They spent the night in Tahoe, then tried to fish the West Walker River as they drove down 395. The West Walker River flowed north on its journey to Nevada. The father kept an eye on the river looking for a promising stretch where the water lingered a little. He pulled the truck to the side of the highway.
The Walker was swollen and swift, forcibly tumbling and flowing straight, with few turns. It laughed at anybody standing on its bloated banks. That river dismissed and mocked the idea of taking a trout from its wet embrace.
“Look for eddies,” yells the father over the roar of the river.
“For who?” asks the thirteen year old, as he looks up and down the river.
There is a large boulder midway across the river, twenty yards from dry land. The big rock is splitting the flow to either side of its mass, leaving a calm spot downstream below the rock that extends about three feet. The father, age thirty-seven, can be very focused when fishing or playing chess.
“See that rock?” asks the father, pointing.
The boy sees the rock and his father and knows there is something special about the moment, even though he is too young to know how fast the years disappear.
Maybe nesting, maybe just resting below the rock is a fat twenty-four inch Rainbow Trout. The father does not see the fish, but he is drawn by experience and a sense of certainty beyond logic to the small spot of calm water in the shadow of the shiny slick grey granite boulder.
The third cast of the number three Black Panther Martin rips through the fast water, glides across the spot before tearing back into the rapid current. That’s when the fish hit.
Five minutes later Father and Son are marveling at the beauty of the fish as it slowly flops and flounders in shallow water.
The son is impressed. He also really wants to catch a bigger fish.
The dad did not feel lucky, like filling an inside straight. He did not feel blessed exactly either. It was more like he had beaten a superior chess player. He felt strong. He was glad his son saw him catch this fish.
Soon Father and Son are back in the truck, heading down 395, thinking about lunch.
The trout is experiencing Post Traumatic Stress somewhere in the humbled West Walker River.