I am not a very good fly fisherman. Technique-wise I am somewhere between a fender-bender and a total train wreck.
When I was a kid on the farm I acquired a 2 pc Shakespeare fiberglass fly rod and one of those fly reels that had a little lever that would automatically rewind the fly line when you depressed it. I think it was a metallic green color, probably made by Shakespeare, and was given to me by one of my dad’s friends, no doubt having moved up to something a bit more “pure”. The rod itself I remember acquiring during a sale at a local hardware store. For a kid, this was a good outfit for learning how to fly fish.
Since my Dad wasn’t a fly fisherman I checked out a couple of books at the library and set upon the task of figuring out how to cast this “forever long” rod. The harder I tried the more frustrated I became until one day a friend of my Dads offered to show me the basics of casting a fly outfit such as mine. He made it look easy and in no time had me actually moving the line forward beyond my head and neck , which had been the landing point for my fly line in most of my previous efforts. Soon I was actually casting the line close to my target. Amazing!
Our farm had a 3 acre lake stocked with some nice fish. Lots of bluegill, largemouth bass, catfish, and several other species. My favorite fly fishing spot was under a huge weeping willow tree that precipitously grew out over a corner of the lake. Lay your line down just under those low branches and you could just about guarantee a bite. I figured the fish were used to various insects falling out of that willow and just knew that any disturbance on the surface was a sure fire meal.
By the time Dixie and I had married and started a family I decided that a new, “better” fly rod and reel was in order. I shopped several catalogs and eventually decided on a 2 piece graphite fly rod that I remember as a 6 weight. My reel of choice, like my new rod, was from Sears Roebuck. Backing, line, tippet, etc. also came via the Sears catalog.
This new outfit was sure a step up from my “beginner” rod and reel. The effort needed to cast this baby wasn’t even close to my previous rod. No, this was a real “pro” outfit. Casts were more accurate, the rod more responsive, and the reel impressively simple and light. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed that this new combo was just meant to catch every fish that I threw the line at. I never remembered having such success with my old outfit. Yep, this was an outfit made for better fishermen such as I imagined myself to now be.
I took my fly rod and reel to many local lakes and ponds over the years. It would be difficult to count all of the bluegill and largemouth bass that felt the rods bite. I can assure you it was substantial. Most were released unharmed, but every so often a mess would end up on the dinner table. I mean, why do we fish if occasionally we can’t enjoy the fruits of our labor?
Then I discovered wind.
You see, fishing around southern Indiana at small ponds and lakes is one thing. Fishing a western river with wind blowing 20-30 miles per hour is entirely different. Entirely frustrating if you were arrogant enough to think that you had mastered the art of fly fishing by frequenting local lakes where casts need only be a few feet from shore and wind was something that just rustled the tops of the surrounding trees, never daring to swoop down from the hillsides above.
I had bought a new 4 piece G. Loomis fly rod along with a G. Loomis reel and requisite backing, line, leaders, etc. and scheduled a business trip on Monday to Wyoming where I planned on some free time to try my hand at trout fishing in the North Platt River. Several friends had fished this beautiful river and had brought back pictures of some nice trout attesting to the river’s reputation as a decent fishery.
I managed to get all of my business meetings in by Thursday leaving Friday and Saturday for fishing. A friend who lived in Casper, Wyoming had agreed to do the guiding as well as provide transportation. I meet him in the hotel parking lot Friday morning and loaded my gear in the back of his truck. There I saw he had not only brought a couple of fly rods, but some spinning outfits along with various tackle boxes, creels, etc. Man, we were prepared for a good couple of days.
And this is about where the wheels started falling off my wagon. We stopped at the first spot my pal selected only to be met with some strong southern winds. Not storm-strong, mind you, but strong enough to send your cap to the next bend of the river. I pieced my outfit together and tied on the suggested fly. “You work this flow, and I’ll work the one just down from yours”, my pal suggested.
“OK by me”, I replied with what I am sure was inflection somewhere between over confidence and cockiness.
I worked the fly rod and let go my first cast which soon was all over my shoulders and around my ears. “Damn, I really screwed that one up”, I thought to myself as I untangled and prepared for another cast.
I let go again and this time my cast caught an errant branch from a nearby bush and fell back just short of my shoes. Maybe I was doing something wrong. (you think?) I worked the line out again and let go. Worse results this time. The tippet actually ended up behind me and the line over my shoulder.
