There is only so long you can sit in the house with two kids under three. With Baby Henry finally hitting six-weeks old cabin fever was setting in and things were beginning to get desperate. So desperate that despite some late fall wet wading Angie jumped at the first mention of a quick fishing trip to Fossil Creek.
Once we arrived everyone was excited, even Henry.
Though it is down a long and beat up dirt road, we chose Fossil Creek for a few reasons. First, the spring fed water is relatively warm year round. Second, there are more fish that you can shake a fly rod at, which would give our two year old a good chance at catching his first. Third, and most importantly, it was supposed to be relatively warm.
Unfortunately the weather man screwed up, and instead of the balmy 45 degrees we were promised the Mighty Forester’s thermostat read 30 degrees outside. Henry was suddenly less excited.
With a bit of finagling Angie managed to fit him in the wrap. Like on Jackamundi’s first fishing trip, his head didn’t have quite enough room with the thick daypack and kept trying to pop out. Luckily Angie is incredible and the wrap seems to have secret baby-putting-to-sleep properties.
As we walked towards the first good hole, Jack started piping up: “Water, Momma! Fish-ys Momma! Catch Fish-ys, Momma!” he called out to Angie. She had never fished Fossil Creek with us before and it felt like he was trying to teach her all the tricks. I was very very proud.
Since Angie would be working our beloved, but little, Tenkara Rod Co. Cascade (review HERE), we put her in the shortest casting position near the water, while I boomed casts 60 feet or so upstream and across the pool from a ledge above. On her very first cast Angie had a fish take an Arizona Wanderings Fry Creek Special, but it managed to wiggle free as she pulled it from the water. Such is the name of the game with barbless hooks.
Sick of being stuck in the cold shade, we headed for sunnier pastures.
A few hundred yards upstream I set Angie up on my lucky perch, which had brought me fish on every single trip I’ve taken to Fossil Springs. This made for some excellent pictures…
…but somehow no fish. With only a few tiny chub in sight, we decided it was the perfect time for Jack to try his first casts.
He was having a blast, but there is only so long that you want to have your wife stuck on a sheer rock with a six-week old baby and a toddler. Luckily there were many sticks to play with on the shore.
Getting a little flustered that we hadn’t brought in a fish, I did some chest deep wet wading to a pool that had been promising in the past. Unfortunately it was nearing Henry’s next feeding time, and we decided to head back towards the car after just a few casts, lest he get hangry.
As promised I set up the tripod and we got a family picture to commemorate the day. The light was harsh, but at least Jack has finally learned to look at the camera.
I’d never been skunked on a trip to Fossil Creek before, and missing out on this trip was getting on my nerves. (Editor’s Note: You were covered in toddler poop on your last trip. There are worse things than getting skunked.) I knew I was pressing my luck with Henry, but we were right next to the deepest hole of the day. Without really “asking” I skittered off to the spot she had fishing that morning. Two casts later:
Not the biggest fish in the world, but, as all round tailed chub, do it punched above it’s weight and was still a little fun to bring in.
Back at the car, Angie feed Henry while Jack and I played by the stream. Suddenly something amazing happened: after hating hats for his entire life Jack finally grabbed his My First Tilley from my hands and refused to take it off. The War on Hats finally came to an end!
He also found a rock. He was very proud of it, so I have to show you.
With Henry fed, it was time to start the long and bumpy haul home. Apparently we wore Jack out too.
It used to be that the challenge of being outside was managing myself, keeping my head on straight while breathing hard, walking far, and crossing cold streams. That all changed when Jack was born, and the challenges of keeping another human being happy, warm, and full were added on top of the challenges of doing all that for myself. It wasn’t easy, and after biting off a little more than we could chew on our first trip, Angie, Jack, and I wound up slow, from front country trips to car camping to long, full days in the pack. Every one of these steps seemed uniquely challenging at the time, and had you told me that in two short years Angie and I would be trying to do all the same things only this time with two kids I would have told you that you were insane.
But you get better at being a parent fast. You have to. The little things that used to drive you crazy still drive you crazy, but they are easier to laugh at and the laughs start sooner. Yes, you still get flustered, but confidence breeds confidence and you spend less time on the brink. Best of all, you watch the little ones learn while you learn. Soon Angie’s little Tenkara will be Jack’s little Tenkara, and Henry’s shortly after that. There are a great many fish to be caught, trails to be hiked, and camping sites to camp. Buckle up, kiddos, we’ve got a lot to do.
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Max Wilson is a graduate student studying ecology at Arizona State University. He writes here at Lesser Places, has occasionally written for Backpacker.com, and even more occasionally written for scientific journals. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.