This article is dedicated to Ken Gill, who
passed away Dec. 17, 2005, in Kingston Ontario.
“A Great Father who taught his daughter the love of fishing and the importance of always having a roll of duct tape handy.” – S.H.
Hi Dad, the weather on the north end of Vancouver Island has finally switched back to low 70’s, nice spring weather. I went back-roading and fishing on Saturday but the nightly thunderstorms kept me from camping.I was trying to teach myself how to fly fish on the weekend. Now, Dad, there was a sight to see.
Imagine me standing on a spectacular river bed, an abandoned railway bridge on the river above me and a wide expanse of rolling rapids a few hundred metres below me. The sun is shining warm rays through the willows on the far bank, the air is crisp and smelling green with floral overtones. A painter’s pallet of spring flowers surrounds the ferns and the blossoming salmon berry bushes have the humming birds out in full force.
Taking in the natural beauty of the scene,I let out a deep sigh and get down to business. Today, I will teach myself how to cast a fly fishing rod. Great preparation has gone into this event. I have read several essays, How- To- Books and visited many web sites on this art. It has taken me many days to analyse which line to use with my rod, picking up new terms such as leader butt ends, perfect loop knots and blood lines, to say a few. Although I had purchased an array of wonderfully colored and functionally designed flies, I realized weeks ago that this is an art of which only so much can be learned by reading.
So there I was, dropping my kit bag on the stones of the shore, and stepping into waterproof boots. Standing tall, white legged in non-traditional cut off Jordache Jeans, an O.C.C. T- shirt covered by a Roots vest, a Body Shop ball cap covering my wind blown messy red hair. I tied my double tapered fly line in a nail knot attaching a 12 inch leader butt. My perfect loop knot is attached to my tapered mono-filament leader ending in a blood knot, and attached to the knot is a 15″ tippet from which I use a clinch knot to tie on me fly. . . but something is missing.
“De-Fly, de-fly,” I cried out loud as I realize I have left the tackle in my Chevy a quarter mile back, bringing only my trusted lures. Ah . . but wait, could it be? Yes, there it is! I had forgotten that I had purchased a small assortment of flies from a kindly lady at a garage sale last fall saved! I look through and pick out something that resembles a bumble bee. It is a work of art, sprouting real deer hair, fuzzy yellow yarn, even has cute little wings! I had no idea if this was a dry or wet fly, or if it was the right season to be using it. Really Dad I just wanted to practice casting, alone on this beautiful river! And besides that, thisfly was just so darn purty.
I admired it while opening a beer. This had been thirsty work so far. I’m very nervous of that first cast. How in the devil am I to get a rhythm going with no weight at the end of all that line? No one is about, and I gave it a try, having let out what appears to be a lot of line (which has already tripped me a few times). Back and forth, releasing line from my fingers as I got a rhythm going – and splash, it ends up in a tangle a few feet in front of me. I repeat this process a few more times realizing I need more line, and on I go! It takes about ten minutes, but by Jove I did it! I could now swing that baby and get the fly to land where I want almost every time! I was so proud of myself, now I wanted a fish! Knowing there is a spot down river where there must be one or two, off I go.
Being so wrapped up in the process I’ve forgoten I’m in bear country. This is quickly brought home as I almost step in a rather nasty pile of Bear Poop. My attention now somewhat divided between the river and the bank behind me. Yet I pick my spot and check my knots and cast my line in to the sea (so to speak). It is the perfect cast, landing just short of a large boulder at the end of a quiet pool above the start of the rapids. Nothing, I retrieve my fly and cast again, with only a few glitches which I tend to ignore. I cast again, and again. Each cast more perfect than the one before, in fact it is truly amazing, the line is landing just where I want it to go every time. But still no fish!
“Time to change files?” I query myself,but no I am having so much fun I don’t want to stop until I catch something. I know from experience,if I was casting a spinning lure into this piece of water I would have already landed a nice fish by now. So I press on. I had stepped out rather deep into the river; the rounded stones beneath my feet were slippery and had to be maneuvered with grace in order not to end up with a soak-er or worse. I had just let out a few more feet of line when I heard the rocks on the river bank rattle discernibly behind me.
In one “undignified and yet somehow glorious movement” I jump into the air swinging myself and my 10 foot fly rod around while reaching into my vest pocket for my bear spray, and let out a blood curdling roar. “GRRRRRR!!” I holler, as I lose my balance and stumble on river rock. My fishing rod flails through the air – whacks into the side of the head of a rather nice looking elderly gentleman. This all comes into focus just as I go over with a splash, and end-up sitting in the river.
After a few startled curses both our lips, he fishes me from the very cold waters. The gentleman, who looks like he’s posing for an issue of Field and Stream, stifles a laugh. At that moment I have a flash: Bridget Jones,I have the sequel to your life. Hell I am your life!
I’m laughing so hard at myself I have a hard time keeping my balance on the river rock. So I plant my butt on solid ground while I regain some form of composure while draining the water from my boots. The poor old sod must have thought I was truly bonkers! In the next few rather tense moments we introduce ourselves as I stumble through my apology. Robby, Robert Burns to be exact, explains that he had been watching me for a time and thought that just one pertinent pointer was needed to be given to this obvious amateur.
I gave this some thought, afterall I had almost maced the man, smacked him on the cheek with my fishing rod, yelled “GRRRR!” in his face like some lunitic. Yet I still wasn’t sure if , on my first day, I really wanted to be critiqued. So I squared my shoulders, took a deep breath and glaring at him from under my cap still askew on my head and I replied: “Fly at er!”
Robby looks at me with aged eyes, assesses my stance, takes a few steps back and informs me dryly that I had lost my fly some time ago and he knew this as it was hooked on his vest. He points down to my bright yellow Bumble Bee which is looming squarely in the middle of his broad chest.
I had indeed been making my perfect casts. Fly-less.
Until the next tail,
Your loving daughter
Clueless in Hardy