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Fatherhood Lessons From Fly Fishing


In the fall of 2016 I went fly fishing for the first time while on a trip in Colorado. It was an amazing experience on many levels. For one, I'd never really liked "traditional" fishing - sitting in a boat, throwing out a line and just sitting for hours. Fly fishing was WAYYYYY different...lots of action, strategy, finesse. It was fun to learn. I was "hooked" (pun intended!). Surprisingly, the Lord also spoke to me about my kids through it all.

At the time, I was coming off the tail end of several years of personal "hell" that was affecting marriage and family. I felt like I was coming into "green pastures" and gaining new vision and clarity for life. During the time away on the trip, one of the things I was asking the Lord was, "how can I be a better Dad?"

I felt Him quietly speak to my heart later that day following fishing: "Just like you need to know what fish you're after, who they are, what they like/don't like, the conditions around them (bugs, river flow, spots in the river, etc.), so should you know your kids that way."

Wow...talk about a needed revelation. What follows are some simple insights from fly fishing the Lord spoke to me about (my apologies to you experienced anglers for the oversimplification - ha!).

What kind of fish determines your approach. Depending on the area, river, region, etc., many fish will eat and like different types of bugs. You have to know what fish you're going after (in this case, trout) and that will determine your approach. Similarly with family, each of my kids has their own unique gifting and personality. A "one size fits all" approach to parenting can't always be applied across the board. Each kid may respond differently to correction, love, direction, encouragement, etc. Thus I have to know my kids and how to parent each of them.

Study and know the conditions the fish like. Studying the river flow and understanding where the fish like to be is a key to catching fish. When fly fishing, you just don't charge in and start casting. You have to first study the water flow, debris in the river, rapids, etc. to know where the best spots are for fish to hang out. Similarly, I need to study my family more and know where to best meet them for the most impact. For example, our 2nd oldest spills his guts at the end of the day when getting into bed. Those are the best talk times where he asks BIG questions, confesses, and likes to snuggle. So I have to be ready to meet him in that...not just brush him off to get everyone down to bed.

Bait and the technique to present the bait are important. Some anglers will actually make their own flies...wow, talk about impressive. I have a hard enough time just tying knots let alone trying to tie a fly and make it look real. I buy the pre-made ones but look to find the most realistic bait I can. When traveling and in local fly shops I'll ask the locals what's hatching, what bait they use, how to "present" the fly, etc. Trout are especially smart. If the bait doesn't look right, or it isn't acting like the real deal, they won't bite. Similarly with my kids, not only where and when but "how" I deal with my kids is important. Most important - how I'm living - is the bait for them. If they want what I have, it'll be easy. Am I walking my talk or not? Is my life "salty" to them? This was a call to me to get right with God and to live the true Christian life before my family.

Working on your own technique to cast is necessary - and it takes practice. You can know what bait to use and where the fish are, but if you can't get the fly out to them, it's of no use. Thus, you have to practice casting the fly and your technique. I can't tell you how much time I've spent untangling my line because of improper technique or poor timing. My two oldest boys are learning to fly fish now too and it's the same process. Lots of practice and making mistakes - and learning from them. The same is true with fatherhood. I have to keep at it...ultimately small changes and lessons learned over time will eventually end up to big wins.

Patience is critical. Fly fishing takes a lot of patience. For instance, my first outing learning to fly fish in Colorado resulted in me catching five (5) trout. That is NOT the norm as most any experienced angler will tell you. I then went on two other fly fishing outings in the next year and caught zero (0) fish. You just never know how it will go. Fly fishing takes patience. Practice takes time and patience. Working at learning the art of fly fishing takes time and patience. Being a Dad takes patience...and in a world of instant gratification, that is hard.

So there you have it, Dad: study your kids and know how to approach each of them, live a life with Jesus that is attractive to your kids, practice practice practice and be patient in the process.

How about you, Dad? Is there an area of life that the Lord is using to teach you about fatherhood?

Send me an email here or shoot over a DM at the @dadinthetrenches Instagram account.

From the trenches,

~Aaron