for most of us. But the sight of that little boy riding around on his dad’s back looked so perfect.
I was a single dad for years, and I know the delightful hassle of taking a little kid fishing. The child needs more gear than the angler, and the trip is always short.
Little kids have the attention span of a squirrel, and they are quick to let you know when the bloom is going off the day.
Yet, they can focus very intently – for a short time – on anything that catches their still-developing minds.
Fuller’s boy clearly was fascinated with fishing and casting. At times, he would turn his head to watch the fly line uncoil behind his father’s back – and then rocket forward toward the water.
Fuller kept up a steady commentary to his son as he worked the beach, but I was too far away most of the time to hear the words.
But the kid would kick his legs and pat his dad on the back of the neck.
Every now and then, Fuller took off the backpack and talked to the little kid.
As a father with a now-empty nest, the whole scene warmed my heart. I remembered early fishing trips with my daughter – who is now 19 and away at university – and with my own father.
I didn’t really realize until now that those little trips to muddy crappie ponds or tiny trout streams would outshine – in my memory – fish-soaked adventures in Alaska and Costa Rica.
It’s really easy to not take a kid fishing – especially when they’re not quite dialed into the bathroom thing.
It’s far easier to put a “Dora the Explorer” DVD on the tube and put off trips for another year or two.
But the real, messy world – where pungent Puget Sound beach mud gets all over everything – is always better than a video.
I’m sure that Fuller’s little guy will not remember the hour he spent riding around on his dad’s back and watching a bright fly line ease through the air and land on clear, rippling water.
But I suspect some part of his little mind will always carry the feelings of being so close to his father, the sound of the fly line sailing through the air and the sight of the glistening water.
Later – maybe in a year or so – he might feel the electric energy of a fish ripple up a Spiderman rod.
And, hopefully, the two will share many trips over the far-too-fast years of childhood.
All those trips – from the very first – twine memories and thoughts into a child’s head. Those memories and shared times create bonds that survive a lifetime – even the drama and trauma of the teen years.
After about an hour, the two left the beach. A rain shower was moving in, and Fuller clearly was happy with his short trip.
So was his son.
That little boy will someday be a man, and he might find himself – for no reason that he can explain – taking his young son or daughter to a Puget Sound sea-run cutthroat trout beach.
It’s the natural cycle of things.
Chester Allen: 360-754-4226