The first time my parents met a girl I was dating, my mother promptly asked her if she liked to fish. Without missing a beat, mom went on to explain that, if she didn't fish, she would either need to learn to do so or to have abundant patience because of the amount of time I devoted to the sport.
Through the years, as love interests have come and gone, my mother dutifully asked the same question and offered the same explanation to each of them. Some tried fishing but never seemed to get it while others just simply ran out of patience.
I became comfortable living the life of confirmed bachelorhood. Not the stereotypical version but rather one of happy simplicity - a good job, time to spend with my family and friends and time to fish, both locally and traveling.
Then I met Galina.
At the time she lived in Ontario, where the trout season closes Sept. 30 and the steelhead season closes Dec. 31 - the streams there are covered by ice by that point anyway.
She had begun fly-fishing the previous spring and, as I have come to learn, she commits herself fully to any endeavor she undertakes. Learning of the seasonal closures in Ontario, she fished as much as possible through the year, building to a crescendo in September when she fished for 30 days straight. On workdays, she fished both before and after work. And she was in the second year of a veterinary surgical residency at the same time.
A Canadian friend and guide who helped fuel her love of fly-fishing suggested she consider visiting Pennsylvania during the winter. A reasonable driving distance and limestone trout streams that stayed open throughout the year and were filled with wild trout were all the motivation she needed. Additionally, he had a friend who was a guide in Pennsylvania and that they in turn were friends with a part-time guide who managed a small motel in the State College area that was the perfect fisherman's motel.
I was the motel manager.
Time flies when you're having fun and Galina and I have spent countless days on the water together. Many of those days have been on central Pennsylvania streams and especially Penns Creek, which quickly became her favorite. We have already accumulated a full creel of memories from Penns and we recently added another.
On April 4 we spent a few peaceful hours fishing on lower Penns, just she and I. She landed several hefty browns and a beautiful rainbow that practically glowed with its spring colors, a vibrant pink stripe and blush on its gill plate.
I managed to foul hook two suckers.
For the record, I've gotten used to her outfishing me. This has become an inside joke for us, as we laugh on the occasions when tables turn noticeably in one or the other's favor. Valuable life lessons learned along the stream - to share and laugh as much as possible.
The next day, our friend, the fishing guide who introduced Galina and I, walked her down "the aisle" just upstream of where we had fished. The aisle was a carpet of leaves and the gurgle of Penns Creek provided the musical accompaniment.
She said yes.
Scott McKee writes about the outdoors for The Sentinel.