Fly Fish With Your Family

 First time casters and veteran anglers enjoy the natural places that enable a fly fishing vacation. Test your tippet deep in the wilderness or perfect your back casts on the resort lawn. 

Gather your gear. Then enjoy the beauty and art of fly fishing: 

 familyflyfishing.com

Gore Creek Fly Fisherman. Vail, CO.

 Give your kids (and perhaps yourself) a taste of this lifelong sport during daily casting clinics offered each day in the scenic Vail Village along the Gore Creek Promenade. When you are ready for more, book a half or full day walk and wade trip or sign on for a float trip through Rocky Mountain beauty.

Contact: 970-476-3296; www.GoreCreekFlyFisherman.com

LL Bean Outdoor Discovery School. Freeport, ME or Columbia, MD.

  The knowledgeable instructors at LL Bean can jump start your family into the wonderful world of fly fishing with their one or two-day introductory courses.  You’ll learn about fly-tackle, delve into knot tying, fly tying, and fish-food identification, then move outside to practice casting skills in a nearby pond.  Continue the analysis and improvement at home once you’ve viewed their video of your newly acquired skill. Contact:  LL Bean experts are available for fishing advice on their hotline between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m EST every day; 1-800-347-4552. 

For class registration:  (888)-552-3261); www.llbean.com/outdoorsOnline/odp/courses/flyfishing/fly-fishing-essentials1-maine.html

Chetola Resort. Blowing Rock, NC.

The only Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lodge in North Carolina has plenty to offer the entire family. Pack a rod for a half day trip to “The Refuge” on Boone Fork Creek, a destination deemed ideal for beginners and families.  When not casting a line, check out the children’s camp, a heated indoor pool, fitness center and nearby rafting and golf.

Contact: (800) 243-8652;  www.Chetola.com

Match the Hatch. Livingston, MT.

Spend a day on the Yellowstone River with Eric Adams and your family members will go home with more than basic casting skills. His educational background in ecology means you’ll learn to “match the hatch”, fish pocket water from a raft and how to maximize a day on the famed Yellowstone River or nearby spring creeks. You are sure to enjoy time on the Yellowstone, the longest stretch of blue-ribbon trout habitat in the nation. 

Contact: 406.223.2488; www.MontanaFlyFishingGuides.com 

Fishing on the Farm. Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN.

With two ponds and a stream on site, plus more than 700 miles of fishable trout streams in the neighboring Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this gem of a property offers the novice or experienced fly fishing family the opportunity to enjoy great water as well as a sea of additional activities. Horseback riding, mountain biking, cooking schools, the Farmhouse Spa and charming accommodations on 4,200 pastoral acres, combine to create a picturesque haven for a gathering clan. Contact: (800) 648-4252; www.BlackberryFarm.com. 

5 Lakeside Retreats

 The simple pleasures of family life can be found at lakeside retreats.

Here are five places to enjoy gentle breezes and a book on the porch:

An Eddy In TIme

Fly rod in hand, I eased into the warm waters of the storied Madison River. My son, Ben, was just steps behind me, eager to wet his line. Despite my felt-bottomed shoes, I faltered slightly, slipping off the rounded, moss-covered rocks below my feet.

"Here, take my hand," Ben said softly behind me. "I'll help you."

Steadied by his strength, together we pushed forward, bolstered against the rippling current.

At 6'3", my oldest son towers over me now. This should come as no surprise. Mothers with children older than mine had long presaged it would happen like this; a fast-forward blur of growth spurts, sporting events, back-to-school nights and prom dates.

But, really, wasn't it just yesterday that I took his small hand in mine and walked him into pre-school? And just last week that I steadied him on skis as he slipped down a snowy pathway during a family ski holiday?

And now, some 20 years later, he is holding me upright as we wade into these braided waters under the wide Montana sky.

A Special Time

This was more than a casual weekend. He had called to suggest we meet for a few days of mother-son fly-fishing, an interest we have shared since his boyhood. Our destination would be the mountains and rivers of Big Sky country, a landscape we both love. After, we would both head to Northern Idaho for the big event. In just seven days, he would wait at the end of yet another pathway, to catch that first glimpse of his beautiful bride.

Throughout the weekend, we fished favorite streams and crossed canyons via zip line, joking about the next "big leap" he would soon take. We walked through the woods with his two Golden Retrievers, Bridger and Jackson, and reminisced about our family life. We both ordered curried chicken for lunch and lamented our mutual metabolism that required us to leave the banana bread at the counter. Particularly now, the weekend before the wedding.

I wondered if there wasn't something important, meaningful I should say. Some kind of pre-nuptial, motherly advice I could offer. But it wasn't required.

Someone asked if I felt that sense of loss some women suffer; a heart-splitting notion that marriage somehow meant losing your son to another woman. For us, there is none of that. I know that I will always be his mom and she will always be his girl.

