Good Fishing’ Means Good Times November 23, 2015

Good-FishingWe always rake our granddaughter, Carter, fishing at the Willow Springs Trout Farm. Today’s the day. Our car winds through sagebrush flats that lie on the land like a worn and tattered blanket at the foot of Utah’s Wasatch Range. We watch carefully for the fish-shaped sign that reads “FUN FAMILY FISHING–NO LICENSE REQUIRED.”
Soon we spy a cabin adorned with a large plaque: “GRANPA’S LI’L FISHING BUDDIES. Hanging from it are 13 little wooden fish, each emblazoned with the name of a grandchild. Gary Rice, a k a “Granpa,” has been running his trout farm for the past 30 years. Gary’s kids loved to fish and he figured others would, too.

He was right. Under a large willow tree festooned with ornaments of hand-carved aquatic creatures, Gary is busy cleaning two fish for a rather-squeamish-looking young mother while her twin boys declare, “We’re gonna eat
’em for supper.” Gary smiles. “Mighty fine dinner,” he affirms.

Carter is fascinated by the jars filled with fish bait that other children are rolling into little balls and putting on
their hooks. She likes the kind that is bright pink with sparkles. But we brought our special secret formula: cheese cubes. Bob baits Carter’s hook, casts the rod, and hands it to her. Concentrating mightily, she slowly reels it in. Nothing. Next time she casts it herself Suddenly she feels a tug and squeals, “I’ve got one, Granbob.”

The fish sways on the end of her rod as she parades over to Gary. He dutifully measures it and pops it into a
plastic sack. “Fourteen inches, young lady,” he says. “That’s quite a whopper.” Carter grins with pride and marches triumphantly back to the car, swinging the bag.

NOW, THE DEAL CARTER AND BOB HAVE IS, ONCE she has landed a fish, he gets to catch one, too. But not here
and not before we’ve had some lunch. The last place to eat before you enter the Wasatch National Forest is a little ranching town. Judging from the large number of tractor trailers and police cars parked in front of the Kamas Kafe, there has either just been a robbery or the food there is pretty tasty.

We slide into a blue leatherette booth and place our orders. From the kitchen comes the sound of a cowboy singing on the radio about something he’s lost–love, cows, we aren’t quite sure. Our lunch comes and we taste why the
parking lot is so crowded. Three hot dogs and a mess of home fries later, we head up the Mirror Lake Highway into the mountains. By the time we find our favorite campground, nestled beneath a stand of ponderosa pines at the edge of the Provo River, Carter has fallen asleep. I roll down the windows of the car and settle myself at the picnic table.

Bob picks his way up the boulders that line the rushing stream, carefully keeping his shadow from frightening trout that might be lurking beneath a root or ledge. Caddis flies dance above the burbling water.

He steadies himself on two large rocks and sets about casting. His fly lights and floats rapidly downstream toward a still, dark pool in the shadow of a tall spruce. The fly slows, then suddenly disappears as a fish draws it down. Bob gives a short tug and the line breaks free.

Bob reels in the fly, shakes it dry, climbs a bit higher, then begins to cast again. With each cast he lets out six feet of line until the long, amber filament traces a graceful s against the blue autumn sky.

A silver flash suddenly breaks the quiet surface of the pool. A large trout arcs into the air, droplets of water sparkling all around him like a shower of diamonds. It’s huge, two pounds at least. The fish dives on the fly and disappears. The line races out. Behind Bob, the river forces its way through a tumble of boulders sending up sprays of mist. High above him, the mountains look as though someone has spread an Oriental carpet over them, so bright are they with autumn’s colors. The gold of the aspens and the red of the maples stand in sharp contrast to the deep green of the lodgepole pines, the cedars, and the spruce. Here in the mountains, fall is in full swing.

CARTER’S SLEEPY FACE APPEARS AT THE CAR WINDOW. I unbuckle her seat belt and settle her in my lap. “Look,” I whisper. “Granbob’s caught a fish.” She stares in fascination at her grandfather, who is silhouetted against the autumn sky; He raises his rod high and reels in the line, pauses, then reels again.

“Is it a big one?” Carter asks me. “Could be,” I respond. “Big as mine?” she asks again. “Oh, no,” I smile. “Not that big.” She snuggles down, content to watch her grandfather fish.

Bob leans down to reach for the trout and catches sight of Carter. He wiggles his rod in a wave. Carter waves back. He slips his hand into the water and then stands up, shrugging his shoulders and smiling. “He got away,” he calls
down to us. “That’s alright, Granbob,” Carter calls back. “We still have mine. I’ll share.” ALL THE WAY HOME, CARTER CHATTERS BRIGHTLY FROM THE back seat about her fish and the bait we used and how next year we might use that sparkly pink stuff … or maybe worms. She and Bob discuss just how to cook the fish. This time, she says, she’s going to eat it up, every single bite, but assures Bob that she will give him some to make him feel better about losing his.

While Bob puts away the car, Carter and I take her fish inside. Her little sister, Mason, wants to play with it. Her parents are suitably impressed. “I got the biggest one there,” Carter says proudly.

Then she lowers her voice. “But be nice to Granbob,” she cautions them. “‘Cause his got away.”

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