I had a special week on the river. Jared Lindquist (one of my former students) and I decided to fish on Tuesday after sitting together through a two-day Coast Guard class in Anchorage. Watching really old demonstration videos while listening to an instructor drone on just like Charlie Brown's mother, prompts an atavistic inclination toward adolescent behavior. Frankly, we found humor in parts of the class that were not intended to be humorous. We laughed at some really dumb stuff. Much to the Coast Guard's chagrin, we both passed.
Jared is a guide for Chugach Backcountry Fishing, and although it has been about five or six years since he graduated from Seward High, it was great to connect and I soon learned that he has become a seasoned fisherman and guide. When he was in high school, I used to take him, along with my own two sons, as well as a few other high school boys in the drift boat after sockeye salmon and rainbows. I remember that I had to gear up mentally for these trips with the boys on the river. I was the adult. I was the one in charge. It often left me entirely exhausted and seldom was I allowed the autonomy of actually fishing. I ran the boat. I assisted with all matters associated with the process. I was the unofficial guide, entertainer, driver, parent, and primary decision maker.
Still, I do like oaring the boat. I like taking others on the river, and I thought it would be nice to have Jared up front - fishing, since he is almost always manning the boat for others as a guide for Chugach Backcountry. My sons are both away in college, and I have to admit that I was feeling a little nostalgic about this trip. Experiences and moments seem to give me pause these days, and I am grateful to have arrived at this place in life where I can take the time to acknowledge and enjoy them for what they are.
Jared said, "Dan, let me oar the boat so you can fish." He didn't call me "Mr. Marshall" or "Coach." He called me by my first name. I love to hear former students use my first name. Sometimes it is an awkward transaction and the word seldom rolls off the tongue naturally, but when Jared said it, it worked.
So, there I was, in the front of the boat where I seldom have the opportunity to be, and it was not long before I realized that the oarsman had fallen into his natural guide state, giving me quiet, subtle suggestions: A little slower on the retrieve. Give the fly just touch more time on the drop. Lay it into the head of that seam on your right. Let me take the boat back upstream and we'll fish that stretch again. Alright, keep it in the tube.
I have been teaching and coaching for the last twenty-five years and I typically find myself in charge whether I want to be or not, dispensing information and directions, guiding and delegating. On this day though, the transfer of authority happened so naturally, that even as I watched it happen, I not only allowed it, I welcomed and reveled in it. I was being coached, taught, encouraged, and directed by a young man that had once been a boy in my classes and on my athletic teams.
I caught big water-busting, hard-porpoising rainbows on a six-weight rod from my own boat, oared by a once-boy who has over the last five years become a seasoned professional. He was the teacher, and I was the student, and the day was bright. The fishing was fine. Thanks Jared.