small stream

Guest Blogger: Jim Murphy, Neenah WI, long-time J Stockard customer and avid fly tyer

We sat on the bank of the stream, my daughter and I, and re-lived a day that will be entered into the photo album of my mind…forever. We had just finished fishing on a pretty little freestone stream that flowed through a flowered meadow which was literally on top of the world. We were somewhere between Red Lodge and Cook City Montana in the high country of the Beartooth/Absaroka Range.

I don’t get to do that much anymore. I mean fish with my daughter and so when the opportunity presented itself I jumped. She had moved to Colorado shortly after finishing nursing school in 1992. The pull tugged so hard she just packed her bags, picked up and left the Midwest to explore the wonders of the mountains.

We, my wife and I had planned to meet her and her husband at this high altitude destination some time ago. We try to meet this time every year to celebrate our birthdays, hers on the 14th and mine the 15th. They had camped in this area several times in the past and gave it rave reviews. The hiking, fishing and vista proved to be everything we had hoped for and more. The campground itself was our kind of campground with sites well spread out allowing for that special feeling when it’s just you surrounded by nature.

On that special day, my daughter had come over to our campsite early in the morning and ask if I’d take her fishing. She was aware that I had discovered a nearby stream the night before that was loaded with small but hungry brookies. She also reminded me that she had not picked up a fly rod in years so could we start from the beginning.

She wanted to know what she needed to carry in her vest. The vest itself very old, well worn and at least four times too large for her. She had inherited it from her husband. Upon a quick examination, we discovered that even though many pockets still contained this and that there would be little that was still usable. We found a tin of dried up floatant, an empty squeeze bottle of something or other, a massive ball of wind knotted fishing line, and an ancient leather fly envelope with its collection of moth-eaten flys or perhaps just a variety of ancient expired moths.

After refurbishing her vest with some of my stashes, (I’ve fished for years and have doubles, maybe triples of everything from fly boxes to hemostats), we moved on to reviewing knots. As she was finishing her 10th or 11th improved clinch knot I checked my watch to discover that what had seemed like minutes had actually turned into hours. So I suggested the obvious…”let’s go fishing we can finish this other stuff tomorrow”.

Once at stream-side, we spent a half hour or so brushing up on her casting skills. It wasn’t long before she was delivering a respectable loop and laying out a nice easy line for 25’ plus. Certainly more than enough line to negotiate this small stream.

So on with the waders and into the water. She was fishing one of my favorite caddis dries when the first fish raced out to grab the fly. She snatched the line away too quickly and missed the take. I don’t recall for certain but she finally hooked up with either the third or fourth brookie. The fish dashed downstream, around her legs, and then shot right back upstream to safely escape among a chorus of laughter, squeals, and giggles.

Finally, she brought a beautiful richly colored 8’ brookie to the net. And, as she gently unhooked the fish, cradled it softly in her hands and then let it swim briskly away she whispered loud enough for me to hear “This is the best part isn’t it dad”.

As she gazed in the direction of the fleeing fish she sat down on a mid-stream rock. I ask if she was done for the day. “No, I just want to enjoy the moment and put it in my memory bank…forever” she replied.

She would go on to miss, catch and release a number of similar sized brookies during the next few hours. Each catch was embraced with ecstatic enthusiasm and each release treated with reverence.

Finally, as the sun sank behind the purple cloud bank hugging the horizon, we sat on the bank, my daughter and I, with time to reflect on a day that opportunity had presented and we had accepted. It was just a sliver of our lives but a bit of our lives well spent between a dad, a daughter, and a small stream. Grab it with gusto if ever given the chance for you’ll never regret those moments shared.


  1. Hi Jim, great story! Anyone with a daughter can relate and cherish this story, as I do. Thanks for sharing your moment. Joe

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