By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
In honor of Take-Your-Daughter-to-Work Day, I am taking my daughters to fish. I am not much of a worker and even less of a fisherman, but everyone knows that fishing is more fun than work. Also, it requires two tons of mojo to raise a girl. Girls are scary. A girl will sometimes pretend not to know another girl just because a cute boy is nearby. Fishing, I suspect, is good medicine.
Now, I could tell my eight-year-old daughter this--the three-month-old being still oblivious--or I could show her. The choice is clear. Today I will show her sixteen-year-old fly-fishing champion Genna McClure fishing with her mentor, fishing buddy and grandfather Pete Parker.
All winter long, Pete Parker and Genna McClure tie flies. The results of this hobby are as rare and beautiful as expensive jewelry in a private collection. I think so, at least.
When they take out the small plastic box filled with hand-tied flies, I crane forward to get a look. It is very sunny in the parking lot, and the glass beads deep inside the woolly bodies of the fake bugs glint blindingly. I would not have a clue as to which one to pick.
"Oh, well, it's not that complicated," says Pete, who knows that, in fact, it is, but has good manners. "We could go catch a bug. Then we find a fly that looks like that bug. Maybe some fish will want to eat it."
Genna takes a look at Wyckham's Fancy, a classic fly that dates from the 1860s. "Hmm," she says. She is wearing neoprene waders, a tank top, sunglasses and a baseball cap with fishing logos and her name sewn onto it. In one hand is the fly, in the other the Sage RPL Plus fly rod given her by the Sage rod company of Bainbridge Island, Washington--her most impressive sponsor thus far.
"No," Pete tells her. "Those flies all have British accents."
"Oh. So they'll work in Wales?"
"Right." Pete hands her a workman-like caddis fly, a little chewed up by previous fish. "If truth be told," he says, "fish love them that way. We just don't want you to know that. We want you to keep buying brand-new flies."
"So how do I tie this?" Genna asks.
"You tie it...like that. Exactly like that. It's a perfect, perfect knot."
Satisfied, Genna takes her perfect, perfect rod--"which is such an awesome change from fishing with a Snoopy rod, which is what I've had all these years"--and walks down to a grassy strip just below where the Evergreen Dam spills over. Both Genna and Pete are reasonably sure that a few enormous Tiger muskie are hanging out here, although none of them--not the grandfather, not the granddaughter, not the fish--are in any particular hurry to become better acquainted.
Pete considers fishing nearby but decides against it. "I have a tendency to be a stage-door father," he says. "I need to just let her go."
"You say 'father'," I point out. "But aren't you her grandfather? Does she have a father? Where is he?"
"Oh, him? He was a bozo. Genna and her mom came to live with us when she was three, four months old." Pete pauses a moment. "Bozo. That's spelled B-O-Z-O. My wife and I thought it would be better that way than to have Genna's mom struggling as a single mother. Anyway, if it was up to me, my children would never leave home. It's possible I'm a better parent now. More patient, or that's what they tell me."
Wherever Pete went, Genna went, and where he usually went was fishing. A California native who had lived in New York City and on Long Island before quitting his corporate job and moving to Colorado, Pete had learned how to tie flies and fish from his own father, and he became increasingly obsessed with the sport as he grew older.
These days Pete spends each January and February running "fly-tying theaters" on a nationwide circuit of fishing expositions. "It's been eight years, and I'm still star-struck," he says. "I get to take calls from my idols on a daily basis, and it's fun, and I make a buck."
Genna began fishing with Pete ten years ago, when she was six. Two months ago she was named to one of only six spots on the International Federation of Sport Fly Fishing's junior team. Adults from the U.S. and Europe have competed on such teams for years, but this is the first time a division for fourteen- to seventeen-year-olds has been added. Pete was excited about the situation long before his granddaughter had any connection with it.
Historically, U.S. fly-fishing teams have done "terrible, because they're always made up of wealthy men who can afford it," Pete says. "The kids will do better. With them, it has nothing to do with money, only ability and talent."
With the help of sponsors and fundraising trout dinners held across the country, the junior team will go to Wales this summer to compete. If Genna learns her British flies, lake techniques and nerve-steadying, she could make her mark. Already, Pete says, in the "tiny pond" where he is nationally known as a tyer of flies, he is sometimes identified as "Genna McClure's grandfather."