BY JOHN BERRY
Last week I got a last minute booking from Blue Ribbon Fly Shop. It turned out to be Chris and his thirteen year old daughter, Abigail. My first thought was to take them to Dry Run Creek. Chris said that they had fished there the day before and showed me a stunning picture of a great brown that Abigail had caught. They had also fished the Norfork. What they wanted to do was to fish the White River. After a bit of discussion, we decided to drive over to Bull Shoals and fish the Catch and Release section below the dam.
When we arrived, I noticed that Abigail was a bit cranky. Chris was enthusiastic and ready to fish. We waded into the river and began fishing. The sun was rising in the sky and that was triggering a nice midge hatch. We were fishing with my green butt in a smaller than usual size (17) and Chris was beginning to pick up some nice fish. He could not believe how ferociously they fought was enjoying himself immensely. At the same time, I noticed that Abigail’s mind was not in the game. I waded over to her location and worked with her. She picked up a nice fish but it was obvious that she wasn’t feeling well. She went over to her dad and got his cell phone and then walked back to my car.
I went over to Chris. He said that he just found out that Abigail had a kidney infection and that she was calling her mom. She was gone for a while and he was very concerned. I told him to keep fishing and that I would go and check on her. I got to my car as she finished her phone call and she said she wasn’t feeling well. I removed my sun glove and felt her forehead. She had some low grade fever. Abigail said that her mother had suggested that she take some ibuprofen. I went to the first aid kit in my car and got a couple and gave them to her along with a bottle of water.
We walked back to dad and she explained how she felt. Chris was a concerned father and pulled the plug on the trip. His daughter’s health was much more important than catching a few fish. As a father, I understood. He said that he was going to Wal-Mart to get a medication that her mother had recommended and return to his motel and take care of Abigail. On the way back to the shop to pick up is car; I gave Chris my business card and told him that if she felt better in the afternoon to give me a call and we could fish in the afternoon.
I went home and had lunch with my wife, Lori. I left all my gear in the car in case Chris called. I went outside and sat on the porch of our guest house. About two o’clock I got a call from Chris. He said that she was coming out of the shower and feeling much better. We agreed to meet at 2:30 and finish the afternoon on the river. The generation prediction called for generation to begin at Bull Shoals at four o’clock so I opted to take them to Rim Shoals (which is twenty four miles downstream), where we could fish till dark.
Abigail was completely recovered. It was like dealing with a different child. She was full of life and eager to catch fish. We waded over to the island and I took a few minutes to get Chris started. I then turned my full attention to her. I changed to a pheasant tail nymph. As I was getting her started, my old fishing buddy, Don Allenbaugh arrived on the scene with his dog, Buddy. He began fishing nearby and located a pod of nice fish. He suggested that I move over and give them a try. Don is an excellent angler and I appreciated his gracious gesture. I moved Abigail to the spot and worked with her to fine tune her presentation. I headed upstream to check on Chris. About the time I got there, I saw her hook a fish. I sped back to her location shouting out encouragement as I went. When I got close, I saw the trout, a large brown. I was amazed with how well she fought it and in a few minutes it was in the net. It was a nice fat twenty inch brown trout. I got it in the net and waved to Chris to come down. He cranked in his line as he went and was there in no time. He pulled out his camera and took several pictures. There was no mistaking the pride and joy in his eyes. We continued working our way down the island and Abigail out fished her dad. That was OK with him. We fished until she ran out of gas around five o’clock and then headed back to the parking lot. The day definitely ended on a positive note. She said that this was her favorite place to fish and that she wanted to return. Chris agreed.
By staying flexible and working the day around her needs, we had turned what could have been a bad day into a memorable day for Abigail. For a father, that is as good as it gets.