Guest Blogger: Phil Rispin, fly fisher, photographer & more, find Phil’s photography here

When the first one came along I was in my 50’s and to my mind way too young to be called Grandpa so I insisted on the moniker “Papa” just as my father had years before when our first one was born. To my surprise and great joy being a grandpa turned out to be a really good gig and continues to be to this day. I dragged my family and their young families into my fly fishing adventures at Frontier Lodge near Nordegg Alberta and Blue Bronna Wilderness Camps in the southern Kananaskis. Both organizations graciously allowed me to bring everyone along while I taught and ran the Fly Fishing programs.

This arrangement worked well until the grand kids got old enough to have their own schedule and commitments making it very difficult to get everyone in the same place over the summer. For this reason, this summer’s visit to Blue Bronna Wilderness Camps involved one Son in-law and one Grandson, Zac by name, who had just reached the mature old age of ten. It was the first outing where he became one of the group of men focusing on fishing alongside his Dad. In years past he had been much more interested in playing with small model cars and trucks in the sand and I worried about him missing the wonderful opportunity that he had to fish. I shouldn’t have been too concerned.

My Dad got me started along with all my cousins standing on the banks of the McLeod River as it flowed through Cadomin a small dying town west of Edson in Alberta. Our target was Rocky Mountain White Fish not trout and judging from everyone else’s success there were plenty of them around but I had a difficult time enticing any to taste my hook which invariably involved my father’s Royal Coachman with either a Salmon Egg or a Maggot attached for insurance. Dad’s primary function was to keep everyone from drowning in the swift river and to recover snagged hooks from the bottom of the river, a job that he spent the better part of each day doing.

By contrast Zac was equipped with a good properly rigged fly rod and taught the rudiments of casting from his dad. His arms and wrists were unable to manage the 9’ rod in the normal way so he used a two-fisted cast that got the line out there at least 30 feet and that is all that was needed for the streams we were fishing. His loops were a little wide and he dropped the hook close to the ground on the back cast but he managed to get the fly out there.

It was before noon hour on the second full day of Fly Fishing Camp at Blue Bronna Wilderness Camps and Zac was with his Dad upstream of me in a beautiful hole that had visible Cutthroats finning gently in the current at the bottom. Zac was working a Woolly Bugger through the deep spots and managed to entice a nice 17” trout to come up off the bottom and grab the hook. All by himself Zac managed this fish to a point where his Dad could net it. I in the meantime was trying to run as fast as the rocky ground would allow so that I could get some photos of this very special moment and make a fuss over Zac’s success. That evening back at camp Zac’s fish earned him the T-Shirt for the biggest trout of the day which he wore proudly for the rest of the camp.

I found that I was as excited about Zac’s success as he was. It was great to see what I hope will be the beginning of information, skills and enjoyment handed down to the next generation, I also hope that this means that I will have a great fishing partner well into my old age.

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  1. Great remembrance. I have 2 grandkids that I started teaching to fish when they hit their first birthday. My oldest, Michael is now nine and this summer began to really enjoy the sport and even grabbed my fly rod and tried to cast( not too shabby). My younger granddaughter, Abby is 6 and enjoys fishing, but right now is more into reading. Like you, part of my motivation is to have a fishing partner. Both still get a kick out of catching sunnies, no matter the size. I grt a kick out of their excitement.
    I wrote an article for the CT Fly Fisherman’s Association which I joined in 2014 at the age of 67, about our 2 wks this summer in Eastham MA fishing on Herring Pond, a cape cod kettle pond. We caught lots of smallies and lots of smiles.

  2. Just took my 4 year old grandson to Canada fishing for the first time. He is now “hooked” after catching smallmouth and pike. He is already asking when we can go back….Just awesome!

    1. Wow, your doing better than me. It took Zac until he was 10 to get the bug. It’s the hunting season now for primitive weapons in Alberta so Zac is out doing other things now. Keep up the good work.

      Phil R.

  3. Enjoyed your article Phil. I looked up the Bronna camps…they’re right in the area we’re dying to go visit one summer, and I think the WIllow Lake camp combined with a pack trip might be about the most awesome trip a family could imagine.

    I take my daughter fishing whenever I can, although we haven’t yet found the right place to start down the fly fishing road. 47 years of high adventure prior to getting married means I’m old enough to be my kid’s grandpa, so it’s kinda the same thing as what you wrote about…although every other role (from brother to playmate to Dad of course to…I guess pack animal) falls to me as well. She likes catching fat little pumpkinseeds on our camping trips–everything except getting the worm on the hook anyway. She’s a good caster and hook-set timer. And she’s already figured out how to hold a fish forward a lot closer to Mommy’s camera lens so it looks bigger in the photo! : )

    I aso tie flies in her presence and try to get her interested (by using small tufts of hair from her stuffed animals or even from her head when my wife isn’t looking). So far she mostly rolls her eyes to the Supreme Being asking for a Dad who’s not a fanatic…but I persist in the belief that that’ll change the moment she ties a fly and then catches something on it.

    Kids make the world go ’round!

    – Mike

    1. Hi Mike,
      I’ve got two of my grandkids tying wooley buggers and they seem somewhat interested in continuing the practice. Now that Zac has caught one nice Cutthroat his interest in the other arts of fly fishing may increase.

      1. Tying is so integral to the joy of fly fishing that I really think it’s the ticket to igniting a deeper interest. It’s the creative “conscious premonition” state of the whole picture–the personal investment. I’ll probably start my kid on a big-hook pattern and get her to put something of her own on it–a snip of her own hair or something–and then we’ll see how that translates to the desire to try it on the water.

        We usually visit a sunfish-choked pond on our annual June camping trip, but I’ve heard that the hatchery in that area has another pond with trout in it for kids to try their luck. We’ll see about that next summer. (And maybe I can tuck a teddy bear under my arm or put on a pair of froggy pajamas or something…pass myself off as a 5-year-old…and catch my limit on that same pond. If it works you’ll be hearing all about my incredible trout-catching prowess later on this blog. Wish me luck!)

        – Mike

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