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  • Managing Expectations - Fly Fishing, A Learning Experience

    I remember the first day I picked up a fly rod. It was also the first day I mastered the clinch knot! It was right after my 4th birthday in November. The entire way up to the Salmon River, I had my head lamp on with a size 2 hook in hand, trying to be able to tie it. As we crossed Lake Oneida, I DID IT!!! My father said, "That was the easy part, now try to do it when its 14 degrees and a white out."

    My father and I pulled into the trestle lot at 5am with a fresh 8'' of snow on the ground. We had left New Jersey at 1am. While one would regard this as about 1.5 hours too early, as sunrise was not until 630 or so, I could tell my father was absolutely floored I possessed the fishing "spark". I had it BAD too, always seeing my father leave for trips out west, alaska, down the shore or wherever, I WANTED TO GO! Well, this was my time!

    I quickly jumped out of the truck and began suiting up, my heart beating to a pace I never felt it beat before. I heard my father say to another gentleman standing close by, suiting up as well, "He is so excited to go, he put his shoes on the wrong feet." Feeling like a wing nut, I switched shoes and brushed it off. The snow was deep, for me, and it was still falling at a decent clip. So my father and I slowly headed down to the pool and then WAY down stream, myself in tow by my wader straps...(we walked from the trestle down to the bend where you can see across from the fish cleaning station).

    "He is so excited to go, he put his shoes on the wrong feet."

    He rigged up his 9' 7weight with a tangerine looking glo bug and a strike indicator. He brought me down a 8'6'' Cabelas beater and a Medalist, as he was certain I would be taking my share of falls and throwing fits. So, I strung up the rod and pulled out a similiar fly my dad put in my fly box for me. It took a while to tie it on, but my father refused to help me. I was detemined and finally got it. He lay his rod down on the bank and took mine from me and began showing me the basics. Its much different when your in your backyard!

    So he showed me the general roll cast, mending, stack mending, high sticking techniques, swinging, etc. It was just a fricken blurr Ill tell you that. So I then was in the drivers seat, my father standing on my upstream side. I peeled out enough line where I felt comfortable. Gave it a chuck out there and tried all that fancy stuff my father just did. Well, it was not going happen. So he coached me through and finally I was able to I guess call it a "cast" and a "mend", still looking barbaric. We set up on a seam and he just said drift it down the slack side of the seam. Well, 3 hours went by, my father still standing next to me, my legs frozen solid, but I refused to leave. I was going to catch a fish whether it was the last thing I do. Finally, the rod darn near got yanked out of my hands. Once I gained composure, it snapped and there it went. A bit bummed, my father said, we'll get another one. We moved down stream and took a break, sipping on some hot chocolate and munching on some sandwhiches and snacks...

    He again layed down his rod on the bank and stepped out in the stream with me...We fished a seam for a while and BAM! FISH ON! I was jumping out of my waders as was my father. I fought it around for what seemed like forever and we landed it. I couldn't be more happier, ever! My first steelhead at 4 yrs old nonetheless and fishing with my favorite fishing partner in the world.

    The rest of the weekend consisted of me fishing and my father coaching me...HE NEVER ONCE took his fly off his hook keeper. I then asked him why he never fished. He said, "Catching something is the last thing on my list..Hell, fishing is down there too. Just being out on a stream, river, or lake with company, teaching them how to fish, and successfully accomplishing that task is better than the biggest Leopard Rainbow one could boated on the Kenai..." It was years and years until I understood that.

    For the next 15 years (until 19 years old) I fished more than you could even imagine. I was even able to get the bus driver to let me off near a local stream on the way home from school some days... It was an incurable disease that I still posses to this day. I fished in puddles for christ sake. I didn't care. My father and I were always going on weekend trips whether it be to the Catskills, ADK's, Saltwater, or the Salmon River... We were forever fishing... If we were not away one weekend, we would be fishing in Jersey...

    My best friend also loved and still does love to fly fish, possessing that same disease all of us here posses. However, my father and his buddies gave me the nick name, the "fish whore". Up until 19years old, everytime I stepped in the water I really never gave consideration to anyone else. I just fished from sun up to sun down... What I mean by that is that I never took anyone under my wing to show them the ropes, how to tie a knot, or anything like that. I never really thought anything about it as I was in my glory everytime that amnesia lurched away from me or the strike indicator dissapeared. My friend was the same way. I always had some jabs thrown at me back at the campfire but again, never connected those dots. I also never knew how people could stand around on a shore, bullshit, and NOT fish and be happy with it. It just baffled me.

