When I was a little girl he would sometimes take us with him--my brothers and me--most often to Santeelah Creek in the Nantahala National Forest. We would start at Horseshoe Cove Campground and walk up the river, through the middle of the river. Our deal was that we would play on the bank or in the water without splashing while Dad fished, until we reached the our favorite spot. Here was a gorgeous pool, created by a natural dam in the river, deep enough for swimming or floating on tubes, yet not so deep as to be over any of our heads. Here we could splash and play all we wanted, sunning ourselves on a large flat rock in the middle (a couple of times relocating snakes so we could do so), creating slides from boulders, making up our own games. Then we would make our way upriver to the bridge, climb to the dirt road, and walk back to camp, dripping. Dad would fry up our catch and we'd eat it by the camp fire, tired from the day.
Many times I would fish with Dad. When I was little, he would bait my hook, cast for me, coach me in patience as I wanted to reel in as soon as the line hit the water. He would place his hands over mine to help me land my catch, and he'd take it off the hook for me, all the while praising me for my catch. Later he taught me to bait my own hook, cast my own line, take my own fish off the hook. As I grew into adulthood, I lost interest in fishing with my father. I got busy with my own life--college, career, marriage, children.
Recently Dad has taken my four-year-old daughter fishing. I watch from the sidelines, take pictures, and remember. He carries her over the rapids to stand on the weir and I think of how he often carried me, fishing gear, child, and even sometimes my inner tube across rapids I was too afraid to navigate alone. These days, I watch as he baits her hook, casts her line, coaches her to not reel in immediately (as she wants to do). When she gets a bite, he places his hands over hers to help her pull it in and he takes it off the hook for her. They return the my side and he beams proudly, praising her catch.
We take it home and her fries it for her, deboning it and serving it to her, exclaiming over its tender taste. I watch her look up at him and I am there in her eyes, a girl myself, happy to have this to share with my dad.