Each evening we retreated to our room at the Big Sky Lodge, curled up with the dogs, reviewed the days' events and planned for the next. We shared our individual enthusiasm for the upcoming wedding festivities. I smiled with deep pleasure when he spoke with confidence of his decision to marry Lyndsay and how special and strong he believed their relationship to be. There was no hesitation. Only eager anticipation.

Visions of Youth

From time to time, I would catch glimpses of a much younger Ben. A familiar, silly grin. A childlike glance in a moment of indecision. But mostly, I saw a sure-footed man, eager to embark on this next chapter of his life.

On our last afternoon, we made one more stop along the Gallatin, hoping to improve our luck. While we both knew this weekend wasn't just about the fish, a little more action would have been welcome. Once again, Ben provided a steady hand as we waded into the water. As the sun dropped behind the cliff and soft evening light prevailed, we took turns casting, attempting to lure the wily trout from its safe hideout.

At one point, my line became hopelessly entangled. Without hesitation or frustration Ben quietly took my rod and said, "Not to worry. I can help." It's what I might have whispered two decades ago when he fell off the jungle gym or scraped his knee in a roller blade spill. But now, somehow it seemed just right that he would be the problem solver, the one to take the lead.

What I Believe

As the weekend came to a close, he said, "Mom, your baby boy is getting married. Can you believe it? "

What I believe is that time mysteriously evaporates and in the blink of an eye, that once mischievous toddler strides back into the room as a confident, young man. A man insightful and caring enough to create this eddy in time, in the scant hours before dozens of friends, family and a long list of last-minute details, would vie for his attention.

Knowing he has become this measure of a man provides soul-satisfying comfort. I am certain he will be a fine husband and father, locking arms with his wife through rough waters and calm seas. He'll be present when their child takes that first shaky step, hesitates on the first day of school or ties the first fly.

And with this knowing, I will shed tears of pride and joy as he reaches for the hand of his lovely bride, closes his own around hers, and before family and friends, promises to love her and hold her steady.

For always.

Great Western Ranch Vacations

Whether you're seeking the ultimate fly fishing experience, the most authentic cattle drive, or a haven for your children and family to run free, a dude ranch vacation may be your best connection to the great outdoors. Browse through these ten ranches to find your perfect dude ranch.

Go Fly A Kite!

For low-cost and high-flying fun, set the sky ablaze with the colors and shapes of your choice.

Here are five places where you and your family can go fly a kite:

4 Underwater Adventures

 Get close to creatures of the sea for a wild family adventure. Here are four ideas to consider:

1. Swim With Whale Sharks.

Swimming with the largest fish in the sea is a thrill worth seeking. Whale sharks are massive, reaching lengths of 40 feet and 15 tons. Despite their imposing presence, the gentle creatures peacefully share the warm seas with visitors who arrive via boat from the shores of nearby Cancun. Two at a time, along with a guide, you’ll don a life jacket or wet suit and fins, before jumping in for a swim with these plankton slurping vegetarians. No touching is allowed (the mega-fish are considered a “vulnerable species”) but you can swim alongside as they thrust forward their super-sized square jaw and begin filtering everything in their path like a water-born vacuum cleaner.

Contact: www.Cancun.travel; www. solobuceo.com.

2. Swim with Stingrays.

Wade into the warm Caribbean Sea at the Stingray City Sandbar for your family’s chance to pet the dozens of sea creatures who visit the area for a little love and a few tasty treats. Today tour operators will assist in your introduction to the Southern stingray, taking over for the fishermen who originally attracted the rays to the area by cleaning fish and tossing the remnants into the water. Soon the stingrays associated the sound of boat motors with breakfast. For a more pleasurable experience, avoid visiting when cruise ships are in port.

Contact: www.caymanislands.ky

3. Alaska up close.

Kayak among whales, sea lions and past puffins when you explore Alaska with Inner Sea Discoveries and American Safari Cruises. With only 22 to 86 guests on board on their well-planned vessels, you’ll wind your way into narrow passages and into wilderness areas that the bigger ships cannot access. The adventuresome in your clan can don a dry suit and use a Stand Up Paddleboard to get even closer to Alaska’s extraordinary wild riches.

Contact: 888-862-8881; www.InnerSeaDiscoveries.com

4. Adventures with alligators.

No one wants to get too close to an alligator. But at this park, home to more than 800 gators ranging in size from eight inch babies to 15 foot, one thousand pound adults, you’ll learn about the ways of these fierce creatures, from a safe distance. As you wander through natural swamps and marshes you’ll also encounter turtles, lizards, giant frogs and exotic birds. Lectures and live shows add to the experience.

