Welcome Beginners

Part Two

Through The Eyes of a Beginner

By Don McPherson


This is part 2 of a new series, written by a beginning fly angler about his experiences and adventures in the world of fly fishing. It is a documentary - intended to encourage other beginners. It may also revive a few memories from old fly anglers.

Saturday, June 6, 1998.

I've just returned home after a month long work assignment in South Texas. It's also the first day of the 1998 fishing season for me. After being gone for a month, there is a honey-do list longer than my arm that I must get started on before I can get to the stream I've been dreaming of all winter long. I'm up at 7 a.m. in hopes of getting an early start on the yard work. After two hours of mowing the front yard, a job that normally takes 20 minutes, I decide that I should take a break and make a quick trip to the local fly shop and see how the fishing has been in my absence. Plus, I don't want to work too hard on the honey-do list, my wife might think I could actually accomplish all the tasks she has for me!

As I stroll around the shop, all the different types of equipment for fly-fishing overwhelm me. Strike indicators, leaders, lines, tippets, reels, waders, flies, oh man, this was just too much for me to absorb! First problem, I have no idea what a lot of this stuff is for.

When I started fly fishing, my father gave me a Fenwick 8 weight with a Martin automatic reel to use. I fished furiously for 3 seasons with this rig, and never caught a fish. It probably had something to do with spending more time getting my fly out of the brush behind me, than putting it on the water. Whatever the reason for my fishlessness, I gave up fly-fishing for about ten years. After returning home from the military, I decided that maybe now I was ready to give this sport some serious attention. Since I know live in Idaho, a state with endless opportunities for the fly fisher, I am determined to get this fly fishing thing right.

Last summer while on a fishing trip at my parents house near Glacier National Park, I was liberated of the stiff action Fenwick when it fell out of the back of my truck on the way to the river. So I made a trip to the sporting goods store and bought my first graphite rod and reel combination. Now I was moving up! The action of this no-name graphite rod was smooth as silk, at least to me. My casting ability improved immensely, and I had actually caught my first fish on it!

Oh, it was just an eight-inch rainbow, but it was my first fish. For a while, I was convinced this new rod was the only rig I'd ever need. But standing in awe of all the new fly rods here in this labyrinth of fly fishing equipment, with a little extra money in my pocket, I've decided it's time to step up to a quality name-brand rod. These rods carry all the names I've seen in the fly fishing magazines, they are the rods the real fly fishers use. I've got to have one!

Now remember, I don't know a thing about fly rods. I don't know anything about action, composites, size, nothing! Lucky for me, the fly shop owner does. I tell him where I fish and that I am a beginner, looking for a rod that I can fish with for a long time. He leads me to the displays of rods and points out the advantages of each rod. I'm in awe of his knowledge of fly rods, but I do not understand much of his sales pitch. So I ask a few questions, which the owner graciously answers. I held several rods, shook them, held them up to my eye to see if they were straight, and basically tried to make it look like I knew what I was doing.

After bending, shaking, and eyeballing most rods in the store, I found one that was in a black metal tube with a fancy T&T emblem on the cap. Hmmm, that looks interesting. As I gently twist off the cap, there's a type of cloth sheath inside. I slowly slide the sheath out of the tube, and think to myself that this must really be a special rod, it's got its' own case and sheath, all the others were just set out on display stands. As I slide the first section of rod out, a beautiful wood reel seat, and a deep green rod greet me. Now this is nice! I put the two pieces together, and give it the standard shake test. Feels nice.

I ask the owner about this rod, he tells me that it is a Thomas and Thomas 4 weight. I wonder if it is too light for where I fish, and he says it should be fine. He explains the benefits of a lighter weight rod, especially for tackling the spring creeks I like so much. He also tells me that it is a well-made rod and that it should easily handle the larger rivers I fish from time to time. To use an old cliché, it was love at first sight (and shake).

As I gawk over the rod, I remember an ad in a magazine for these types of rods, something about these being the fly rods you will eventually own. I think, why should I eventually own it, no better time than the present, right? After several minutes of holding the rod, I'm a little overwhelmed and confused, and feeling a little guilty about the price of the rod, though it is on sale. So I put the rod away and tell the storeowner thanks and hurry home.

When I got home, I decide I'd better try and finish the yard work. As I'm trying to mow grass that seems to be 3 feet tall, I can't get that fly rod out of my mind. What was it the owner said as I left? That rod was on sale, the last of that line, he'd make me a great deal on it! Now I'm all riled up again. I need some guidance, someone with a clear head that can make this decision for me. Just then my wife calls, away on a business trip, she couldn't have called at a better time.

After a few minutes of telling me about her day, I can't stand it anymore, and I tell her about the rod. I tell her that it's on sale, and how beautiful it is.

Much to my surprise, she says I deserve it and that I better go get it before someone else does. Filled with confidence, I rush down to the fly shop to claim my trophy! After the previous half-hour with the shop owner, I am ready to show him that I know something about fly rods.

As I confidently walk into the shop, he asks if he can help me, and I boldly state, "I'm here for that Thompson and Thomalson rod!" He seems somewhat confused by my newfound expertise in fly rods, and asks "which rod?"

Again I exclaim "the Thompson and Thomalson four pounder you showed me." "Oh, you mean the Thomas and Thomas 4 weight." Bubble burst and more than slightly humiliated, because of course the shop was full of real fisherman who overheard this exchange and surely knew I was a no knowledge beginner, I sheepishly whisper, "yeah, um, that one."

After shelling out the money, I quickly scamper out of the store with my new prize; convinced I am one step closer to becoming a true fly fisher!

Oh the joys of being a beginning fly fisher. Though completely naïve when it comes to fly rods, and not one who is quick to ask for help, I've purchased my first quality rod and made a small step at overcoming my fear of asking questions.

One important thing I learned while looking at all those rods is to not be afraid to ask questions, like most fly-fishers, fly shop owners are often eager to share their knowledge with beginners. If we are respectful of others and thankful for their ideas and help, often times we will be amazed at the wealth of information that others will share.
~ Don McPherson



Previous Beginners Journal

Return to the Beginners Journal
Part 1 Reflection | Part 2 Sorting the Equipment
Part 3 The New Fly Rod | Part 4 A Little Respect
Part 5 Snapping 'em off! | Part 6 Get a Few Lessons!
Part 7 Stuff | Part 8 Tube It?
Part 9 Take a Little Time


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