just around the river bend

Fishing to some people involves a dock and a lawn chair, or a boat out on the lake.   But to us and to our kids, fishing means putting on water shoes and  ‘getting wet’ clothes, and hiking a winding river whose banks look different every year.

Much of the river meanders shallow.  You can walk along the edges, in scrub willows and long grass, or wade the round-rocked riverbed with water no higher than your knees.  But always you’re scanning for holes, deep bits of water.  The ones under overhanging riverbanks or downed dead trees are best.   Because that’s where the trout like to hide.

The first steps into the mountain water in the morning are always a little breath-taking.   Even in July, snow can be seen on the mountain tops above us, and the melting snow coming down into our river is cold.  But this July weekend the mix was perfect.   Enough sun to keep our wet legs from being chilled.  Enough cool water below and around us to keep the sun from feeling too hot.

Dad helps kids get poles set up. This is not ‘drop the worm in and wait an hour’ passive fishing.  We fish with spinners, hooks with shiny ‘wings’ that spin as we reel in.   We’re always casting, reeling, and casting again, keeping the spinners active and appealing to the trout.

The best places to cast are usually the most perilous.  Straight towards the hook-eating tree snags, where big trout hide in the shade.  With each cast towards logs, we take the risk of getting hooks caught in snags.  When a  hook gets caught, dad or an older kid is summoned to wade deep, untangle, rescue the $3 lure.

Kids play at fishing as soon as they’re too big to be carried in a backpack, usually by the time they’re three.  They start with ‘bobber-only’ poles –no hooks til they’re decent at casting.  At first they’re too little to even notice they don’t have a hook, and by the time they notice they’ve already gotten better at casting.

When they’ve graduated to a pole with a hook, they start with a single hook.  Single hooks are easier and less painful than trebles to get out if a cast gets wild.  This year our five year old and I shared a pole, with people standing well back from her as she cast.  This is her third year fishing, and she’s getting a decent cast. 

This year we had five poles for 9 people, with people taking turns fishing and playing. Sometimes there was chatter and splashing.  Some sun-bathing.

But when dad pulled a fish out of a big hole, the mood got more serious.  Mom called ‘shhhhh’, and the waders and the dog came out of the water to sit on the bank and watch.  The fish were biting.  No chasing them away.

Kids grinned as fish came flashing in.

Dad helped kids get fish off hooks, sometimes getting bit as a wild trout thrashed a hook into his palm.  But he ended up with the catch of the day himself, a 17 inch trout.

I alternated between fishing pole and camera, uncertain which toy I liked better.  My final tally?  600+ pictures and one small fish, who leaped obligingly back into the river as I touched his slick body to toss him back.

Whether we’re catching fish or not, I’m content.  No, more than content.  I walk along, humming, and think that these are some of the very best moments in my life. The.best. These are memories I will hang onto when I am a little old lady, memories of walking in the sun and the water with my family around me.

Evening is for gathering quiet, with hot dogs and marshmallows on a camp fire at the riverbank. 

Kids cook food over smoky fire with willow sticks so fresh and green that the stick slips in your hand.

The fruit of their effort is sticky and sweet.  They smile as they sit on benches to eat.

Sun comes low and turns river water golden.  A beautiful end to a beautiful day.


  1. Wow, Mary, this looks like such a great weekend! Creating memories and traditions like that is definitely something we want to do as well (even though we’re not the fishing types).
    Pics 2, 6 and the last one don’t work on my screen, just to let you know.
    I could almost taste the s’mores!!

  2. So beautiful! A fun read.
    Hey, did you ever post any photos from your daughter’s wedding? Would love to see more photos of your happy little family

  3. They are so beautiful, Mary.


  4. You are an AMAZING mom.

  5. Saw the title in my Reader before I went out to a concert.
    Just Around the River Bend… song finally came to mind from Pocahontas movie.

    Your family and weekend looks like bunches of fun. I’m glad you decided to use the camera so often 🙂

  6. Kathleen says:


    I’m not sure if it’s you or your hubby taking these photos, but they are so amazing! Whatever your 3rd will be…it MUST have pictures taken by you or your hubby! Ha! Ha! Any insights or plans for a thrid yet?