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Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog: “Our Family’s First Time Fly Fishing”

Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on October 19, 2020# COVID-19Lifestyle

As peak foliage wrapped her arms around the mountains where we live, a friend took our family fly fishing for the first time. As much as I wanted to feel the romantic nostalgia of Brad Pitt in the 1992 classic “A River Runs Through It,” I was lucky not to feel the barb of our family’s collective hooks. At the base of the famed rock face where the Old Man on the Mountain used to perch, there is a State Park to commemorate him. Recently, they dedicated an accessible fishing platform (fly fishing only), which my husband Geoff, a para for almost 26 years, helped to bring to fruition.Krill family fishing

In a non-COVID summer and fall, Geoff and our children would fish a lot more than we did this summer for a number of reasons. So, when the husband of an old, dear friend from childhood offered to take us fly fishing on his next visit to NH, we jumped at the chance. There is a certain beauty in watching someone you love fish with your children. There is a certain beauty in watching them listen carefully to another teacher than practice the task solo. There is a certain beauty at the base of a prolific mountain in the fall, watching the world travel by on the highway, which follows the split in the notch. Where is everyone going when what feels most important is happening here and now at this moment as at the base of this mountain? There is a certain beauty in hearing the whip of the line as it passes further out over the water, taking a little more line and a little more distance with each whip. There is a certain beauty in the ages of 10 and 50, learning something new together for the first time, despite being 40 years apart.

Geoff is a natural, of course. He intuitively figures out the “fly-fishing” movement without flipping out of his wheelchair. He maintains the patience of remembering to give the fish a chance to nibble at the fly before whipping back out of the water. Meanwhile, our son is focused on the motion of ten and two, and I’m reminded of learning to drive. Instead of holding hands on the wheel at ten and two, the fly fisherman draws the line back as far back as ten if a clock is positioned around the body in a parallel direction front to back. Then he snaps it back at two out in front, pulling a little line out each time. But he is more driven to release more line and feel the pattern of back and forth that he easily neglects that he is fishing, giving the fish no time to pounce on the fly as it scoots across the water. He also doesn’t seem to mind not catching any fish.

The morning is quiet and thoughtful. No one is fighting over the many fall chores that need to be done to be ready for winter’s quick arrival. No one is even really talking. No one is wearing the masks we wear all day long as we have returned to school in person. Mike shares a few words of fishing wisdom and steps back again into the safety zone, but even there, Carver catches him once with the fly. No harm was done, Mike says, and the fishing continues. Carver then catches himself also in the head, no harm done, I say, beyond a little nick. He catches a spoke in Geoff’s wheel too accidentally as well, but there are no fish biting this morning in the solitude of yellow leaves and faraway traffic. We take deep breaths and move farther away from them as the last thing I want is a trip to the emergency room to take a fishing hook out of my arm.Krill family fishing

Emerson, our service dog, watches from his napping position, and I know he is thinking about how his humans are always doing the strangest things. He is likely wondering why he is not swimming in this lovely spot. There is also a certain beauty in being able to take our daughter’s hand because she still lets me, as she had lost interest in the actual fishing part, and walking along the path back to the car, leaving our boys to their lines, flies, and dreams of fish. Mike generously gifted us these two fly fishing poles we used for practice. Geoff took the fly off for safety, and Carver now practices his casting in the driveway after school. While it may not be a river in Wyoming, NH’s driveway is a perfect place to practice a new life skill with one’s dad.

Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta, who are 10 and 9. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.comauthor FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.

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