Did divine intervention play a roll in my fly fishing career?
By Clive Schaupmeyer
I was never confirmed in a regular church, but have the sense that
divine intervention played a role in my confirmation as a fly angler.
My first fly-fishing rod and reel are now nearly 30 years old. The reel
spool is bent and I think it is attached to an ice-fishing rig in the
garage, but I no longer ice fish so am not certain about this. The
7-weight rod is stiff fiber glass, and a chore to cast. It is hanging on
the hallway wall directly behind my computer where I am sitting right
now. It was retired for many years but was called up for active duty a
few years ago the first few times I fly-fished for pike. (It was later
replaced with a graphite 8-weight G. Loomis.)
I caught my first fish on a fly rod about ten years after I bought the
rig. They were two 8-inch mountain whitefish caught in the Blue River at
its confluence with the Thompsom in British Columbia. Hardly a promising
start to a fly fishing career. I intended to begin fly-fishing sooner,
but it appeared difficult. Although I knew a few guys who were avid fly
anglers and could teach me, we lived in a prairie town and getting away
to fish pristine mountain streams was not very convenient. Our children
arrived and somewhere around then I went to grad school. Kids. Mortgage.
Work. You know how it goes. These are not complaints. Life just happens
that way. In her book. Passages, Gail Sheehy
called the stages of our lives, 'passages.'
The early 'passages' of my adult life weren't conducive to learning the
art of fly-fishing. I needed time and a boost. The boost came when my
brother, Gary, a veteran fly-angler, gave me some lessons in about 1982.
I learned that I was making the standard mistakes of any veteran spin
fisherman learning how to cast a fly rig. He taught me that fly casting
really wasn't difficult. On the contrary I found it to be rather easy
and the cadence relaxing. I half-heartedly messed with fly fishing on
various family vacations after that, and actually caught a few small
But my confirmation as a real fly-fisherman had to wait until 1988. Gary
and I agreed to go stream fishing so we made a few calls and were told
that we could catch trout in this or that creek in the Caroline
(Alberta) area. We didn't fish exactly where we had planned, but we
caught brown trout in a side channel of the Clearwater River. I had
never caught brown trout before, but on the first day caught six in
three hours. On the second day, I landed seven more browns including
what was then described as an 18-incher. (The picture below, still
hangs in my office, and suggests that the trout was more
likely only 16 or perhaps 17 inches.)
I suspect that divine intervention played a role in my confirmation as a
stream and river fly- fisherman on that trip. There's something about
that fly-fishing outing that is mysterious. In the years that followed I
returned to the same stretch of river five times and the fishing was
never the same. The fish were almost nonexistent. I went back looking
for the same runs, holes, and deadfalls that harbored trout on those two
wonderful days in June, 1988, but things had changed.
Later in 1988, and the next summer, the stream was muddy when I arrived
to fish. In 1990 the gentle side stream was changed forever by the
unusually heavy spring rains that scoured the once-small side channel.
Never again will my brother and I fish the hole of my first big brown.
Or the spruce-fall hole where a huge golden brown twice turned away from
my fly. I went back in 1995 to check it out, and the channel had changed
yet again. (The old saying, "You can't go home again," is so very
applicable to some experiences.)
Perhaps one day this river will allow me to relive what I experienced
there. But if I never catch another fish in the channel of my first
brown trout I don't care. That river gave me my first special memories
of real stream fly-fishing. It owes me nothing, and I owe all of my
subsequent fly- fishing experiences to those two days. (I just realized
that our oldest son now lives less than an hour from this stream and
wants to learn to fly-fish. Perhaps I should take this as a omen. Maybe
you can go home again.)
Why was the fishing so good the first time, and then changed forever?
Would my brother and I have found another place, another time for my
confirmation? Perhaps the stars and planets were just aligned right and
it was meant to be.
This week's closing though is (if I recall correctly) from Groucho
Marx: If you see a fork in the road. Take it.
~ Clive Schaupmeyer
Our Man In Canada Archives
Bio on Our Man In Canada
Clive Schaupmeyer is an outdoor writer and
photographer. He is the author of The Essential Guide to
Fly-Fishing, a 288-page book for novice and intermediate fly
anglers. His photo of a boy fishing was judged the best outdoor
picture of 1996 published by a member of the Outdoor Writers
of Canada. He fly-fishes for trout in Alberta's foothill and
mountain streams and for pike near his home in Brooks,
For information on where to find, or how to get a copy of
Clive's book, Click here!