Thursday, November 5, 2009

Day 60 - School of Hard Knocks

Some of you don't know about my history with fly fishing. I've only been fly fishing for about 9 years. I've been fishing most of my life however. I grew up in a small town in Iowa, where my dad and brother would go fishing whenever the chance became possible. Mostly, it was on long weekends when my dad could get the time off from the chemical plant that he worked at. My dad loves the taste of panfish, and as such the majority of fishing that we did was for panfish (bluegills, sunfish, and the occasional crappie).

It wasn't until one labor day weekend that I was first introduced to fly fishing. My best guess was that I was around 12 years old at the time. We had been fishing the entire day at Lake Geode, and we weren't having any luck. My brother and I wondered away from my dad and we started to fish further back on this inlet. We could see the fish right there in the shallows, and my brother and I cast waxworms and Crappie Killers to them. No luck. It was then that we saw a guy coming down the path, a fly angler. After a brief conversation, he then asked if wanted some fish and if we did we should go get a bucket. After dumping the contents of my dad's 5-gallon bucket onto the ground we headed back. Within a matter of minutes the bucket was full.

Years later, I found myself at college in Colorado. My major was in Youth Ministry, but my real passion was in my minor: Outdoor Leadership. I would never miss a class from Steve Cyphers and enjoyed every minute of it. Urban trekking, rock climbing, backpacking, mountaineering, and even a 24-hour adventure where just some of the amazing classes that I took. One of the last classes that I took was fly fishing.

I had seen the guys in the streams since moving to Colorado. And to be honest, they seemed to be masters of mystery to me. How they could lay out the line in such perfect poetry was beyond me. I took the class out of fascination more than anything else. After the first class (a rundown of all the gear that we would need) I realized that I was grossly under equipped. A phone call to mom & dad soon remedied that.

We learned the fundamentals in that class. I soon managed to do a decent roll cast, false cast, and even a semi-accurate distance cast. I learned about the components of a fly rod, reel, and line. I learned about knots, feeding lanes, and even how to safely land a fish. The class concluded with two stream adventures: O' Fallon Park and Cheeseman Canyon. I caught a small brook trout on my first cast in O' Fallon Park on a #14 Elk Hair Caddis. I was skunked at Cheeseman Canyon.

And that was the end of my formal training in fly fishing. Everything else I learned from trial and error, reading fly fishing magazines and books, watching videos, and keeping my ears open. I never had someone who mentored me in the process of catching fish with a fly rod. All the little tips (like using saliva to help tighten the knot) came elsewhere. This isn't a slap in the face to my dad, he never learned to fly fish (so how could he teach me). I was just a victim of circumstances and no one is to blame.

However, I felt like I've been behind the eight ball on a number of occasions. Since learning to fly fish, I've always had a huge passion for the sport. I've read up everything I could get my hands on, and the result was that I had head knowledge. I could talk the talk, but had difficulty walking the walk. That was made evidently clear the first time I fished the Bois Brule in upper Wisconsin. I ended up having been schooled by a guy that I worked with (who just so happened to be an arrogant jerk). Needless to say, I toned down my enthusiasm.

Maybe this is why I am so moved to meet new anglers and share stories. This could be the reason why I'm compelled to mentor a new angler because no one was there to mentor me. I love the sport so much, and I want other anglers to love it as much as me. Possibly the reason that I love it so much comes from having to learn everything the hard way. But then again, who is to say that I wouldn't love it more with a big fish at the end of my line?

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