As my father and I waded through the Clark Fork River, I was overwhelmed by the beauty surrounding us. The water glistened in the late afternoon sun; trees swayed in the gently autumn breeze.
The trip we had planned for months was coming to an end. Despite our careful preparation and diligent efforts, our fishing endeavor had proven entirely unsuccessful. We were running out of time to return home with at least a little pride.
One only had to look into my father’s eyes to understand the severity of the situation. His determination transcended simple stubbornness and desire. Shadows stretched across the river as the sun sank lower.
Our guide asked if we wanted to call it a day.
Neither of us even looked at him. We were not leaving until our trip proved successful.
My father snapped the rod back and forth with the grace of a seasoned fisherman. I awkwardly emulated his actions. His patience and determination were rewarded when a jolt nearly knocked him off his feet. For at least 20 minutes he battled the fish, steering it about the river, strategically giving off line, then reeling it in.
It was evident this wasn’t just some fish, but an experienced elder whose determination matched that of my father’s.
With labored effort Dad pressed on. The sun sank completely behind the trees that lined the banks. Except for the occasional shout of encouragement, I was useless. Finally, it appeared my father had the upper hand as he retrieved line at an encouraging pace. With the glory of pride a mere 10 feet away, the fish suddenly changed directions, charged my father and leaped into the air.
Time seemed to stand still. The fish was massive, scarred by time. Looking at him I knew my dad could not win. My father – patient, determined, an excellent fisherman – was simply incapable of victory.
The fish looked my dad in the eyes, spit the fly in his face and was on his way.
Dad could only smile as we headed for the shore.