THE FROG WHO FELL THROUGH TIME: We Enter Nature Through Different Portals

About the Author

Richard Louv is Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Children & Nature Network, an organization supporting the international movement to connect children, their families and their communities to the natural world. He is the author of nine books, including "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" and "The Nature Principle." His newest book, "Vitamin N," offers 500 ways to build a nature-rich life. In 2008, he was awarded the Audubon Medal.

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In the mid-1960s, in Kansas, my good friend Pete and I would often walk to Red Hoth’s house. Red, who was in his 60s, had suffered a stroke in 1952, while fishing.

He was paralyzed from the neck down, except for one arm. Pete visited Red because of compassion; I went for the fishing stories. Red would spin these stories so vividly that we were transported to a north woods lake, the early morning mist rising around the boat, his bed.

On one of our last visits, we arrived to find a large tackle box and a set of bamboo fly rods at the foot of Red’s bed. He gave all of his old gear, which he loved, to us.

Years passed. So did Red. Piece by piece, most of the equipment disappeared—except for this last tin canister, and its contents, which had not been used in nearly 40 years.

One day, I drove my two boys, then ages 2 and 8, to a nearby lake. We spent the afternoon walking along the bank. They ran ahead, in their life jackets, sometimes fishing. The younger boy with a lead weight on a line tied to the tip of a 2-foot rod. Both boys dug along the bank for bugs or threw rocks in the water. Fortunately, there were no other anglers around.

I was using a new fly rod. I did not know much about fly-fishing, but I had discovered the sense of connectedness that it gives, in place, across generations and in time.

Mothers, connected by the umbilical cord to past and future, are blessed with more frequent biological reminders of the natural cycles and rhythms of time, nature and the generations. Finding one’s place in generational time is part of fatherhood, too.

For both genders, though not for everyone, fishing helps. So does walking with a daughter or son through the peculiar silence of snow falling, or through birding, cloudspotting, stargazing, or wildwatching.

Fishing - 20 - Version 2
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We enter the natural world through different portals. We do not have to agree on the best way. But we enter together to find our place in time, to have a sense of who has come before and who someday may come. And to be fully with our children, in this time.

That morning, because of my revived interest in fly-fishing, I had dug through the utility room and found the corroded tin canister. Now, standing on the mud bank, I opened the canister, which was, for me, a kind of time capsule.

It was filled with large, old flies and hand-painted poppers. They had once been used for northern pike or bass, and had the teeth marks as proof.

I carefully removed one of the flies from its fastening. The fly looked like a frog. As I tied it to the leader, I told my older son about Red, about his stories and kindness.

I flipped the fly into the water, and we watched the feathers transform into kicking legs. Then I pulled the rod up, and made a long and rare and perfect cast.

The frog moved out across the smooth water in a gradual arc.

And it fell through time.


Richard Louv is the author of “THE NATURE PRINCIPLE: Reconnecting with Life in a Digital Age” and “LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” He is Chairman Emeritus of The Children and Nature Network

Photos: Top: My sons Matthew and Jason; Matthew above, in the Sierras, a few years later. Today they are men.

More Reading and Resources

Five Great Alternative Ways to Nurture Your Inner Hunter & Gatherer: Wildcrafting, Wildwatching, Birding, Cloudspotting, Stargazing

“The Orvis Guide to Family Friendly Fly Fishing” by Tom Rosenbauer

Take Kids Fly Fishing

How to Fly Fish Video Lesson 

How To Fly Fishing: The Ultimate Guide

Fly Fishing: The Fun Times Guide

Float tube fishing with city kids transformative

Teach your child to fish—in the city

C.A.S.T. Fishing Kids


  1. Martin LeBlanc

    Bravo Rich! This reminds of why we need to all be connected to the outdoors. It brings us and our families closer together

  2. So, uh, Rich — don’t leave us hanging. Did you catch anything on the frog fly?

    I ask because last summer, on a wild lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I did something similar with an antique bass lure I’d bought at a yard sale for $10. It was a surface lure, supposedly a “collectible.” But like an old Hopi basket, it’s real purpose in life is to catch fish — not languish in a display case. So I cast it out, and let it sit awhile as I worked to untangle my niece’s fishing line. That’s when I heard a big slurp, and the lure was gone. I reeled it in and we soon had a monstrous, 11-inch blue gill thrashing and flopping on the floor or our canoe. It was the biggest fish of its kind I’d caught in 30 years or so.

    I’m usually a catch-and-release fisherman, but my niece was so smitten by the big ‘gill that we kept it. Back at our rented cabin I fileted it out (hadn’t done that for awhile either) and we fried it in bread crumbs for a late night snack. That alone was worth the $10 I’d paid for an old hunk of hooks and plastic. As with your boys, I like to think my niece will always remember that evening we spent on a quiet, piney lack in the Michigan backwoods.

    • Richard Louv

      Well, Tom, I don’t recall a single fish following us home that day. Or even to shore. And the fly is still intact and in that tin box. Nice to hear your story, too!

  3. We just came back from a (Canadian) Thanksgiving visit with good friends on beautiful Prince Edward Island. We have visited there for 28 out of the past 30 years. Our kids ‘grew up’ together, even though we would only see each other a few times a year at the most. But all kids (and additions) know the stories of harvesting, collecting, looking after livestock, hiking out to the bog to see 100s of Canada geese, checking out the centtury old barn, etc. Communal memories about natural spaces create not only a bond with nature, they create bonds with one another across space and time (and generations).

  4. Thanks, Rich. I was just down in Brooklyn at the Botanic Gardens with 2 of our Natural Leaders and about 40 youth, family members and chaperones. Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden are “PLACES” from my childhood experiences in the outdoors. You’ve just reminded me of how fascinating these special places are for me…Now & Then!

  5. I share your love of fishing, Richard. I know what you’re saying about connections and all the metaphors that come to mind. For me, it’s nothing less than mystical — a cryptic connection with a hidden, alien world through a thin filament held between your fingers. If you’re lucky, you have a conversation through that line and even get to meet your mystery correspondent.
    Beautiful, and to share it with your kids or grandkids, glorious.

  6. Thanks Richard for this poetic post. It resonated with me as my connection with nature stems in large part from my father’s love of fishing. This shared passion has created a kinship that is being passed through time and generation to my children. Values passed from father to son come no more naturally or powerfully than this.

  7. Love hearing how much you love your children. Early childhood with LOVE is the root to peace.

  8. Dear Rich,

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful, deep, and moving story. Life shared – with a wise and generous elder, and later, with your energetic and open young sons. Connections across time and space, through the beauty of the natural world.

    Yes – there are many portals for entrance into relationship with the natural world and with our loved ones. Your work reminds us all of the importance of taking the time to do so!

    All the best,

  9. Thanks for a great story. When my son was younger, a second cousin who was in his 60’s lived across the street from my parents. He had a boat and routinely took my son and daughter fishing when they stayed with my parents. My son still talks about these outings even as he is in his 30’s. The impact that time and nature has on our children truly last a lifetime.

  10. Greetings! Very helpful advice within this post! It’s the little
    changes that make the largest changes. Thanks a
    lot for sharing!

  11. I love how potent that last line is because it pulls everyone into the experience/their experience.

  12. Thank Rich,
    You’re thought on being “fully with our children” brings to mind a niche I’ve just recently carved out with my 8 year old son. What had been dreaded early morning and late night cold winter dog walks- a “chore” that needed to be done- has become a special time for my son and I to quietly admire the pre and post dawn winter sky, look for signs of squirrels, and listen to the birds. It’s all in your perspective…


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