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Hooked

By W.E. Endicott (Panfisher), California
Life had not been kind to me. The results of a recent divorce had left me really down. I had a good job but that was about the only thing I had. Everything else lost to the divorce. Only friends I had were the people I met delivering potato chips to stores on my route. One person I remember very well was a receiving clerk. One day as I was delivering to his store he had a rod he had built there in the back room. He intended to deliver it to one of his customers. I didn't know it was possible to build a fishing rod. I loved to fish before I got married but hadn't had a chance to get out since the ceremony. Now this idea of building my own rod fascinated me.

This friend directed me to a local shop known as the "Hidden Rod Shop" and to the Long Beach Casting Club. I have to tell you this was my salvation. I was home again with friends. I met great people - Fly Fishing people. I got into it right away - Rod-Building, Casting Classes, Tournament Casting, Fishing Trips, you name it. I really enjoyed the new things I was seeing but could it catch fish? Then came the Fly Tying. I got into a class and started tying. First we tied Woolly Worms, then Streamers, and then one day we tied this gray thing. I wasn't sure what this thing was but I knew it wouldn't catch fish - a little small thing on a #12 hook. It was tied with muskrat fur using some silly technique called dubbing. We added lead to it to make it sink. Then we twisted the fur in some kind of loop thing so we could wrap it around the hook. It had a tail and beard of partridge feathers. Now I have to ask - what kind of fishing lure has a beard!? I couldn't understand some of these weird lures we were making.

With all this I began to feel better about life and started making trips to a local lake about two hours out of town. It was a good lake - I always caught fish. I'd get there around 6:00 AM, rent a boat, and go out usually by myself. It wasn't a real big lake but large enough it was tough to cover the whole lake in a day. Usually by the end of the day I ended up in the area they called the "Bayou Section." It was a brushy area with trees that had been flooded over by the lake. Made it look somewhat like a Louisiana bayou. I always caught fish in this area.

One Saturday I headed out to the lake - early as usual. Started fishing around 6:00 AM. It was a beautiful day. One of those days you call a great fishing day - unfortunately a bad catching day. I spent the whole morning throwing everything in my tackle box. I couldn't buy a strike. I mean not even a tap. I used all my favorite lures until I was desperate. Then I started throwing my old lures, the ones I didn't care for. Then I went to bait, night crawlers, grub worms, crickets, you name it. Not a strike. You'da thought I was fishing the Dead Sea.

Finally in desperation I decided to head over to the Bayou Section. Something had to happen there. This location was my Ace-in-the-Hole. Well I went through the same routine; spinners, spinner-baits, plugs, plastic worms, night crawlers, grubs nothing did the trick. Even worse, there are these flies in the air bugging me. They'd get in my hair and eyes, they were all over the place. It was difficult not to end up eating these stupid things. It was about noon so I decided it was about time to head home - but I hadn't gotten the fly rod out yet. With all that I had learned, I had to give it a try.

OK, I need some casting practice. I should spend some time casting before I go. So I cleaned everything up and got ready to go except for the fly rod. I set it up, put on the reel, fed the line through the guides, checked the leader, and added a bit of 4x tippet. Now for the fly, what should I do? Well I just want to practice, but I am fishing, so I should have a fly. I'll go for something that won't catch fish!

I opened my fly box and thought "OK which fly absolutely will not catch a fish." There was that gray thing we tied I think it was called a gray nymph. I knew when I tied it, it would never catch a fish. Perfect, that should let me get some practice. I tied it on the tippet and was ready to go. Now if I can just practice without eating too many of these flies I might become a better caster.

I stood up in the boat and noticed a location right next to a tree stump. Now if I were fishing that would be a place to cast to, so I thought that makes a good target. I stripped some line off the reel onto the bottom of the boat and started false casting. With a little luck I was able to make a fairly tight loop and get somewhat close to my target. Ok, now a soft presentation, I slowed down the cast preparing for a soft presentation. Then kerplunk, sure enough I dumped the fly with a splash. Darn! What's this? Did I just see three silver flashes? Oops, I'm hooked into a fish! Now what do I do? I never caught a fish on a fly before. How do I pull him in? Ok, I start yanking on the line - pulling in section after section until I can bring the fish in. It's a nice Crappie, just under a pound. Now this has to be a fluke. OK I'll try it again.

I straighten things out and make sure I have my line under control. I strip the line all the way back in and get prepared to cast it without a tangle. Then I start false casting again. I slowly work the fly one false cast after another. I want to place it on the same target again. Plunk, the fly hits water with a splash. Again some silver flashes and I'm into another fish! What is this? Now this is becoming fun! Again I strip the line in and catch the fish - another nice little Crappie. Can this happen again?

Now I'm beginning to get excited. I can't wait to get that fly back out there. I get the line in through all the guides and start false casting. Quickly the rod flies back and forth. Things get into a feverish pitch. I hadn't caught a fish all day! Sure enough I rush the cast and next thing I know line is wrapped around my head. OK I just started casting - I'm new at this. Am I supposed to know how to cast under pressure? I unwrap the mess and start over a little slower and calmer this time. I get another cast out - set the fly in the water and boom another fish. This is impossible, this gray thing would never catch a fish. What's going on? Well, I'm not going to argue - I'm going to keep fishing, pulling in one fish after another.

That was a long day; I kept catching fish till my arm got tired. I had to have the rental boat in by sun down so the drive home was in the dark. I couldn't believe what had happened. What was that gray thing? The teacher had called it a nymph. I must've caught and released over 100 fish!

Let's see, a nymph, isn't that something that hatches into a fly. Those flies were really a pain - I think I ate a few dozen. Is it possible the reason the fishing was so lousy was that the fish were only feeding on the insects hatching into these flies? Did I "Match the Hatch" by accident! Is that possible? What are the odds? Can I do it again - on purpose? Hmmm, maybe next trip I'll get the fly rod out a bit quicker. ~ W.E. Endicott, "PanFisher"

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