As I said before, I didn’t have much exposure to fly fishing as a kid, and really didn’t express an interest in it until I found out my father-in-law fly fished. Call it one of those “find common ground” interests or a genuine interest, but something was attracting me to this mysterious sport. One weekend while we were visiting them in Tennessee he took me down to the farm pond and tried to show me how to cast. Note I said “tried”. It didn’t go so well. A fly rod cannot be swung like a baseball bat or tomahawk and result in the long fluid casts like Paul in the movie. I left that first lesson knowing I wanted to try it again, but discouraged at failing, in front of my father-in-law at that.
A few weeks later my wife humored me with a trip to Cabela’s in Wheeling, WV and while rummaging through the Bargain Cave, I found an 8’ 5wt fly rod that someone had returned for being “soiled”. After looking it over three times and not finding anything wrong I purchased my first fly rod for $17.98. I went over to the real fly shop but couldn’t justify purchasing a fly reel too since at the time I was a poor graduate student on a 9 month stipend of a whopping $13,350. So there it was, sitting in the corner of our 1 bedroom apartment, not able to be used, but still admired every time I walked past it.
The next trip to Tennessee we arranged a float trip on the Watauga River with a family friend and my friend put an Albright fly reel with line and everything onto my rod. We were in business— I was going to catch a fish! That day turned out to be a bust, the only saving grace being catching a brown trout on a spinning rod. Oh, and that reel that I thought I was borrowing turned out to be an early Christmas gift!
For Christmas that year I received a lot of fly fishing gear that looked really cool and all fit into my new vest but I still had no idea what I was doing. Later that day I decided to sneak down to the pond by myself so that I could save myself the embarrassment of hooking myself. Fortunately I made it through that session without any ear piercings, and better yet that’s when IT happened.
I tied on a wooly worm, not really knowing what to throw on a pond or what to throw in any situation for that matter. My intent for that day was just to get some practice casting my rod so my next public performance wasn’t some comical. Except once when I went to reel in my line there was a pull… I though I snagged on some vegetation on the bottom so I pulled back. This time the line took off. I can’t describe the sheer surprise or joy of that moment, but I was glad nobody was there to hear me squeal like a schoolgirl. I finally landed my first bluegill and made sure to snap a picture just to prove that I CAUGHT MY FIRST FISH ON A FLY ROD!!!
Things have gotten slightly better since then, but only slightly. You see, if fly fishing was easy everyone would do it, and I would have become bored with it shortly after I bought that first rod. However, the more I learn about fly fishing the more I learn there is to learn. That, and the feeling I experienced when I caught my first fish, is what draws me back to the streams. It’s also the inspiration devoted to the pursuit of a sport that has quickly caught and holds my attention. I can’t help but wonder when I cross a bridge if there are any fish in that little creek, or imagine the next strike on a dry fly, or dream about how cool my next piece of fly fishing gear will be without feeling a little inspired.
If this story resonates with you, or if you’ve always wanted to try fly fishing but didn’t know how to start, let me be the first (or second, or third) to tell you that it is an incredibly fun sport, and with a little practice and commitment, you too can develop an enjoyment and appreciation for the sport.