It’s thrilling to feel a fish tugging on the line.

After all the waiting around, your heart jumps at the first sudden jolt, followed by the frantic pulling, diving, and darting.

The drama unfolds underwater.  The anticipation builds as you wait to see what you hooked.

I thought of this recently while walking my dog, Boomer, a big shaggy 100-pound goldendoodle.

Despite years of scolding from my wife, I never did train him properly.  He still tugs on the leash when we walk.

Eleven years ago, he was so strong and so excited for our walks, it was easier just to give in and jog instead of walking.

Win-win situation.  He and I both got exercise.

Occasionally I even fastened his harness to a long rope and tied that to the yellow electric Jeep which my son Jesse used to drive around our neighborhood.


That too was a win-win situation.  My son was delighted by the increased speed, and Boomer got a great workout.

Nowadays, the dog is older, and my son is, too.  The Jeep has long since been given away.  In another year, my son will begin driving real cars.

Boomer has less energy now.  He still occasionally pulls on the leash, and sometimes it annoys me.  But my new habit is to try to remind myself of the life-force on the other end of the line.  It’s not as exciting as fighting a fish, but I mean, it’s on the scale.

When Boomer is pulling, I tell myself to be grateful.  This dog has given my family so much love, kindness, and devotion.  We are lucky to have him.  Thank God he is still here pulling the leash!

Fishing wise, my family has done its share.  My father, Tom Troyer, a Nebraska native, caught this 8-pound-5-ounce Brown trout in the early 1950s on the Straight River in Minnesota:img_7535-e1504204370867.jpg

My sister’s son, Bruno Zicarelli, caught this 23-inch Brown trout in Montana last week:

And my brother Bob Troyer, who is the U.S. Attorney for Colorado, spent a week of vacation last month working as a deckhand on a salmon fishing boat in Alaska.

And then there is my other brother, Ken Troyer, who eclipsed us all, fishing wise, by devoting his entire professional life to the creatures.

Ken is a fisheries biologist for the federal government.  Based in Boise, Idaho, he studies and helps manage our nation’s native salmon populations.

Almost 30 years ago, when he was based in Alaska, he was nice enough to invite me for two summers of fish work north of the Arctic Circle.

The first summer, we traveled from lake to lake by small airplanes.  We set gill nets in remote wilderness lakes to gather data on fish populations.  If you think it’s exciting to reel in a line with a single fish on it, imagine slowly pulling up from the dark, hidden depths an entire net full of them.

The next summer, after my first year of college, we worked by ourselves on a single big lake, Walker Lake.  We netted Arctic char, trout, and every other kind of fish in the lake, including a burbot, a species I’d never even heard of.  (Long, slimy, prehistoric-looking things.)

We tagged these fish and released them.  For years afterward, anglers were still catching some of the same ones we had tagged, and were reporting back on the size and age of the fish. 

That was a magical summer in 1987.  We were by ourselves in the middle of truly remote, pristine wilderness.  We were so far north, the daylight seemed to last forever.

In recent years, I have cut back on fishing.  At some point I started to feel guilty.  Even though our family has always practiced catch-and-release (unless we plan to eat the fish), I started thinking about how terrifying and painful the whole ordeal likely is for the fish.

I still go fishing, but I stop as soon as I have enough to eat.

There’s a song Bruce Springsteen wrote after the Sept. 11 hijacking attacks.  One verse goes like this:

May I feel your arms around me
May I feel your blood mix with mine
A dream of life comes to me
Like a catfish dancin’ on the end of my line

It’s a hell of a thing to be connected to another living thing, whether a fish, dog, or human being. 

It’s not always a happy tension, like a dog excited for his walk.  Sometimes it’s the fish fighting for its life.  Sometimes it’s your teenaged child straining for more freedom or independence.  Or your spouse with a different idea about how things ought to be done.

When possible, I try to remember the ancient Buddhist saying about winning the war by losing the war.  I drop the leash and let Boomer roam where he wants.  Or I concede the argument and let my kids do what they want.

When I fail to do this, which admittedly is most of the time, I tug back, sometime hard.

Instead, I should be reminding myself:   Isn’t this amazing?  We are alive, and connected.



About kittroyer

Kit Troyer lives in Los Angeles.
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  1. Paul Martino says:

    Kit!!!! Wow it’s been a summer being surrounded by fish for me! Started with the mackerel in Maine graduated to the Blues and Bass and Sharks off the coast of Nantucket ! But the biggest thrill of all were two events that blew my mind! Watching the fish warden tag sharks off the coast and fir some reason this summer the Whales decided to swim very close to the shore line off Nantucket just shy of GEORGES BANK the great thing about Nantucket is we’re only about 40 miles off the coast of Cape cod but that puts us damn close to the deep waters .man what massive beautiful beasts they put on quiet a show all of August will get some pictures to you but here’s a sample of some of my adventures!

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Alexandra Zapruder says:

    truly beautiful, kit. thank you.

    • kittroyer says:

      Thank you!! Last year I de-activated My accounts at Facebook, Instagram, etc. One thing i do miss is the updates from you and other CCES alumni. I miss the pix of your dog!!! That’s one spectacular dog. You guys hit the jackpot.

  3. Aleen says:

    Loved this Koog.
    Boomer looks so young in that picture and it looks like u used a super 8 camera…
    I remember when you taught me how to fish in Montana when we had just graduated from college. I was blown away by how good at it you were and what a great and patient teacher you were! I remember wearing Gin’s and Pam’s gear and using an Adams 12 fly to catch my first fish (or was it an Adams 14?).
    You are right about Boomer. Lately, I feel like he is getting older and slower and I actually appreciate when he has a bounce in his step and waddles ahead so I get some exercise too!

  4. sharon says:

    Aw, Kit. Your heart is so big.

    Can we all work together to delay Jesse getting his driver’s license, though?

    (Hope you don’t mind if I send this to a few fisher-people in Oregon.)

  5. Kathy Hoskanian says:

    Oh Kit, Thank you for sharing such beautiful memories and moments with your family and sweet Boomer. It’s nice that you only keep the fish you are going to eat from your catch. What an exciting adventure it must have been, studying the fish with your brother, Ken in Alaska! I can also relate to the feeling of a life force at the end of a dog leash and am grateful for the special joy sweet Doodles, Zoe and little Polo brought into our lives. Polo, (our 2yr old Bichon foster), came to us fearful of everyone, having never been shown any kindness. After 2 ½ months, he is leaving today, for a trial weekend with an approved adopter. I am sad to see him go and will miss him following me around everywhere and giving me so many kisses of gratitude. He is so sweet and I hope his positive experience with Jean Claude & I will help him trust and connect with his new family.

  6. Spectacular, and heartfelt… as always. Thank you.

  7. Jake says:

    Thanks for sharing these heartfelt and fond memories, Kit. Got right on the phone and called my sisters after I read this!

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