Now it was about this time that it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, my fly fishing experiences had been a bit sheltered. Maybe, just maybe, I had isolated myself from anything that would have caused me to “stretch”. Would have caused me to expand my fly fishing skills using different line weights, rod lengths, different baits. Geez, I might have even tried different style casts. Rolling casts, curve casts, side casts, wiggle casts, reach casts, pile, tuck….But why? I was great fly fishing ponds!
Soon my pal came over, seeing me in what could be described as “mild distress”. “You know, wind can really mess with you when you’re casting”, he said with a honestly concerned look.
“Ya’ think?”, I thought to myself, but avoided saying for fear I would confirm I was not only my worst enemy, but someone who can drive away even the best of friends.
“Yea, I’m not very good with wind. Matter of fact, wind is something I have very little experience with as far as fly fishing.”
“I think our best bet for now is to break out the spinning gear and give the fly rods some rest”, my pal said sensing my frustration. That and perhaps his realization that my fly fishing skills were somewhat wanting.
We put the spinning outfits together and tied on some small spinners and voila, my casts actually were going forward. The wind was still wicked, but at least my bait was getting into the water. Better than my fly casts. We both worked the shoreline and soon had a few trout fighting the line. It wasn’t the same as my fly rod. Certainly not near as much fun as I had anticipated. But, it did salvage the morning fishing.
“Maybe the wind will lie down after noon”, I suggested to my friend.
“Probably not. Usually picks up the later in the day it gets.”
“Great”, I thought. Spin fishing the rest of the day. Not what I came to Wyoming for.
“Maybe tomorrow it won’t be as strong”, my pal said as we loaded up his truck to return to town that evening.
Well, the next day we were up early and the wind was indeed almost calm. That’s “almost calm”, not to be mistaken for “calm”. We reached that day’s agreed spot and I once again started working my fly line and let loose my first cast. It actually landed in the water, but the bundle of line just in front of my feet was still a giveaway that I had a lot of work to do on my technique.
To make a long story short, the ever reliable wind did as my friend predicted and became increasingly stronger as the day wore on. And I wore down. Frustration mounted and my mid afternoon I was back to casting the spinning outfit. We landed maybe 7 or 8 fish the whole day, so it wasn’t a total loss. But I was frustrated. “What am I doing wrong”, I thought to myself over and over.
Soon the evening shadows began appearing and we once again loaded the truck and headed back to town. Me being me I just had to try and explain my two days of fly casting frustration. “I just don’t know what happened,” I started, I’ve fly fished for over 30 years off and on. But these last two days were just a disaster.”
My pal keep looking at the road as we made our way back to town. I continued. “I guess I may need to go up a line weight or look into a trying some different casts. Maybe I need to change rod lengths. I dunno. What do you think?” I asked my friend.
He glanced toward me. Looked back at the road, and said with that unmistakable “westerner” authority in his voice, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re not that good.”
And there you have it. The simple, highly un-distilled truth.
Even today I still love to fly fish, but there always seems to be a reason why I end up with a casting or spinning rod instead. Maybe it’s a sub-conscious thing. Maybe I’m avoiding the pain of fouled-up casts or the self embarrassment of my low skill set. Or maybe, just maybe, I just can’t admit to myself that “I’m not that good.”
This is one heck of an issue of our newsletter. We’re offering 15 models of G. Loomis’ legendary GL2 rods at (can you believe it?) 40% OFF! Details are below, so be sure to take a look. Otherwise, we did some begging and cajoling and lo and behold came up with a few more of the Shimano Stradic FI spinning reels that we are offering below at an amazing 25% off. Not many, but some new models, so read all about it below.
Since our story this week was about fly fishing we figured this would be a great time to offer all of our fly fishing customers a real deal as well. How about a $50 American Legacy Fishing Gift card AND a FREE Airflo Fly Line of their choice with each G. Loomis fly rod and a $25 gift card with any G. Loomis fly reel? Details are below and not to be missed. We have also listed some other fantastic deals that we are currently offering. Lots of great stuff – lots of BIG savings!
Everyone here at American Legacy fishing wants to say a big “Thank You” to each and every one of you for your friendship and patronage. Your loyalty and suggestions are so appreciated by us all. We are continuing to explore new products and hope to have some exciting new stuff over the next few months. Stay tuned.
And thank you all again!
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