Jeff had this old watch turned into a keepsake of his favorite flies. He was known for his love of turqoise jewlery and western culture. Along side this black and white photo from his 20's (this photo from the late 1960's) are a couple of favorite caddis flies from his dry fly box. Above is a photo of Jeff fishing on a river in Alberta in the 1970's.

My Father’s Favorite Fly

Elk hair caddis with an olive-green body.
My father’s favorite fly. 

It’s the fly he loved to traditionally use and the fly behind many of his fishing stories from years before. 

Whenever I would call him to promptly tell him about the big caddis hatch on the Bow River and about the fish I had caught, he would sit on the phone eagerly listening.  His voice was full of joy to hear his daughter talk so fondly of fly fishing and his favorite fly.

Amber and her father Jeff on one of their last fishing trips together. Here they are catching rainbow trout on a mountain lake near Osoyoos, British Columbia.

“It’s Father’s Day, 2020. And it’s the first Father’s Day without my dad.”

It’s Father’s Day, 2020. And it’s the first Father’s Day without my dad. Losing my father suddenly this year during a pandemic and all the dreadful things that surrounded that was beyond difficult. The profound loss has been one of the most heart crushing things I have had to endure in my life. 

I often think back to my childhood, spending countless hours on the river behind our acreage catching grasshoppers with my brother as my dad fished. I would ask him if I could try casting his fly rod, a request he never denied. My dad always liked to inform everyone how I was a ‘natural’ at casting.  

Jeff’s fly fishing collection and a few important momentos. Amber’s father always kept his vest stocked with plenty of fly boxes, the same Orvis Dry Floatant and all sort of flies – even some in old film canisters.
A picture from the 1970’s of Jeff and his hunting buddy. Jeff was an avid deer hunter and all around outdoorsman.
Among the things Jeff kept in his vest was this old metal plate, engraved with the different types of knots fly fishermen use.
One of Amber’s favorite photos, together with her father during a family studio photoshoot in 1989.

As I wade back through those memories, I find myself looking at my own son. I observe myself doing those exact same things with my almost 4 year-old, watching him search for bugs on the riverbank as I fish. I watch my husband, Brendan, call Lochlan over to cast with him, laughing naturally as he ducks from Lochlan’s flailing rod and line. I note the paternal pride in his eyes as Lochlan keeps trying to perfect his cast, doing things very much his own way because that’s what little kids do. 

I have recognized this look of pride with Brendan before, watching for years as he led his first-born son, my step son Matteo, through flowing rivers and adventures in life. Now Matteo is a teenager, tying on his own flies and doing his own fishing, always excited to call Brendan and tell him all about his big catch from that day’s adventure. It’s like I would do with my dad, not long ago. It’s the extraordinary power of a bond between a father and his kids, a proud loving bond that lasts a lifetime. My kids are fortunate to have this; I was fortunate to have this. 

“As I wade back through those memories, I find myself looking at my own son.”

I promptly stop my casting and place my rod under my arm, reaching for my camera that is carefully hanging off my shoulder. I turn to take a photo of Brendan and Lochlan, as I have done many times before. 

This time, I make sure to snap a few extra photos, freezing the moment in time. It’s a heartfelt moment I know I will look back on as our kids are grown. This photo will be a fond memory that will bring a smile to my face and a reminder of my own father as I stand in the water, tying on another elk hair caddis with an olive-green body. 

Angler Brendan Toner proudly holds up a small brown trout as his son, Lochlan, takes picture after picture with his very own camera.
Amber and Brendan’s youngest son, Lochlan, showing off his fly choice for the day.
Brendan and his son, Lochlan, take a moment to admire the days best catch.
This brown trout, caught by angler Brendan Toner out of a small creek, had a very distinct false eye mark.
Angler and father Brendan Toner throws a tight cast on a snowy spring day, as 30lbs of a 2 year-old rests on his back.
Shoulder rides with Dad are some of the most memorable moments for kids.
Brendan Toner searches for the perfect fly, while his son Lachlan pours water from his favorite bucket, over and over again.
Brendan looks on as Lochlan (2.5 years old here) tries casting his little Redington Butterstick.
Brendan and Lochlan walk an old trail to the next fishing spot.
One of the many spectacular creeks that flow through Alberta’s east slopes.
A beautiful Alberta cutthroat trout hoisted for a quick photo by angler Brendan Toner.
Brendan takes a turn netting a fish for his oldest son, Matteo (9 years old here).
Matteo is always eager to help net fish for his Dad.
Angler Brendan Toner scouts a pool below for bulltrout.
This is one of Brendan’s favorite catches to date. A special fish and memorable moment shared with his sons.
A close up of a big bulltrout caught in high muddy water on a cloudy summer day in southern Alberta.
Brendan and his son, Matteo, as they hike towards Landslide Lake in Alberta.
Lochlan at 8 months old, grabbing his Dad’s hat.
Brendan and his son Lochlan wade along the shore of the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta.
Brendan looks on proudly as his oldest son, Matteo, shows off his best cutthroat trout catch from that day’s adventure.

Contributed By

Amber Toner

Amber is a photographer and outdoor enthusiast from Calgary, Alberta. She spends majority of her time on the river with either a fly rod or camera in hand. Amber grew up fly fishing and later sparked the love for the sport again when she met her now husband, Brendan Toner. Together they are Ambassadors for Redington and have spent over 10 years exploring waters in their own backyard and around the world. They strive to pass on their love for fly fishing and the outdoors to their son’s Matteo and Lochlan, capturing their many outdoors adventures along the way. 

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