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Once Upon A Time In California

December 22, 2017

I remember the distant day like this morning’s coffee. It was a cold May morning in the shadows of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and I had sloshed through a flooded cow field behind my father in the pursuit of German Brown Trout. The year was 1956 and I was six months shy of eight years old.

The Owens River floods its banks during the snow melt off in May rendering the whole of the river’s basin a mosquito infested swamp with occasional dry access to the river’s bank. My father had driven us there from our home in San Fernando, California the night before so that we could get on the river early. The 300 mile trip was planned to get us on the river just before daybreak. Although I was already an accomplished fisherman, I was still learning and this morning was just one of many lessons in the life-long pursuit of trout.

While I had mastered the cast, I still needed my father’s guidance in reading the water. I was still prone to tossing my fly mid-current and was in need of some stream-side tutoring. The morning wore on as my father caught a series of nice German Brown trout and tried to encourage me to do the same. My casts were met with underwelmed trout and the silence of the late morning grew deafening. In the midst of my frustration, my father approached and pointed to a side pool on the opposite bank. “Put it there, just a little upstream.”

I made the easy 20 foot cast and waited with anticipation as my fly drifted into the sweet spot. Bam! A large Brown grabbed my nymph and headed upstream like a train. I set the hook, palmed the reel and held on for dear life. This was no ordinary take! The reel screamed as line flew off the spool.

My father stepped back away from the bank and didn’t say a word. He had trained me for this moment and I was on my own. I kept the pressure on the reel with my right hand while occasionally taking up a bit of line.  The fish dove under a bank and the whole braking and take-up routine was repeated over and over again.

After what seemed to an eight-year-old as a true eternity, the fish was landed. As I turned around to find my father, he snapped this photo. It sits framed in my den after sixty years as a constant reminder of what fishing has always been to me: Family, fidelity and the constant hope for a better tomorrow.

Sharing this story with all of you is my way of saying, “Merry Christmas.” Keep your family close, be true to yourself and always hope for a better tomorrow.


For a full picture of what I mean, read my book: The Blackest of Canyons and Other Micro Tales of Fly Fishing

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  1. Olive Blankenship permalink

    Merry Christmas Allen and Rachel!🎄

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Grazie! Buon Natale e tanti auguri per un buon anno.


  3. Nice story . . . and a great picture! I wish my dad had gotten to see me fly fish. Food for the soul, my friend. Buon Natale! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on allenrizzi and commented:

    Once Upon A Time…


  5. Amazing memory, great fish!

    Liked by 1 person

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