By Jake Forrest Lunsford

My oldest son is thirteen and already has a beautiful roll-cast, a thing he did not learn from me. It is early morning, and we are fishing the swift waters and slick stones of the Au Sable River in upstate New York. Really, I am watching him fish; my line has been dry for an hour. A hundred or so yards upstream, he appears to me as a strong pair of rolling shoulders backlit under the rising sun. My view of him is framed between the water’s surface, the greenery of banks, and the covered bridge spanning the gap. Sunlight reflects from the curved spine of fiberglass in his hand and manifests as a rolling loop of leader and tippet extending itself upon the water. The fly-line in between is invisible against the backdrop of foliage, but I know it is there when the trout rises and the air glistens with spray, tension ripping it from the surface. His first fish on a fly.

All of my sons are fishermen, no matter what else I fail to accomplish in life. My sons are fishermen. It feels good to say it. So many things they could have been, and may yet still be, but this they have together. I did this, among other things less worthy of praise, but this I’ll hang my hat on. Fathers and sons follow intrace, and maybe one day they’ll manifest all of the things their mother would change about me, but they love the water and what lies beneath, and that’s something. 

My second son is obsessed with bait-cast reels and largemouth bass. He likes anything that has gears and range and the possibility of becoming irrecoverably mangled. He threw a baseball through my sliding glass door last month, too. As he works off the cost of replacing it, the deepest cut is to remind him the price of that door is almost exactly the same as a new outboard and trailer for the old Jon boat leaning against the backyard fence, the same his mother and I floated in on the river of our courtship. The catfish that never were swim in tears of lessons learned the hard way. 

Little brother’s little brother is eight. He’s still in a love affair with night-crawlers, bobbers, and split-shot, the things that actually catch fish. We exchange glances at his older brothers’ struggle against the romanticism of John Gierach and innovation of George Snyder as we tie monofilament on long sticks and catch sunfish under the ball of fire that gives them their name. He looks cool in a pair of shades, and he loves that, too. His crooked little smile when he snags a stick that he thinks is a fish is the stuff of magic.

Then there’s the baby. He’s two years old and rocks a Zebco 33 with no line on it. He doesn’t even know, bless his heart. I spend enough time retrieving his rod from ankle-deep water and feel grateful to not have to worry about wildly swinging treble hooks just yet. That day will come. For now, he runs the bank worrying his mother to death and chanting, “Catch fish!,” over and over again. One day, buddy. 

I haven’t fished seriously in years. Most days, I sit on the bank, or with my hand on the rudder, a pair of pliers and a sharp knife at the ready, maybe a sandwich for the meltdowns. I am the backdrop, and it strikes me now how fine a job that is. 

After all, my sons are fishermen. It feels good to say it. 


About the Author
Jake Forrest Lunsford writes his nonsense from the window overlooking his chickens, of which there were thirteen before the o‘possum. While hostage negotiations have thus far been unproductive, the remaining twelve are committed to the peaceful resolution of this conflict. The springer spaniel who sleep on the couch isn’t talking. To read more of his nonsense, visit, or follow him on Instagram @jakeforrestlunsford.