My eye trained on the white plastic bite indicator as it bobbed down a riffle in Tarryall Creek. Outwardly I must have looked completely at peace — standing in nature, breathing the mountain air, surrounded by the Lost Creek Wilderness and Pike National Forest and taking the occasional glance downriver at Shanti, my daughter.
She also appeared at ease as she waited, waited, waited, then whipped her line back upriver. We were short-line nymphing, letting our flies float downstream, then flicking them back up, without any slack in the lines and, hopefully, in a big circular arc above the water.
Inwardly, however, I was a frantic wreck. In the seemingly serene seconds that it took for my fly to make that downstream journey, my mind was running circles, trying to recall the bullet points our guide had given us for casting, drifting, and setting. In that moment, I was in the drift.
“Lift up your rod,” said our guide, Steve Gossage, of the Broadmoor’s Fly Fishing Camp. He was a crease-eyed fly fisherman who’d been guiding for 23 years. “That’s called highstickin’ it — get that fly line out of the water.”
It was nerve-wracking being a student again, but it was comforting that Shanti was in the same boat, experiencing the same learning curve as me. I wondered if she was also caught up in her thoughts, or if her unburdened 8-year-old’s brain had already figured out the technique, allowing her to be as relaxed as she looked. Steve watched her, then ran back to me to help me get my fly out from under a rock.
Shanti, of course, was doing just fine. She had earned praises from Steve for her casts and was beaming. It was a good beginning to a new tradition: starting this year, I decided to do a one-on-one, Daddy-daughter outdoors getaway, rotating through all three girls, beginning with the eldest.
Our first trip: two nights at the fly-fishing camp opened by The Broadmoor in 2015, located 75 miles west of Colorado Springs. The setting was perfect, as was our restored miner’s cabin. The guides were top notch; Steve was the model of patience, wading back and forth between father and daughter, untangling us, setting us straight, reminding us what to do, getting us out there.
Of course, having a guide, an expert at our side was one way to do this kind of trip. Next year, maybe middle daughter and I will go backpacking by ourselves. In the meantime, Shanti and I continued to learn. Together.
I tried to focus, to not watch the red-tail hawk soaring across the canyon overhead, or be distracted by the flies and mosquitoes. I tried to keep my eye on the bobber, looking for a hit, in which case I’d set it — by pulling low and downstream.
But not yet. Cast and drift. Cast and drift. Would Shanti get bored? Or would she settle into the zen of it? I cast my line, too far back. Again.
“Dad!” I heard her shout over the sound of the river. I turned, frantically trying to untangle another fly-wrapped willow branch. “Dad! We caught a fish!”
I dropped my rod in the bush — a total amateur move — and ran to her.
IF YOU GO: Hire a private fly-fishing guide at most angler shops around the state for roughly $325/day for two people. For the full all-inclusive, five-star retreat, the Broadmoor’s Fly Fishing camp begins at $780/night (https://www.broadmoor.com/fishing-camp).