Remember when…

4 02 2011

No, not the Alan Jackson song, although that’s a good song. Remember when you were new to whatever it was you’re into now? I do. I remember it like it was yesterday. I walked into a bait-n-tackle shop in the small college town we lived in ( I was already married) and saw a Cortland 7’6 4 wt. standing in a rack with a bunch of bass rods. It was the only fly rod in the place and it was ( gasp!) $59.00. I’d bought a fly rod a few years before. One of those Kmart types with the rubber winding check that disintegrated after a year in the elements and a “butt end” just in front of that winding check that was as big as a large carrot on the leafy end. It was probably 8 foot something long and as heavy as ten modern-day rods. But this Cortland rod…this little gem, with it’s shiny plastic covering over the light, clean cork…this thing was something else. It was small. Thin, I guess is what I should say. And it was dark charcoal in color, not heavy burgundy like that old Kmart rod. And when I walked up to it and gently lifted it from between the rubber stoppers holding it in place it nearly floated to the ceiling! And the best part – the thing came apart at a joint and had a little case that it fit into just so! I had to have it. I bought it on the spot. No reel. No line. Just that little rod. I walked out of there like I’d won the lottery, the check-out guy shaking his head.

You see, the nearest trout stream was 130 miles from there, and everyone knows you don’t use a rod that small for tossing crickets and a styrofoam cork to bluegills “on the bed.” But it didn’t matter to me. I felt like Luke Skywalker when Obi Wan first handed him that Light-Saber. I was going to catch so many trout on this thing, I thought to myself, that my arms would fall off.

I wish I could tell you that I remember where I aquired a line and reel from, but I can’t. That’s what happens when you hit middle-age I suppose – at least when you were from an age where there were no “blogs” to record your fishing adventures. I didn’t know anyone at the time that wrote down things about their fishing trips. That would be silly. What would you do that for? Nonsense.

Anyhoot, I took that little rod and that reel and line from who-knows-where and I headed to the mountains that summer. I fished a few rivers without much success, and one day read in the Department of Natural Resources rulebook about some “artificial only” streams. I thought ” COOL! A creek where the fish like artifical stuff. ..only.”

I settled on the Coleman River. A little creek that feeds into one of the most popular put-n-take rivers in the state. When I got there though, there wasn’t a Coleman River. There was a Coleman stream. A Coleman branch. A Coleman Creek even…but I could almost hop across this “river.” Ah, but I didn’t care. I had my new rod and a new fly I’d discovered looking through the Cabela’s catalog. I was ready and I was hungry for success.


The upper Coleman "River"...when I was younger and didn't know any better...I once stood on that rock and pee'd downstream. Don't ask me why I remember that.

I stood upstream from a deep pool. I noticed that my head was almost touching some rhododendron limbs that sagged down toward the boulder where I’d gotten into position for a first cast into the pool. I flicked the new fly I’d “discovered” – a Royal Wulff into the current just short of the whitewater part…and I stripped out line. I knew how to cast, but I’d read somewhere that you could fish a fly this way in difficult current and catch fish. It was all difficult to me back then.

The fly floated downstream. A dark shape rose up in the water. A small rocket surged upward from underneath and there was a rather large spurt of water that shot up a foot into the air. The fly was gone – and I’d seen the thief that took it! I set the hook! The boulder was wet! My foothold failed! As I slipped, my new Cortland rod met it’s doom. My precious Light-Saber-Trout-Slayer-of-a-rod lodged itself between two rhodo limbs from two separate trees. I heard the THUWMP of my rear end hitting the rock hard; simultaneously I heard the “…crr-rr-rr-aa-cc-kkkkk!” of the Cortland as it splintered into several pieces just above the joint. I hand-lined the little 12 inch rainbow in, admired him and let him go. I almost got angry because of the broken rod….until I noticed the fly and it reminded me that I’d done what I set out to do. I was no longer the neophyte that hadn’t caught a trout on a fly. I was a fly fisher on his way to catching his share of trout over the years, who’d already broken the first of several dozen rods while doing so. I’ll take the trade-off now, just as I did back then.

This post happened because I was reading my friend Tippin’Taco’s blog about his new waders. ‘Taco has the “fever” and he has as bad a case as I’ve ever seen in a grown man. Reading his post led me to a post on  Intro to the Outdoors and both those guys reminded me of this story and that we’re all “noobs” at some point along the way. And you know, the thing is – it’s not something to stress out about. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the right gear or don’t make all the right casts. These guys know it’s all about the experience and that’s how it should be. Those first difficult and sometimes frustrating steps are something to enjoy while you’re new to the thing – whatever it is – and their something to remember when you’re older and maybe a bit wiser and their aren’t as many mysteries to solve.

Both of those blogs offer a fresh look into the minds of some new fly fishers and I think both are going to be very interesting rides. 🙂




3 responses

4 02 2011

I still don’t make all the right casts. The gear has gotten a bit better, but I’m not complaining. I wish I had a world of bloggers to help me out back when I was a “noob.” Mark and Taco may have it a little easier than you and I did.
I have to ask, have you seriously broken “several dozen rods”? Or did you just mean you’ve owned that many. I think I’ve broken three.

4 02 2011
Owl Jones

Jay, you know fishermen. They have a tendency to stretch things sometimes.

I’ve broken more than a dozen. Probably not “several dozen” but it sure feels that way – especially now, when breaking one means $100-$300 goes out the window. I’m hard on equipment, that’s for sure. The second one I broke last year was cut down in it’s prime because a small snake crawled up the tip while i was retying a caddis. When I looked down and saw it, I didn’t have time to think about just dropping the rod and letting the snake go it’s way ( or admire it’s new rod) or whatever…I just started flinging. The snake went one way, the rod tip the other. Oh well. Another one bites the dust.

4 02 2011

Thanks for the mention. I definitely relate to the fever that you speak of, as well as some of the frustration at being newbie (as most of my reports can attest to.)

Jay’s right tho, with the help of the internet, my first (and second, and third, and etc.) trout on the fly was a chunky fly-ignorant rainbow caught at a fundraiser that I would have totally missed out on without my little network of blogging buddies. Hell, Clif was even there in person to give some tips, net the fish and snap some pics for me. I’m definitely appreciative of the wonders of the interwebs.

As far as the Skywalker rod, I’ve come to realize that fly rods are “an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” 🙂

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