PhD Fishing

Student Artwork by Davis!

Student Artwork by Davis!

The trout of Henry’s Fork are widely respected as some of the smartest eaters around. They have learned to detect the smallest difference between an artificial fly with a hook in it and a tasty meal. Fly fishing aficianados refer to these particular trout as “fish with PhD’s.” Catching even a small one of these geniuses is a real feather in the cap of any serious fisherman…

So there I was, standing in the current for hours, casting fly after fly at these fish with no takers. The water was clear, and I could watch fish feeding all around me, I could even see the insects they were eating. Even when I tied on a fly that matched the pattern of their bug feast exactly, they would still watch my mock insect float by. Extremely frustrating or extremely challenging depending on how you look at it.

Since I had hours to spend casting and not catching fish, I thought about my children and just how smart they are.

Every Saturday I do a run to the dump with all of our trash. Every Saturday I try to get one of my kids to go with me. I love the one-on-one time with them. Last week it was my oldest son’s turn. My first “cast” was to try and ask excitedly, “Hey, you want to go on a ride with me?”

“No thanks, Dad.” He said this without even looking up from his book.

My next cast… “It would be some great male-bonding time,” I suggested.

“Nah, that’s okay,” and still no look.

“There might be a surprise…” This cast was expertly swung to appeal to his love of ice cream. This one almost always works.

“How about later today, Dad?” And once more, not even a glance up at me.

“Riley, I want to spend some time with you. It’s important to me,” I stated simply and sincerely.

He looked right into my eyes, saw that I really meant it, put his bookmark in place, and without reservation said, “Okay, Dad. Let’s go.”

It turns out that my kids have been watching me for years. My oldest proved to me, again, that what he really wants is a father who will meet him on a genuine, honest level. He wanted the “real thing.” We had a great time riding to and from the dump, and I realized he has a PhD in me!

The people who we are close to in our lives – our families and co-workers , have “PhD’s”, too. They know when we are “fishing around.” The challenge is to stop casting disingenuous invitations to connect, and realize that only a real and true invitation will be met with enthusiasm.


Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (3)

3 Responses to “PhD Fishing”

  1. Bruce Mann says:

    Very perceptive and excellent writing. You do a great job at the school. You are in our prayers.

  2. Shaler Black says:

    Great Wisdom David! Thanks for sharing. Now that I am thinking about it… I remember a few trips to the dump with my dad in his old green pick up truck! 🙂

  3. leslie kern says:

    You know, sometimes the simple direct approach really does work best. Thanks for the wise reminder 🙂