This week marked Emmett’s first real camping and fly-fishing excursion. I’d had visions of this trip since before he was born, and it was pretty special to finally make it happen.
I spent two years fishing almost weekly with my friend Richard, and he was the first person we told I was pregnant with Emmett, so it just felt right for our first trip to be with him. He was incredibly patient with our pace, shuttled us around in the truck so I could keep Emmett company in the back seat, and was up for the challenge of fishing two tough rivers with a toddler in tow.
I’m not going to lie to you, it was A LOT of work. I don’t think I relaxed for one second in three days. I couldn’t even let down at night because I was terrified I’d wake Emmett up with every breath or rustle of my sleeping bag. He’s never been a co-sleeper, so having mama right next to him in the tent was a whole new ball game. Speaking of sleep, the first night I kept him up till dark around 9, and he must have caught some kind of second wind, because the first few hours in our tent were Wrestlemania. He tossed, turned, tickled and barrel rolled from one end of that tent to the other for two straight hours, pausing only to pop his head up and say, “Mom!?” every now and then, just to make sure I hadn’t gone to sleep or anything. I tried to pretend like I was sleeping in hopes that he’d do the same, but ended up busting out laughing halfway through his escapades. I’ll never, ever forget lying nose to nose in that tent, cry-laughing with a loopy 18-month-old in the middle of the night. Making memories, people.
The second night he went right to sleep at 8, looking like an angel baby all perfectly tucked in his tiny sleeping bag (we went with the Woobie), but decided for some reason to wake up for the day around 3 a.m. I tried everything I could think of, but once the sun started to come up around 5, there was just no convincing him it was nighttime anymore. I did my best not to disturb the rest of the campground until a decent hour, but it was quite a challenge. When we emerged from the tent around 6:30, Richard took one look at us and said, “let’s head home.” We must have been quite a sight! We’d planned to fish that morning, but after two days on the river and a pretty rough night, I think we were all ready to get home.
Aside from the nighttime shenanigans, which really weren’t too bad in the big picture, we had a BLAST. We rolled into the Allen Springs Campground, right on the banks of the Metolius River, Tuesday afternoon and set up our camp. Five seconds out of the car, Emmett fell face first into the powder-like dirt and I’m pretty sure he was covered in a thin layer of it for three straight days. That’s how I knew it was going to be a good trip. Little boys and dirt are a match made in heaven. Though it was too hot and bright to fish right away, after a quick trip to the Camp Sherman store for supplies, we couldn’t resist suiting up and heading down to the water. Emmett cashed out right away in the pack, tired from the car trip and a skipped nap, and I got a few peaceful moments to get my feet wet again.
I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed fishing. It just does something for my soul that not a whole lot of things in this world can match. Standing in that cold water, tying tiny knots with care, sending a prayer to the river gods to grant you a trout and casting over and over again, each time trying to be just a tiny bit better. No time for screens, no noise but the rush of river water, no frustrations but that of a tangled line and a snagged willow. It’s just one of the most restorative things a person can do for themselves. I’ve been absolutely thrilled with my journey into motherhood and constantly surprised by how much I enjoy my life as a mama, but nothing feels quite as sweet as being able to share the things I love with my son.
After our first evening on the Metolius, we got up Wednesday morning and drove down to the Crooked River. Taylor and I fished the Crooked with Richard in 2015, when I was just a couple months along with Emmett, and though I spent most of the trip napping, we’d had pretty good luck. I spent the first couple hours getting tangled in the weeds, and having to stop and let Emmett out of the pack to run around, but near the end of our time, after I’d really worked out the kinks, there was a two hour stretch where everything just flowed and it was pretty darn magical. I felt like I got my groove back, and a taste of that “the tug is the drug” mentality that despite everything, keeps you coming back for more.
I mean, I’ll be real with you. It wasn’t all peaches and cream. After a few hours on my back, that pack felt HEAVY. Especially when you add waders, wading boots, a lanyard with 47 tools, a DSLR camera, a few fly boxes and several bottles of sunscreen. If I didn’t have a near constant supply of goldfish crackers to pass back to the little man in the pack, there was a fair bit of whining to deal with. If I do the math, I probably spent 30% of my time untangling my line from the bushes (my cast is a bit rusty), 30% of my time negotiating with a wiggly toddler and 40% of my time actually fishing. But hey, that’s 40% more time than I get if I’m not out there trying, so it still felt like a win to me. I even managed to hook a few trout on the Crooked River and it felt SO. DARN. GOOD. I’ve yet to best the wild redsides of the Metolius, but I have faith that our day will come.
Despite being very tired, unbelievably sweaty, and definitely ready to head home on our third day, I am SO glad we went. I’m so grateful to Richard for being up for the adventure. I’m so proud of Emmett and loved watching him play in the wild. And I’m so thankful for a little time spent fishing to store up in my soul bank until the next time we can get in the water.
Until next time!