Actually, I do. I wear a size 7¾ hat.
But that’s not the point this week.
When I decided to step into the light and embrace fly fishing a few years ago, certain waters came to my attention. Many were governed by regulations limiting fishing to un-baited, single-hook, artificial lures. Others were specifically deemed zero-limit barbless hook fisheries. It was exciting.
A relatively short section of a certain Sierra Nevada creek was particularly alluring. Tales abounded of big browns and hefty rainbows. Most important to a novice fly fisher, only a few fly-eating trees follow its course. All this was gleaned from photos.
Then I read the associated article, and shuddered. It took only one word, an adjective often casually thrown around by old timers, to stop me in my tracks: ‘technical.’ I immediately visualized streamside judges waving numbers in the air, giving low-digit scores to my casting.
My discouragement mounted as the research piled up. There was no consolation to be found in other articles, books or discussions with more experienced fly fishermen. Much of the season this creek requires accurate sight casting, with presentation made difficult by heavy weeds that limited the ‘natural’ drift of your fly. In a nutshell, I was told, it was a creek only to be fished by those who had paid their dues.
But there I was, still in my first year of fly fishing, standing on its banks. I was asked by a more seasoned fly fishing club member to join him on this creek. He was one of the guys who had taken me under his wing, and it seemed to me that a refusal of the invite would have been rude at the very least, and would call into question my ability to absorb the knowledge he had thus far imparted.
The creek wasn’t as wide or as deep and I had envisioned. Most places one could cross in three or four strides without the water rising much above the knees. The water clarity fit that timeworn description ‘gin clear.’ We’d set out for his favorite spot, and I was upstream a few yards.
On the trail we had discussed flies. He told me he’d be using dries but that I’d be fine with a dry-dropper combination and lowering his voice, added that a lot of guys might have a fancier cast, but this fishery often rewarded the spirit and stick-to-itiveness of an angler, not the casting. Fish don’t judge casting.
It wasn’t until I landed that first brilliant rainbow that my fear fell away. Sure, it took more than a few casts to find the lane, but the abundance of trout ensured that any adequate presentation wouldn’t be ignored.
In the end, both my dry fly and nymph elicited strikes. I had taken on this Creek of Fear and won. Recently, one guide went so far as to say this creek is a good place for novices, a place that demands hard work but quickly rewards. I’ve since fished this creek half a dozen times. I netted nice brown and rainbow trout each time, but only after putting in the work, even if just sitting, watching and learning the day’s lesson before the first cast.
I’m still a bit intimidated when good casting or technical prowess is mentioned as necessary to success in any fishery. But perhaps I am not as unaccomplished ( [uhn-uh–kom-plisht] adj 1. not accomplished, incomplete; 2. certain angler of the Pacific Northwest*.) as I think, though there will be lot of learning before I too can “snicker at the new guys.”
* Kirk’s Kickstarter campaign is funded! He and Olive must feel so accomplished! Now the real work begins.
To help Kirk feel less unaccomplished, join in the Kickstarter campaign that could launch his book character Olive, the Woolly Bugger and friends into the digital world with an iPad app. There’s only three days left. (In full disclosure, I’ve contributed in the hope of getting my complimentary copy of the app, so I’d also appreciate any contribution that would get me something out of this deal.)