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Catch & Release Vol 1


Too many streams too little time
The Evolution of a Flyfisherman

I have been fishing for almost 37 years. I started out as I guess most fisherman do. I had my spincasting rod and reel with a bucket of worms, some eagle claw hooks, a bobber, and a dream. Over time I upgraded my equipment, my outlook, and my options for fishing. A reel spinning rod, ultralight reel, lures, moving water an hour from where I lived. Ultimately I evolved as I believe many fisherman have to the most noble of all art forms..Flyfishing.

Even as a flyfisherman one must go through an evolution of sorts. My first flyrod outfit was an eagle fiberglass flyrod with a martin reel. It cost all of 20.00 at the closest thing to a flyshop we had by our house. New Jersey was not considered a flyfishing mecca. As I got older I started to read the article in field & stream and dreamed of venturing to far off lands where the fish were enormous, the river pristine, and you could catch fish to your heart's desire, Alaska, Montana, Colorado, and many others seemed like light years from my reality. I plodded away with my eagle claw outfit. Catching panfish and small bass at first, then my first trout on a nymph I got for christmas from Orvis. I literally jumped out of my skin when I hauled that 10 inch rainbow trout out of the river near my house. As I grew older and had money of my own I purchased my very first but certainly not the last flyfishing outfit. A beautiful Rocky Mountain Farnfine with a battenkil fly reel to match. It was 7 feet 9 inches of flyfishing beauty. I think I slept with that Rod the first night I bought it.

Now of course I began to enter into that phase where I measured success by the number of new flyfishing gadgets I had acquired, vests, waders, sunglasses, flies of all sizes and persuasion, and lets not forget Neoprene waders (New Jersey was like iceland). Soon my vest pockets were bulging with all sort of doo-hickis and nick nacks. My fishing didnt improve measurably but I was the best dressed guy on the stream flailing away beating the water to a froth. I was fortunate to have a few older gentlemen take me aside and teach me the basics before I impailed myself on a mickey finn. I started to get the hang of it and due to my increased knowledge I even managed to catch some more trout. One year we ventured up to West Branch of the Ausable while I was home on leave. I fished the Isonychia hatch with my brother and we had a grand old time catching brown trout all colored up for fall. This was a signature moment for me. I had arrived or so I thought.

The dry fly phase: some years went by and my brother moved out to Utah, I had caught trout consistently on nymphs and buggers but only a few on dries. I had abondoned them largely because I figured it wasnt all that common to catch them on top. I went to visit my brother in Park City, Utah and within an hour we were on a stream just outside of town. As I ventured up to the river I saw rings everywhere and some large bugs circling above. My brother handed my a green drake pattern and said "Try This"...Ok I will try it! First cast and a trout exploded on the fly. I pulled it back. Second cast I waited too long. Finally after several more casts I managed to set the hook. A couple of minutes later a small native cutthroat trout came to hand. I was hooked literally and figuratively at that moment. I had never seen a cutthroat, couldnt imagine a more amazing wild thing in my hand. We spent the next 2 weeks fishing all over utah and I had planned a final 2 days floating on the Green River. I had seen shows on tv, read books, and magazines and just had to try floating a river. We met our guide at the launch early in the morning as the mist was coming off the river. He was a young guy home for the summer from college and guiding everyday. He looked at our flyrods and chuckled for an instant. We were still fishing our Orvis Rods and were woefully outgunned on the Green River. He immediately boosted my confidence with some bold statements on how the river was filled with trout and we would definitely catch fish if we listened carefully... We listened. Soon were on the river and the hatches were not coming. It was overcast and a bit breezy. The water was still coming down a bit so he suggested we toss streamers to the bank. What ensued was an exciting, frustrating, comical experience. On my very first cast an absolute goliath charged out from the depths and followed my bugger to within 15 feet of the boat. The water was gin clear and you could see this fish as plain as day. I was stunned and immediately pulled the bugger in too fast. I looked at the guide and said that was the biggest brown trout I had ever seen. Once again I went through the learning curve..dont pull the fly too fast not too slow, wait until he turns after taking the bugger, let him run with it, dont horse him in and so on. I ended the day with 5 fish my brother had 10. I swore i would be back and with a bigger better rod.

