The Transition Prequel.. Part Deux
by, 03-14-2008 at 01:17 AM (2619 Views)
..continued from "The Transition..The Prequel".
I spent much of that summer whipping the water to a froth with that old solid glass spinning rod and level fly line. By the end of the summer most of the varnish had fallen off and it didn't catch in the guides so badly. I donated a few poppers to fish and to the overhanging bush. The only "allowance" I got was the cream I was given for milking the old cow morning and night. I sold it weekly at Meyerholz Feed and Seed and made a couple dollars. The local "Western Auto" store became my fly shop. They had several cards of various colored poppers. Most of them were 15 cents though some were a quarter (dang, that was two and half bottles of pop). I accumulated several colors. Though white and yellow were good - black soon became my favorite and still is to this day. They didn't have any "wet" flies but I couldn't imagine, in my wildest dreams, why anyone would want to use one anyway. I was convinced, "Top water is where it is at."
One hot summer evening I was thrashing around catching small 'gills and crappie in my private "pasture pond". I was only about a hundred yards from the road and looked up when I heard a pickup slow down. I recognized one of the neighbors, Jim Taylor, a heavy equipment operator. I saw him back up, park the truck and step across the gate. When I say, "step across", I mean it literally. Jim was one of the biggest men I've ever had the pleasure to know. He'd had a stellar college heavyweight, wrestling career and was an ardent sportsman.
He walked up and said, "I've been seeing you fish all summer. Thought I'd see how you were getting along. You don't see a lot of flyfishermen in these parts."
By way of much practice I had worked my way up to maybe fifteen feet of line and though my popper, leader and line lit on the water with all the grace of a cement block, I was catching the more-than-willing panfish regularly enough to keep me interested. Jim asked to take a look at my equipment, stripped out some line and managed to put about 40 or 50 feet of line in the air and dropped it into the water with barely a splash. I was shocked - and a little embarrassed. Looking back, I realize he must have been a fairly accomplished caster to do what he did with the equipment he was working with.
He said, "Son, you have your hands full using the equipment you are using. I'll be right back."
In a matter of minutes he had gone home and returned with a "real" fly fishing outfit. I have no idea what it was, except that it was brown, glass, longer and lighter than mine. I'm guessing it was probably a Fenwick. The era would be about right. The line was light brown instead of green and didn't have a single crack in it. The reel was tiny compared to my big green automatic and clicked rapidly as he stripped off line. It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. Jim gave me a casting lesson that evening and though I was clumsy and confused I managed to get out some line and more importantly (to me) catch a few more fish.
We fished until after dark and said our goodbyes. I rode my bicycle the mile and a half home, in the dark, rehearsing the story as to why I was late. By the time I got home it was darker than the inside of a cow and past my bedtime. Fortunately, I was so excited in the telling of my story the folks forgot to bawl me out. Jim moved away shortly after that and I never saw him again. I heard he later campaigned a great line of English Setters.
About that time one of Dad's "rich" friends gave me a handful of hunting and fishing magazines. We didn't have the cash for such frivolities so I treasured them greatly. I read those things until the pages began to fade and I had them memorized. One of the stories was about Billy Pate, Stu Apte, Lefty Kreh and many of the other big names in saltwater flyfishing. They were meeting every spring in Florida to try to land a 200 pound tarpon on a 12 pound tippet. There was another story about Ted Trueblood catching native brook trout and frying them for breakfast. Pretty heady stuff for a 11 year old Iowa farmboy. I had every intention of becoming a great flyfisherman.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), as I grew older I discovered spinning reels and baitcasters.. and girls and cars.. and quail and bird dogs. I also discovered that few of my new waters allowed for the backcast my old pasture pond did. Still a "lure flinger" I'd become a "passing fair" fisherman and I'd become obsessed with big fish.
Now, we have to fast-forward about 35 years. Though I was still an ardent fisherman adding bodies of water in a number of states, and a couple of foreign countries, to my local farm ponds, somehow the flyrod had lost its appeal. Then one evening a good friend's 17 year old son called me to tell me he had bought a flyrod and could I teach him how to cast it? Inexplicably I said, "Sure." On the drive over to his house it dawned on me the hole I had dug for myself.
He had bought a nice little entry-level combo from LL Bean, a six weight I think. I started covering my butt immediately with excuses about how long it had "been". We walked to edge of the pond and I stripped out 40 or 50 feet of line (exceeding my confidence by about 30 feet) and began to play it out in the air. I was trying to remember *anything* Jim had taught me - to keep my wrist straight, watch my backcast and *anything* else from many years before. Suddenly, I got enough line in the air the pull of the WF line kicked in and when I let go line squirted out of that rod like it was greased. All the line on the ground shot through the guides and everything hit the "end" so hard the line slapped the rod and the fly bounced back four feet. It was easily twice as far as I had ever cast I my life. I was so shocked I just kind of stood there and as the fly sunk, a fat bluegill attached itself. The bluegill wasn't the only thing "hooked". I was "back".
Within a week, or so, the kid was a better caster than I ever was or will be. Ah, to have eyes and hands that still work together.. and at the same time. Old age isn't so going to be so bad really - it's just so danged inconvenient.
That's been close to 10 years ago now. The kid and I fish together regularly. When he was very young I used to go get him and take him fishing. Now he comes and gets me. It's a much better deal really. We hand each other a considerable amount of ribbing. Much to his mother's relief, he has somehow managed to *not* pickup all my bad habits. Though he hunts and fishes, he doesn't drink whisky or chew tobacco and holds down a regular job. I've always done two and not the other. You can try to guess which ones. While he is a much more accomplished caster than I am, through old age, experience, luck and treachery I am able to out-fish him occasionally.
Warm water flyfishing has become a passion. I have several rods and reels, decent quality, bought on sale and through closeouts. I now "roll my own" flies, though I tie like I cast - with great enthusiasm and not much skill.
But I also know from some nearly half-century of experience, flyfishing is like sex. You don't have to be an expert to enjoy it.. and.. if I can just get a fly of some kind on the water, a fish might just eat it.