A little time and dedication can bring results, and although I don't always catch fish I learn something every time I go.
A fly fisherman develops
By: Theron C. Hall
I have always adored fly fisherman, as I could sit and watch a fly fisherman cast and fish all day. I find it almost as relaxing as sitting and staring into a camp fire. The grace and elegance of the casting is mesmerizing, but I never thought it was something I could do, and I where I grew up I never knew anyone that fly fished to my knowledge. So where would I start?
When I was eighteen my father took a shot in the dark and bought me a beginner’s fly set up from Walmart, as a birthday gift. I thought it was awesome, but after trying to imitate what I had seen on television once, I was failing miserably to put out any line, and only tangled myself, the rod and the line into one enormous knot.
On another occasion I stumbled on someone who claimed to know how to cast a fly rod and showed me the basic 10 and 2 casting form. And how to release line while false casting, and I began to practice for a bit, but since I often fished still water and didn’t have a boat I could not understand how I was supposed to contend with banks trees and all other obstacles to deliver a fly out onto the water, so I got frustrated and with no one to turn to and at the time a very limited understanding of the internet, I had nowhere to turn.
Over a decade later, my wife and I took a little retreat for a long weekend to Ogunquit, ME. We took in the sights and dabbled in some photographic opportunities of oceanic landscapes, just enjoying the spring ocean air.
While out and about I noticed some fly fisherman wading the bays and salt marshes when the tide came in. Then I saw a tackle shop that rented Kayaks and fly fishing set ups as it was advertised on route 1 somewhere between Kennebunkport and York. I immediately began to think how intense it would be to hook into a striped bass with a fly rod. I thought to myself, I have always wanted to do this and since I had recently taken on the second shift at work I had a lot of daytime hours that I spent alone, with nowhere to be, necessarily. So a spark turned into a flame at that moment.
I got the rod out of storage and surmised that the line on the my starter rod was from over ten years ago, and although it had never seen water it was probably not very good since it had been sitting around my mother’s basement for most of its existence. At some point I had purchased a fly line, leaders and some 3X tippet, as well as some basic fishing tools, and a fly box thinking I might actually give it an honest attempt, but instead packed them away.
When I purchased this line and these leaders, I had no idea that lines were specific to rods and so I found I had a 4wt WF line for 5/7 weight Shakespeare rod and thought well, I wonder how it will really impact the use of the rod anyways, and tried it.
I fished relentlessly at a stocking point near my home for the brood stock atlantic salmon released into the river and grew frustrated as I encountered many obstacles blindly, having no idea what flies to present, how to present them, how to fish them, or how to fish a river at all, since I had never fished any kind of river before.
The water was extremely high and dangerous at his time too, making it more difficult, but I had no idea where I else I might catch fish that would bite a fly. The fisherman I ran into were very irritable about the fact that I would sit and watch them, or ask them questions about how or where to fish.
I scoured the internet constantly. I read books, magazines, and anything else that might provide me with insight into casting, fish biology, river ecology, and fly fishing techniques. Meanwhile I got up early every morning at moved up and down the same banks of the area of the Merrimack River where I knew Salmon were stocked.
I began to catch some minnows, chubs, fall fish (whatever they are called!) on dries in the slower currents. But it quickly began occurring to me from hearing lots of bad reports online and never seeing fisherman catching fish that it was not an ideal location, or that something was amiss about the fishing in this location. Despite my gut thoughts I stuck it out thinking, someday something will bite.
One early Saturday morning I stumbled on a fellow fisherman standing in a spot where I was fairly certain I had had a hit the day prior. When I asked him how the fishing was he replied in a friendly manner. I was shocked!
He immediately introduced himself and offered to give me the spot he was fishing if I wanted it. I declined and made my way upstream and began fishing back toward him. We began to talk about fishing and I explained that I was completely lost and blindly attempting to learn the art of fly fishing.
I was offered lots of suggestions about where the fish could be found and what I might use to catch them, which I was extremely grateful for. As we moved back and forth in ear shot of one another up and down the river, swapping positions, he pointed out a spot that he thought he had had a strike in, and directed me how to fish my dry fly there.
I enjoyed the conversation and half heartedly attempted to fish the riffle he pointed to, and I was suddenly shocked by a definite solid tug. I attempted to set the hook but it was way too late as it was completely unexpected. For ten minutes I represented the fly over and over in hope of recreating that moment so that I might actually be able to catch a “real” fish, but it wasn’t in the cards.
When my hopes dwindled I reeled in and looked over my shoulder, where he was retying another fly, and making a comment that he was using plenty of tippet and practicing his knot tying skills, rather than fishing.
I took a cue from that reached into my box and pulled out an olive wooly bugger. I tied the fly on and casted it while talking about how I had had a hit. The fly sat on top of the water as it soaked some up and was drifting down current when I saw a flash of gold and felt my rod begin bending.
I had a real fish! A beautiful brown trout about thirteen inches long. I never worked so hard in my whole life to catch a fish. I was ecstatic.
From that point forward fly fishing was not impossible. It might be difficult but I had leapt the first big hurtle and the crowd was roaring.
Shortly after that I fell in near this location and smacked my reel on a rock. The reel was frozen and the rod’s seating for the reel was broken. So I had to sit out a week until I could earn some money to get a new one.
At this point I was enthralled in fly fishing. I knew that if I didn’t get some waders it was extremely likely that I would break another rod and maybe worse, my arm. So I saved up some money and bought those too.
The learning curve has been all over the map since this then, as I learn about matching the hatch, tying flies to replicate insects from my region, more efficient means of casting, and techniques for different aspects of fly fishing such as nymphing. All of these topics studied from books, the web and even some kind new friends that I have managed to obtain from local fishing forums.
I made a trip to Pittsburg, NH in Late August and the all the stars must have been aligned because I caught some beautiful fish. Brook trout and one rainbow, and not a single one was small by any means.
I was ecstatic once again, as I begun to put pieces of the puzzle together stream side, and the results were splashing amongst the riffles in front of me.
A long drive with dreams and anticipation of reliving that last beautiful brook trout I lead to the banks of the Connecticut River was all there was standing between me and that dream, or so I thought.
The weather was not as cool I expected as we pulled the van into our camping spot and I was excited to get fishing, but not so excited to hike down to the river wearing my waders.
When camp was set up, we did just that, Brandon, I and a long time friend Matt, went in search of some beautiful trout and salmon.
On my last trip I to Pittsburg a month prior, I managed to land about seven fish which seemed phenomenal for approximately a day’s worth of fishing, when compared to my track record for trout. So I had some high expectations out of the gate, but as we came through the trees I saw the water I fear most. Fast white water, still puzzles me, and fortunately Brandon was handy to help me identify the seams in the current where fish hold up. Despite my best efforts as well as Brandon’s I came up empty handed for the weekend as far as fish are concerned.
Brandon and Matt had some good fishing, but my results were more typical amongst those that were fishing, most likely because the flow was so high. I was present to see salmon par and some of the most colorful rainbow trout I have ever seen taken from the violent white water.