Contact: 843-361-0789; www.alligatoradventure.com/

Discover SUP

Stand Up Paddle surfing (SUP) is considered an ancient form of surfing, traced to early days in Polynesia. More recently, in the 1940s, surf instructors on Waikiki beach in Hawaii are said to have used the skill to allow them a better view of their students. Today, families can indulge in the sport at many resorts and recreation areas. Here are five to consider:

Ten Great NorCal Hikes

When I was a kid, my mom would retain her sanity each summer by sending me off on a 10-day YMCA backpacking trip with a bunch of strangers (which, by the way, I highly recommend for all you over-protective parents out there). Not only did these hiking trips get me out of the house and into the mountains, they also taught me life-long lessons about ecology, weather, navigation, and self-reliance. So do your kids a confidence-building favor and take them hiking this summer—they’ll forgive you in the end.

Salmon River Solace

For many families, summer is a time of transition. Family schedules and structures take on new shapes and sizes. When September rolls around, will there be more school supplies to buy? Or will the nest soon be emptying? This year, the warm summer breeze reminds me of an adventure we experienced years ago. 

Not far down the sandy bank, I could see my 18-year-old son Alex rhythmically casting his fly into the Salmon River, intent on luring a trout. He was tanned and relaxed. His smile came easily as his angling efforts paid off.

Diving Delight

ft reef divers 11-10-2010 6-56-32 am

Explore our underwater world during a family dive vacation. Here are great places to consider: 

1.       Small Hope Bay Lodge, Andros Island, Bahamas.

Check into one of this family-run resort’s 21 cottages and prepare to explore, relax and enjoy a special holiday. Young children can begin by participating in the young naturalist program before moving on to shoreline snorkeling lessons, a snorkel reef trip and then on to SASY (Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth) Diving. The latter enables kids 7-9 to experience the underwater world wearing a small tank and other dive gear. At age ten, the Discover Scuba program is available for those interested in pursuing the next level. The resort’s on site dive staff will provide scuba lessons for one or more. The all inclusive resort offers complimentary babysitting from six until nine pm. Contact: 800-223-6961; www. SmallHope.com.

2.       Florida Keys.

Explore the only living coral reef system in the continental United States during a visit to this scenic South Florida region. For kids eight and older: the Summer Marine Science Camp at Pigeon Key, an historic site 100 miles southwest of Miami, offers programs that include information about reef fish, coral reef systems, underwater photography and the gathering of specimens. Kids can get scuba certification during a camp session or brush up if already certified. Also included: underwater obstacle courses, volleyball, and snorkeling. Also in the region: the Wreck Trek Passport Program," spotlighting the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail, where certified divers can explore a string of sunken vessels and artificial reefs with local dive instructors. Contact: 305-289-0025; www.PigeonKey.com; www.Fla-Keys.com/diving. 

3.      Brac Reef, Cayman Brac.

From this small, family-friendly island, families can enjoy a dive vacation that includes exploring the waters around Cayman Brac as well as the Russian Frigate and the Bloody Bay Wall near Little Cayman Island. The on-site dive shop provides personalized attention to the soon-to-be certified as well as the seasoned diver. The all inclusive, beach front resort also offers free bike rentals to explore the island, spa services and volley ball. Ask about special packages for families. Contact: 1-800-594-0843; www.BracReef.com. 

4.       Grand Wailea, Maui.

For families who choose to blend a luxury resort holiday with a scuba experience, this hotel fits the bill. Give the sport a try by joining instructors twice daily in the comfort of Hawaii’s only specially designed scuba pool. Interested in learning more? Certification classes are offered at every level. Once the instruction is complete, escorted ocean dives are available. Meanwhile, families can enjoy the super-cool pool on the property, an expansive beach ,as well as a spa and numerous family-focused resort programs. Contact: 808-875-1234; www.GrandWailea.com.

ft divepapuanewguinea loh  5-31-2010 8-35-17 5-31-2010 8-35-16 pm 5.       Harbour Village, Bonaire.

Children ages five to 12 can join the Kid’s Great Adventure program at this Caribbean resort. They will learn about the Bonaire Marine Park, snorkel, ID fish, and get comfortable with the SASY (Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth) program, a wonderful precursor to SCUBA. Children eight and over can take part in the PADI Bubblemaker program, which enables young enthusiasts to breathe with a regulator in shallow ocean water. At ten, kids can earn their Junior Scuba Certification. From now through December 16, 2011 the second diver in your party dives free when you book the Dive Into Luxury Package. Children under 16 stay free in the room with their parents. Contact: 1-800-424-0004; www.harbourvillage.com.

 Resource: www.PADI.com.

Six Snorkel Spots

This page is brought to you by Pride of Maui offering fun-filled, action-packed snorkeling/sailing trips to Maui's Molokini.

Snorkeling is a great way to explore the beauty of our underwater world.

Here are six places the family can learn about coral reefs, colorful fish and more:

Mission...Accomplished!

I have always wanted to visit one of the 10th Mountain Division huts tucked high within Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Named to honor the men of the 10th Mountain Division of the US Army who trained during World War II in Central Colorado, the system of 29 backcountry huts are connected by 350 miles of suggested routes.

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