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
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