    Every Tuesday night at the fly tying table with all my fathers friends, remarks such as "Dont worry about tying any for Christopher, hell walk right over your body on the river without a care in world." and "Dont give him any flies, his fly boxes have lock jaw." are made and everyone chuckles as it is all in the fun.

    However, one day walking down the bank of the West Branch of the Ausable, there was a kid there. He was a bit younger than me, flailing away without a clue in the world. I could see him getting frustrated as he tangled his back cast just about everytime due to him clearly opening way up on the back cast. So, I decided to go over and lend him a hand... I chopped off his windknots/bird nests he had in his line and tied on one of my newly constructed knotted leaders, put on a frog hair indicator, opened up my fly box and plucked out two my prettiest princes, and tied one on, giving him the other...I took his rod and walked him through some basic steps and how to read water. I then gave the rod back to him... His casting was much better as was his mending... I told him to make a cast out behind a boulder and quickly throw some stack mends in it to prevent drag... Well, no sooner did he do that when WHAM! The indicator went down and he brought a nice little 10'' bow to hand... He was the happiest kid in the world... THEN it hit me... THAT WAS ME 15 years ago... I WAS THAT KID!!!!

    So I walked back up on the bank and plopped down on the grass and watched him fish. He pulled in 2 more bows from that very spot... My heart was beating at the same rate when I caught my first fish!!! After 15 years I now know why my father never picked up his rod that weekend and was perfectly happy not doing so! Now I know why I was the brunt of everyones remarks... From a distance, my father and his best friend whom I knew since I was a child stood and watched this all unfold. I came back to the truck and the smiles on their faces were from ear to ear. I think they were more happy that this "bubble" I lived in while fly fishing was popped than they were when I caught my first fish! For the rest of the day, I just sat on the big rock at the Monument while my father and his friend demolished the browns on the matukas in the slack water, then coming down and cleaning house on Ausable Wulffs in the riffles... It was the first time the "pond scum" urge of jumping in the river, not to be outdone, had left me and has yet to return.

    Now to the point of the story...

    Everytime I hit a piece of new water or even water I have fished for many years, I NEVER go expecting to catch fish. That is like walking into cumbies and buying a lottery ticket expecting to win. I pull up to every river and make believe I have never fished it before. I take into account the temps/sunny/not sunny, bug activity, and do the trademark walk over to the bank/bridge and take a peek...

    I then take a sip of my coffee, bullshit with the guy parked next to me, and pIick out a fly I feel will work TODAY. I suit up, and then hit the water. Unfortunately, for the last 5 years I have not had a fishing buddy here in MASS... I fish by myself 100% of the time unless my father visits... Sure, I spend a day with an old timer I meet on the river everyonce in a while but I dont have buddy I can call up the night before and says lets go! While some may think that is boring, I particularly enjoy it. I am not attached in anyway so I am able to spend 10 minutes or 10 hours on the water. But catching fish is the least of my concerns. Hell, 2 years ago when I fished the gorge more that I probably should have (doctors said DONT DO IT), I fished it by myself. There were days I spent just shooting the shit and helping people fish and just giving them some pointers... Now don't think by the comments that I think I am the all knowing god...I AM NOT. Who is? What I mean is it just FEELS GOOD to know your helping someone out and they appreciate your help... I think that's better than catching fish any day!!!!!.... It's just AWESOME to be disconnected from that damn cell phone and the parrot back home... Hell, I used to go out and sit in my deer stand and do homework... call me crazy, but there is a connection with the outdoors that most people don't know exists and are unable to fathom how we can stand waist deep in water all day and not care about catching fish... IT'S AWESOME!

    When I go fishing I ... want to get away from it all, for it is silence and solitude even more than it is fish that I am seeking ... As for big fish, all is relative. Not every tuna is a trophy. ~William Humphrey
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Managing Expectations started by AKSkim View original post
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. artie's Avatar
      artie -
      Chris i guess you never have to worry about fishing solo in ny again

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