My Fly Fishing Mentor: Casting an Idea

by Rebecca on November 18, 2009

in Fly Fishing



One of my favorite things to ask people I come across that either fish or fly fish is who was the person in their life that planted the idea or introduced them into the world of Fish. As I wrote recently, My Dad was my first Mentor in Fishing.

Before fly fishing, I was a spinning reel girl, limited to fishing lures and salmon eggs. I was never, ever, a worm using girl because (go ahead and laugh but this is my one and only fear in life) I always harbored and still do, an irrational and extremely serious phobia of worms (**double shudder** for even mentioning them) ……..done laughing yet? Ok, good. Anyway, as I was saying, I very much considered myself a fishing gal who used a tackle box, the words, “Fishing Pole”  and felt exceptionally loyal to my #2 mepps.

When I first met my Fly Fishing Mentor I already knew he was into fishing– thats what happens when a middle person says, “you should meet so & so, they fish like you do” and vice versa– so I was poised and ready to impress him with my already established fishing addiction. He would probably argue with my rendition of this moment because his memory is solid and mine leans more to blank spots and fanciful interpretations, but no matter which version I go with, the insult remains the same.

I said, “I love to fish”
He said, “What type of fishing do you do?”
I said, “Mostly trout”
He said, “No, with what do you fish?”
I said, “My fishing pole, lures, salmon eggs, the normal.”
He said, “Ohh…if you call that, fishing….well when you’re ready to try Fly Fishing, let me know…”

Insulted! So I huffed and puffed and decided instantly that he was a fly fishing snob from the S.F. of the Ass River. He knew that he had insulted me, and when we talked about it later, he admitted that’s exactly what he intended to do…just like a fisherman, he baited me…he threw a insult fly and I grabbed the barbed hook in my mouth like an eager little fish. I did give a good fight, I demanded to know why his fishing was more profound and meaningful than my fishing and as he explained, I grew enthralled, and jealous, and probably drooled with envy as well.

By the time he had put me through his premeditated form of fly fishing conversion I was ready to devote myself to a new religion. My first lesson came in speech pattern. I was immediately banned from saying “fishing pole” ever again.

I had two obstacles to overcome. First, my Fly Fishing Mentor lived in Colorado (I’m in Idaho) and two, I didn’t have a Fly Rod. While I toiled and slaved to save for a Fly Rod, my Mentor started instructions from afar. I became a daily student of fly fishing long before I held a fly rod in my hot little hands.

When I finally had my fly rod, I was on my own, but full of information and armed with a small box of hand tied flies my Mentor had sent me in preparation for my maiden voyage. I wish I could say that first trip was remarkable, it wasn’t, but it produced 2 fish by pure accident and one hook embedded in my forehead……so at least it was memorable.

Maddison River

Blinded but grinning on the Madison River

I struggled for a month on my own until I was finally able to meet with my Mentor for a hands on course in fly fishing. Our first rendezvous spoiled me rotten because it was in Montana and Yellowstone Park, but it wasn’t without challenges. Two weeks before our scheduled trip I thought I’d be cute while rock climbing and took a fall that resulted in one broken ankle and a robot boot to make life interesting. I didn’t let it slow me down for a second and simply strapped my boot over my waders. In the course of several days my Mentor showed me everything I had been doing wrong, his secrets, and the weight of a noteworthy fish on my line. I fell in love with many things during those defining days and still look back at it as one of my favorite times in life.

After that weekend my Mentor and I got together to fish as often as possible. His guidance was invaluable to my learning and because of him I’ve experienced fishing in the way I had dreamed about when I was a little girl watching those elusive fly fishing men perform their magical art across the water. My gratitude today is as strong as it felt the first weekend we cut the air with our fly lines. Thank you T- for the insult that got my attention and for giving me a lifetime gift~



{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

MarcNo Gravatar November 18, 2009 at 12:23 pm


Excellent post, we all can learn from someone with the ability to teach a craft they have great skill with, we just need the desire and find the right person.

I am not a hunter, but my mentor is teaching me the ins and outs of hunting mountain lion here in AZ, I am excited about this new adventure even though I will not pull a trigger, only shoot video, the skill is in the knowledge and the process of learning!


KaraNo Gravatar November 18, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Great post. I love reminiscing about when I started to learn to fish. My Great Grandmother (now 103 years old) first taught me to dunk (the dreaded) worm and then my father taught be to fly fish at a very young age. He and I have been fishing together for over 20 years and I love every minute we get to spend on the water together. I taught my (then) boyfriend how to fish when we were in college and he went on to be an incredible guide and now teaches me more (as my husband) than I thought there could ever be to fly fishing. I am thankful to those who taught me passion for the outdoors and especially fly fishing.


