Drying off my fly and checking my knots after releasing a small brown trout, I was startled by a voice behind me, “Excuse me sir, I’ve seen you catch a few, and I’ve pretty much been skunked today, you mind if I ask what you’re using?” A little startled, and wondering who “sir” was, I looked over my left shoulder and there stood a guy in his early 20‘s whom I’d seen fishing downstream from me earlier that morning. He must’ve snuck up on me while I was distracted by the fish because I had no idea he was there.
After showing him my size 20 BWO parachute and offering him one, he said he'd tried something like that, but couldn't get a strike. He asked ”How'er you fishing it?” I paused. I had to think for a minute. My response was brilliant. It sounded something like: oh well um, dead drift, um current seam maybe, you know like, foam or feeding lane, gink type tippet. I’m surprise the next words out of his mouth weren’t , “Do you speak English”. I felt like a baseball coach telling the kid to "just keep your eye on the ball". (If that were the only thing required, I doubt MLB players would make as much as they do).
I started to realize I couldn’t really put into words what I was doing ( I know right, and I’m the guy who writes tips and tricks articles, go figure). He asked, “How do you spot the trout? I can't see 'em until they’re already spooked?” Once again, a word vomit, “well you know, you just sorta um, polarized maybe sunglasses, you know, look for 'em, and off colored tail spots wagging, and then um, see 'em, you know.” Now I felt like a golf instructor telling someone to "just be the ball”, and I’m pretty sure the kid was wondering if my first language was pig latin.
I wasn’t tongue tied because I wanted to come up with a brilliant answer to sound like Lefty Kreh, I was truly trying to help. I've been a new fly fisherman before, and it probably goes without saying that there's a lot to learn. Unfortunately for him, instead of sharing actual advice, I was coming across like a monkey trying to teach someone how to use chopsticks.
I eventually gave up my attempt at verbal communication and finally said, ”Let’s watch the water for a minute and I’ll show you what I look for.” After a few, “did you see that”, and “over there”, he began to get the hang of it and started spotting a few himself. In the middle of my mental back patting for actually teaching him something, I caught a glimpse of what looked to be a good sized snout making rings along the bank. I watched a few more times to confirm his location, and waded out into position.
At this point, I have to admit, my “hey kid, watch how I cast and dead drift this one” ego started to kick in. That was soon put to rest. On my second cast, I landed my line too close and put the fish down. With a bit of a tail between my legs walk, I waded back to the kid. We chatted for a few more minutes, I wished him luck and told him to keep at it, and he headed upstream.
As I turned around to face the water again, I was surprised to see that Mr. Big Snout was back to feeding in the exact spot I had spooked him from. I gave him a few minutes to get back into his rhythm, and waded out for attempt number two.
On my first cast I laid my line out under the overhang tree with plenty of slack in the leader, and lucked into getting a drag free drift. With the opening of his mouth and the slashing of his tail, he was hooked. Slightly surprised and overly excited, we began the battle that would lead do a quick introduction, and a safe release back to his home.
Halfway through the battle two things happened. One, I realized I didn’t bring my net, which is typical because in the water I usually fish few trout are over 10 to 12 inches. And two, I heard a voice behind me. I can’t remember the exact expression I heard, but it had to be something like, whoa!, or all right!
Unbeknownst to me, the kid had actually been waiting in the trees behind me to see how my second attempt would turn out. After getting the fish to hand, I turned my head and asked the kid if he'd happened to bring his camera with him and if he'd snap a picture for me. He did and we exchanged smiles and high-fives.
After witnessing my first attempt, as well as my second, he was either thinking, wow, this non-english speaking guy is an expert dry fly fisherman! Or possibly, well I guess even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes. I like to think of myself as somewhere in between.
That day on the stream helped me realize how far I’ve come is a fly fisherman, and, that I’m an awful instructor. On the drive home it dawned on me that, maybe I don’t have much conscious fly fishing knowledge, maybe it’s more of a subconscious instinct that comes from watching others and spending time on the water. Like a baseball Player who can spot a curveball before it ever gets to the plate. They can't verbalize how they do it, but somewhere along the way they must’ve learned, or they’d be working normal jobs like most of us.
A huge thanks to all of you anglers who've taken time out of your fishing to give me advice. I never caught most of your names, but without you, I don’t know if I would have the same passion for fly fishing as I do today. I can only hope that I helped spark a little of that same excitement in the kid I "talked" to.