“Trash Fish and Tanker Trout”
As I drove over the dam at Panther Run, I saw a familiar sight; a boy angrily throwing rocks in the water. I put some gear together and went to talk to Dylan, a boy I had met at this same spot, over a year ago.
The first day I met Dylan, he was in much the same condition; angry. That day, I tried to chit-chat him up a little bit but; he wasn’t much open to conversation and just kept throwing rocks in the water like he was trying to kill something. I asked Dylan if he knew anything about the fishing on Panther Run and he just grunted, “NO!” I then asked him if he minded if I tried my luck and he said, “I don’t give a s##t, do whatever you want.” (For a young boy, he had quite a vocabulary of cuss words which he used every time he threw a rock). I tied- on a flash bugger and started swinging and on the third swing, hooked-up with a feisty little small mouth bass. After releasing the bass, I went a little downstream and got a brook trout to take my offering. Dylan had casually followed along and started asking a few questions with his mood obviously improved. It didn’t take long before Dylan asked if he could have a turn. I passed the rod over to the boy. In short order, Dylan had a strike and got so excited, he ripped the fly out of the fish’s mouth. A long burst of expletives followed but, he had a smile on his face. I chuckled a little and asked him if he kissed his grandmother with that mouth. He got the point and thanked me for letting him use my fly rod. He asked me if I came here much because he is here all the time and maybe we could meet-up again and he could try fishing again and not get too excited and maybe catch a fish and maybe I could show him a few things and he could bring some soda for both of us or something and probably ask his mother if he could get his own fly rod and did I live close by and so on. I rigged an old fly rod and gave it to Dylan on my next trip to the dam. Over the course of that summer, Dylan and I met frequently and I learned that he had an abusive father who was no longer around, and a mother who paid little attention to him. Occasionally, Dylan’s grandfather would show up at the dam with him and as we chatted, we learned that we belonged to the same rod and gun club. Dylan’s grandfather couldn’t fish because of a disability but, was encouraging the boy. Grandpa had found a canoe with some damage and was able to coach Dylan through the repair process and the building of a canoe dolly. With the canoe, Dylan now had access to two lakes, two rivers, and was overjoyed with every fish he caught, no matter what the species. Over the course of that first summer, Dylan became totally consumed with fly fishing and, according to his grandfather, a new person. At monthly club meetings, over the course of the following winter, Dylan’s grandfather kept me updated with the boy’s progress which included; fly tying, much improved school grades, a cheery attitude, and even having his own outdoor column in the school newspaper.
Now, a year later, I walked up to the angry boy (Dylan) and tried to chit-chat a little but, he wasn’t having any of it and just kept throwing rocks like he was trying to kill something. I asked him if he knew anything about the fishing on Panther Run and he just grunted, “There ain’t nothin’ here but trash fish and tanker trout, and I’d rather catch a cold than one of those d***d things. My mother’s new boyfriend has a camp up north where the real fish are, and some day, when I grow up a little, he’s gonna take me for some real fishing.”