With the sun shining, the trout biting and his 6-year-old daughter excited to put worms on a hook, Stanley Meigs soaked in a perfect Father's Day at McCormick Park.
The fishing pond in downtown Missoula attracted kids of all ages on Sunday for the annual Kids Fishing Derby, which served to celebrate dads and to raise a few dollars for grants to help kids participate in Missoula Parks and Recreation programs.
"I love my dad," explained Meigs' daughter Lilli while busy with her pint-sized fishing pole. "He spoils me rotten. He's a good friend. He's funny and nice."
To show her thanks, she gave her dad a belt buckle - and agreed to fish with him all day.
The Frenchtown Pond was next on the duo's list after a few warm-up casts in the Missoula water.
Seeing families enjoy the outdoors together - and providing a helping hand if needed - was the highlight of a work week, said Richard Haderli, Missoula outdoor recreation education coordinator for the Park and Recreation Department.
"We really want to get people outside and for families to connect doing something fun rather than sitting indoors on a beautiful day," Haderli said.
The pond is a great place to learn fishing skills because the water is stocked with trout - there's plenty to catch - and the park is so inviting, he said. "Kids can keep up to three fish a day, but we encourage catch and release so we can continue fishing throughout the season."
Matt Devlin was on hand to encourage the next generation of fishing enthusiasts by showing how to expertly tie flies - and then giving his work away.
The 24-year-old avid fisherman and employee at Grizzly Hackle, a fly shop in downtown Missoula, was happy to be spending Father's Day helping dads and kids have fun.
"This is always a tough day, my dad passed away when I was 16," Devlin explained. "He was a very cool dad, and after he died I got into fishing so I didn't get into things that were what you might call less productive."
Devlin was busy making golden stone and olive wooly buggers for aspiring fly fishermen and fisherwomen, and sharing what fishing news he had about local rivers and hatches.
"Rock Creek is really starting to fish well and the Bitterroot River is dropping a lot faster than anyone anticipated," Devlin said. "I think that will be the best fishing river in the next week or so."
Quiet and peaceful, the morning event was a relaxing way for the Commons family to start the day and enjoy the ebb and flow of conversation shared by three generations: Glenn Commons, his son Andy, and his two grandchildren, 6-year-old twins Clara and Lillian.
Neither of the girls had caught a fish before, and the long wait made Lillian a little restless.
As she tossed rocks into the pond and near the area they fished, her dad smiled and then helped her refocus her energy.
Watching his father and his other daughter fishing together farther down the pond, and it being Father's Day, Andy easily articulated the reasons for the abiding love he holds for his dad.
Commenting that the time together made for a five-star day, Andy said: "He's always shown me unconditional love and he's always supported me."
Reach reporter Betsy Cohen at (406) 523-5253 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.