Embarrassment of Riches

“Matt!” called Steven in his best stage whisper.

Grizz I wondered? No, he probably just needs the net.

“Matt!” came his voice again, more urgent this time, but still softened to accomodate the sleeping toddler. He’d wake her for a bear I figured, and besides, he’s got the bear spray.

“Busy here.” I whisper-yelled back with hands full of brown trout.

“Hey! Matt! Hey!” came his muffled response.

He sounded like it was worth a look. Offering the fish over my shoulder for a quick pre-release petting, I peeked around the willows. There were no bears to be seen, only Steven with his rod cartoonishly doubled-over … again.

It had been an embarrassment of riches since breakfast. We’d quickly realized that the fish in this braided freestone held exclusively in certain, very narrowly defined, pockets of water. That each such pocket held a world-class Yellowstone cutthroat took longer to sink in. The pattern was unmistakable, but so hard to believe. That it was ideal water to fish with little kids – brisk backpack rides punctuated by frequent, all hands on deck team projects (you cast with your dad, we’ll man the net, Everett gets to pet this one first, but Ayden will take pictures and release it… game faces everybody! ) – didn’t register until the post-fishing cupcake party in camp.  By noon we were all spoiled. The kids thought 18 inch cuts were swell and all, but not worth waking up for, and Steven and I didn’t bother snapping pics of the normally high-five and touchdown-dance worthy 15 inch natives. Thus the beefy brown I was having so much trouble unhooking rated only as an amusing distraction that kept me from netting Steven’s latest monster.

“Keep him out of the willows.” I said as calmly and quietly as I dared. “Be there as soon as I can.”

Steven freed his reel-hand for a split second, just long enough to add a thumbs-up to his head nod and maniacal grin.

With my fish finally free I trotted down the gravel bar, my son waving the landing-net silently from my back, surprisingly considerate of his sleeping playmate. Wordlessly we scooped the tired fish from the water, unhooked him, held him through his recovery, and admired his return. A sheepish grin, a shrug, and a silent fist pump sufficed for celebration. Then we turned and headed upstream, looking for the next one.

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