KirkNo Gravatar November 18, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Imagine what life would be like had it not been for the pompous audacity of the angling snob from the S.F. of the Ass River! Great stuff. It was a friend of my dad’s who got me interested in fly fishing when I was a kid, and the first lesson I remember was, as you learned, never to refer to it as a “pole” ever again. I ventured away from it as my teenage years introduced me to cars and girls, but later I returned to the way of the fly and it has defined me ever since. Thanks for another thought-provoking, great read.


RobNo Gravatar November 18, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Very good story. I guess FF snobs are good for something eh?


Kentucky JimNo Gravatar November 18, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Lovely story. I do think that fishing and the fish and the environmental causes that support fish would benefit by fishermen/women/people recognizing that we have more in common, and are not really so different. That said, I don’t own a spinning rod. Keep meanin’ to pick one up…


RebeccaNo Gravatar November 18, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Marc, Kara, Kirk, Rob and Kentucky Jim~
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and even a few of the mentors in your life. I think at this point I could write a book about ALL the lessons I learned from T- over the years. Means the world to me. I should have mentioned in my entry that the ironic part is T- is the farthest from a fly fishing snob that a person gets, despite his one moment. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll be writing about him again…….you know….write what you know and experience~


Darrin CladwellNo Gravatar November 19, 2009 at 3:58 pm

My dad was also my mentor, especially when it comes to fly fishing. He got me hooked and I hope I can do the same for my kids one day! Great post!

Thanks for taking a look at my website. It’s not nearly as cool or put together as yours is, but maybe one day. :) I’m updating it regularly, check it out from time to time; I’m always in need of some good advice!

Happy Fishin’



WolfyNo Gravatar November 19, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Rebecca, Very nice post, and a very well done blog. I only recently found your blog through some of my blog buddies. I started flyfishing after college – mentored by the guys in a local club – and I actually taught my Dad how to fly fish when he was in his late 50′s. He still goes to a friend’s cabin for a fly fishing getaway every year! I’ve been lucky enough to flyfish all across the country and a lot of the world, and used to work in the FF industry. Now I’m relegated to Chicago area – possibly the worst place in the US to live if you are a flyfisherman – and spend most of my time fishing conventional tackle. My blog has some flyfishing material, but not much due to my lack of trout access. Still, it is a fishing blog, and you’re welcome to come over and check it out. I’ll be adding your site to my blogroll later today.

keep up the good work



She's So Fly - Sherri RussellNo Gravatar November 21, 2009 at 8:05 am

Great post Rebecca. I am currently working with my own mentor and am very grateful. It is my hope to pass on this tradition and personally mentor others in the future other than just my blog.


JohnNo Gravatar November 21, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Great story!
My grandfather was my mentor. Teaching me to fish was one thing however, his passion for the outdoors and how to respect it was always a priority. Many lessons learned while in the back woods of Maine. He passed away years ago however, his impact on what to do out there was so great I often ask myself today, what would he do? To this day he is still my mentor.


NerverackerNo Gravatar December 1, 2009 at 11:11 am

Good stuff there. I just recently became one of those snobby fly fishermen. As far as mentors go. My grandfather is and has always been my mentor. He taught me how to fish. He taught me how to hunt, and do all of those “outdoorsy” things. He never fly fished, it was always a “pole” and some rapalas or some plastic lures of sorts. Being originally from North Carolina, I cut my fishing teeth on trout (we always used corn) and bass. I learned the most invaluable lessons from my grandfather. To this day, when I catch a “big” fish, I’m on the phone with him telling him all about it. Back in late August this year, I picked up a fly rod from Wal-Mart. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy fly fishing, and didn’t want to spend an entire paycheck to find out. It was/is a Scientific Anglers Trout starter kit. Included a 5/6 # rod, reel (Mid arbor which I’ll never go back to) and some WF-F 6 (which I replaced almost immediately). I didn’t have anyone to really give me instruction, so I read and watched youtube until my eyes bled. I took the knowledge that I’d read and seen and went outside and mimicked it until I got it close. Needless to say, since then I’ve put close to 70 days on the water. I’ve caught big fish (my first steelhead was @ 12lbs totally unintentionally), that I caught on that SA 5/6 wt I’ve hung several other large fish @ 6-8 lbs steelhead on it as well, while fishing for trout here in Oregon. My friend and his dad were extremely instrumental in piquing my interest in fly fishing. Now, my spinning gear is stored and has been passed down to my children. My son is interested in possibly taking up the fly rod as well.

fish on!



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