For the next 10 years or so all I wanted to do was fish out west. I was fortunate to have a good job that paid well and allowed me to travel. When I was home I drove up to the upper delaware but I was quickly humbled. I took lessons on casting, entomology but when I went out west I normally hired guides and they usually put me on fish. I fished in Colorado one week where I floated everyday and caught fish on stimulators fished close to the bank. It was hit and run fishing and my casting lessons were paying off. I spent 3 days in the wind river range where the creeks were loaded with eager cutts willing to take your fly. I floated the big hole and the beaverhead one October as I caught the fall foliage in perfect splendor. In short I was incredibly blessed but kind of lazy. I tend to think some flyfisherman are in this phase in perpetuity. Never reaching the next level. Taking the easy way out..not being challenged.

As in all thing in life change came my way in the form of a wonderful woman who I decided I wanted to share my life with. Of course she had to pass the fishing test first. I started her out on a weekend class in the Catskills where she learned to cast until she had blisters all over her hand. My girlfriend passed the test and after 4 years of dating and being engaged for one of those years we tied the knot.

Family time: I still fished over the next couple of years but it dropped off a bit. We had obligations to our families, we traveled to places where trout didnt exist (perish the thought), and we were saving for a place of our own. Living in Pa there was no shortage of places to fish but I tended not to go out too often. Making excuses but frankly not wanting to put in the effort. I did get out and I did catch fish but I started to wonder if I had lost the urge a bit. I convinced myself that wasnt the case. I just wasnt able to fish the west whenever i wanted to and this kind of threw me off . A couple of years went by and we bought our house, moved in and got about the business of starting our family. During this time I had no time for fishing. I managed to get one more trip out west before my daughter was born and that was it.

time flies:
Before I knew it 3 years had passed and I could count on one hand the number of times I had gotten out to cast a fly. My gear sat in the basement collecting dust while I occupied my time with being a dad and a husband and not much else. I still traveled extensively but the opportunities to fish were few and far between. Finally I got out to fish a local stream in the poconos one spring day. There were bugs coming and fish rising. I was rusty and unsure but i started to hone in on what the fish were focusing on. I managed to get a hold of a bug in my net. I quickly realized it was a small olive about a size 18. I dug around in my box and pulled out a small adams. Not a perfect fit but it would work in a pinch. I tied on and cast out but quickly realized too much drag. A couple of more false casts and laid it out but once again...drag. Finally I re-positioned myself a bit upstream and quartered a cast downstream about 4 feet above the rising fish. I paid out line to keep the fly on its proper course and as it neared the rising fish I held my breadth. Over the fish now I was sure the fly was on track and the fish came up and just slurped it down. A nice brown trout soon came to hand. I spend the afternoon searching up and down this stream. Catching fish but mostly watching the fish and trying to time the rise. I cast infrequently but with confidence as the day wore on. After awhile I found a nice flat rock and took a seat. I lay my rod next to me and looked up at the sun. I close my eyes for a brief moment and a thought entered my head as clear as the blue sky above. I had evolved..from that young boy who would pick nightcrawlers in the dark of night before opening day. Who would ride his bike 10 miles to fish the only moving water in union county. I evolved from the teenager who spent 12 months a year fishing his favorite streams in western new jersey to the budding flyfisherman who had to have the latest and greatest gear I could afford. Most importantly I evolved from a period of time in my life where i had to put fishing aside or at least in second or third place. I came back to the river and to this place. Its not a place on a map but in your minds eye. Its a place where the air is still and the fish are looking up. If you are patient and focused you can make that cast and land the fly just above and if you are disciplined you can watch the fish come up and take your fly and set the hook without incident. You can play the fish perfectly bringing to your net for a quick release. Finally you can rest on the side of a stream on a stunningly beautiful spring day and reflect on your life and your love of flyfishing.

To all those who catch fish with hook and feather may the trout gods smile upon you and yours.


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I love the story. We all went through a similar story. You know you have arrived when it becomes a spiritual thing not a fishing thing. I use to think I knew every thing and when I was able to learn again. That was day I acquired wisdom.