You can’t go fishing in a dress

On Father’s Day, our Communications Director Jon MacNeill recalls the first fishing trip with his daughter, Lainey.

“You can’t go fishing in a dress,” I say as my seven-year-old daughter emerges from her bedroom in a frilly blue and white frock, tackle box in hand.

She shoots me a cock-eyed look.

“Says who?”

An hour later we’re at Mactaquac Provincial Park casting white worms into the headpond, her frilly dress dancing in the breeze.

It’s a mild Saturday morning in late May, the perfect conditions for our first outing of the season, and, in fact, our first-ever fishing excursion together.

Dad disclosure: I really didn’t think fishing would be up Lainey’s alley. As far as I know, they don’t make ‘Let’s Go Fishin’ baby dolls. But her uncle brought her along when he’d tried his luck in Grand Lake a week earlier, and she’d absolutely loved it.

You just never know until you give them the chance.

Still, I didn’t expect to be too long on the water. We’ll throw a few lines and make lunch at the market, I thought.

Three hours flashed by.

She teased minnows with her lure in the shallows. She searched for spiders and insects between the big rocks containing the bank. She wandered up and down the shoreline, casting, casting and recasting again. She didn’t catch a thing.

She couldn’t have cared less.

“Awww, just a few more casts, Daddy?” she begs when I say it’s probably time we head out.

Wait, did I miss something here?

Clearly, yes — but it wasn’t lost on her. And then it dawned on me.

‘Fishing’ isn’t just about catching fish. Just like going for a walk in the woods isn’t about moving one leg in front of the other. It’s what comes along with each stride, each cast, that makes it magical.

This became even more clear the next day, when Lainey and I ventured to a little hole along the Nashwaak River in Fredericton.

The fishing was good this time — we caught (and released) one each and had plenty more bites — but it still wasn’t the highlight of the day.

That honour went to a little dragonfly who’d got his wings wet and perched himself on the sandy bank in the sun to dry out.

“This is so interesting! I’ve never seen a dragonfly up close before!” Lainey exclaimed when she spotted him. They’d just finished a major unit on insects in her Grade One class, so she was in her element.

“Ohh, look at his compound eyes!” she marvelled. “Did you know dragonflies have veins in their wings? When they’re babies they’re called a nymph!” The facts went on and on as lessons she’d learned in the classroom came to life before her eyes.

She studied that bug for five minutes straight — admiring the colours on its body, those big, bulging eyes, and the intricate design of its wings — then spent the rest of the morning dutifully going back and forth between checking her line and checking in on her new friend.

I’d taken her out this morning hoping we’d catch our first fish together. We ended up making a whole lot more memories than that.

“I’m going to help,” she says at one point, blowing gently on the dragonfly’s damp wings.

A moment later, it took to the sky.

“Oh, Daddy!” she shouted. “He flew away. I guess I helped!”

Note: this article originally appeared on our website in 2015. Lainey is now 11 years old, and still loves fishing with her dad — often in a dress.