If you’re like me, and you love fly fishing so much you literally ache when you aren’t on the water, you naturally yearn to pass that passion along to others, especially your children. And if you’ve been connected with the fly fishing “industry,” you know that the greatest collective fear—sometimes clearly spoken, but more often held as a silent concern—is that we might not be able to transfer this passion on to the next generation.
As a father of a 12-year-old son and someone who owes his very living to fly fishing, I have wrestled with that conundrum more than most of you might imagine. I want to expose my son to fly-fishing opportunities, but I don’t want him to rebel against fly fishing as “Dad’s thing.”
The other day, I gave my son his own iPod as a reward for making the honor roll at his school. And I turned him loose with my “library” of several thousand songs stored on my own computer to get him started. He was free to download what he wanted, and discard the rest. Tonight, I snuck that iPod of his away, and set it on “shuffle.” What I heard was most interesting.
First song… “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits. I almost cried with joy. Mark Knopfler’s technical acumen transcends generations, as well it should.
Second song, a “Linus and Lucy,” rendition by Winton Marsalis. Granted, my son Paul plays piano, and he definitely loves “Peanuts.” But the kid also loves jazz, and that’s a very, very good thing.
I then found a little Bob Dylan. Which seemed interesting, because, truth be told, I remember riding “horsie-style” on the vacuum cleaner my mother pushed around the house as she blared “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Can affinity for specific music really transcend three generations?
To further that point, I also clicked into tunes on my son’s iPod like “Come On, Let’s Go” by Ritchie Valens, “Soothe Me” by Sam & Dave, and “Surfin’ Bird” by The Trashmen. Who was I to argue? The good grooves endure.
Of course, there were some freakish encounters. Like “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred. I picked that one up as a novelty. Granted, the 12-year-old is automatically gravitated to the word “sexy.” I can see him now, listening to this song, and spraying “Axe” into his peach-fuzz armpits. If fly rod companies really want to appeal to young adolescent males, they should work a deal to include a free bottle of Axe underarm spray with every beginner 5-weight they sell. Thank goodness Paul didn’t chance upon the Village People songs I had buried in the archive.
Next song up was “Toes” by the Zac Brown Band. “Got my toes in the water, ass in the sand…” The word “ass” is a hotbutton for any 12-year-old, but I think he genuinely gets the idea of “checking out” and hitting a beach somewhere, if only because he knows those are the moments his father lives for, and I’ve brought him along to enough of those places where he recognizes where Dad’s happy zone really is.
He had Ryan Bingham’s “The Weary Kind” (theme from the movie Crazy Heart) on his iPod. I’m sure he liked the Travis picking guitar part. But I pray that he never hits the road so hard, as I have, that he really understands what that song is really all about.
“East Bond and Down” by Jerry Reed. I have no idea why he likes that one, other than I think his young mind is as infatuated with fast cars and Sallie Field in tight jeans as mine was when I was his age.
“I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. A contemporary tune, so good, in fact, that I wish I’d have had that one when I was 12.
“Far Away Eyes” by the Rolling Stones. How he landed on that one out of my very deep catalog of Stones classics is a mystery. But I have to admit, as I noodled around with various band incarnations over the years, “Far Away Eyes” was always the most fun to play.
So what were the lessons?
Well, to borrow from Sheryl Crow, “Good is Good.” Good then is good now. It’s all about the memorable “hook.” You can’t teach affinity to music. It just happens. And likewise, you can’t teach affinity for fly fishing. That also just happens.
But not without exposure. The more they experience, the more they absorb. They might not absorb everything you love, for the same reasons you grew to love it.
But that’s okay. And what they grab onto… well, it will be enough. Sometimes it will surprise you. And sometimes, it will be better than your growing-up memories.
Garnering interest among “generation next” isn’t the challenge we worry that it might be. It’s simply a matter of letting them hear the music, experiencing what’s there, and then making their own “playlist” of what they want to do and experience on their own.
Sometimes, the results can be far more elaborate and inviting than anything we’ve grown to love ourselves.
And what’s wrong with that?