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.
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~