Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fly By

I remembered this one after talking with all of my flyfishing friends. I’ve said before that I’m not a fly fisherman but at one time me and my buddies thought we would be. We even managed to catch fish which is amazing considering how bad we were. But we tried and good trip or bad we still had fun.

This is what we invisioned. Photo credit: James Cates

Me and Joey had decided to become the next great thing in flyfishing in our area. Of course we knew exactly zero about it but that didn’t stop us or even slow us down. After reading articles in magazines guaranteeing our present and future success we set about our new adventures as fly fishermen. I had been given a couple heavy fly rods with automatic reels loaded with some kind of floating line, Joey had gotten a combo pack from one of the local stores with everything included. These things had to be 8 weight rods which we deemed suitable since we were going to be big time bass catchers with them. We bought some flies shown in a magazine, tried to figure out how tippets worked, picked out a couple of popping bugs and headed to the pond.

Photo credit: Shamelessly used from the internet. Thanks to poster.

The idea that just maybe learning to cast in the yard before we went fishing had been mentioned then disregarded as unnecessary. Our test pond in Shelby Park is full of fish. Bass, bluegill and crappie were there for the taking, all of which, the magazines assured us, would willing leap onto all of their top picks in the fly department. We got pond side, rigged up, then proceeded to head down the bank least infested with trees. We stripped line off our reels then started what can best be described as flailing about, trying to get our popping bugs moving forward in the general direction of some water. This resulted in several sonic booms as line tips cracked like whips and popping bugs became as dust in the wind, gently drifting to earth in a puff of balsa and feathers, leaving sad bare hooks behind.

We repeated this until we got our timing down enough to (A) not destroy the fly (B) not hook ourselves or tangle on our rods (3) finally hit somewhere in the pond without a splash like we had thrown a log in. We began a strip, pause, strip retrieve which much to our surprise little bluegill would check out and take despite our bad technique. We caught a few that day, even a couple of small bass which led us to believe we were ready for bigger and better things like big bass or maybe a nice rainbow trout. The fact that all of our streams are pretty much warm, slow moving water which didn’t have trout mattered not at all. We had it figured out.

Photo credit: another shameless use of the internet. Thanks to the poster.

A couple of counties away from Nashville we knew of a trout farm that used a spring to form ponds with water that stayed cold year round. Some fish got loose to inhabit the creek downstream for a mile or two. I can’t remember how we knew this but it really was true. People would fish this creek, Yellow Creek as I recall, to catch good trout in a part of the state where they normally couldn‘t live. That was enough for us, so off we go.

We drove for an hour or so arriving at streamside just as the sun was coming through the trees to light our way as mist lifted off the water. Pulling off to park on a gravel spot used by locals beside a road barely wide enough for our car this was our first step into the world of trout fishing. Summer temps were headed up fast but we were wet wading a shaded stream with cold water so didn’t need to worry about that. It turned out, just about midday, to be a good thing that we weren’t wearing waders. Choosing some trout flies, we eased into the water to get busy with the catching. Joey headed upstream while I headed downstream casting in our newly learned stealthy manner, barely raising more than a light froth and foam from the water.

Photo credit: James Cates

I went along getting the odd cast or two in the general vicinity of an undercut bank, mid stream rock or clump of tree roots. I was awarded for my effort with some bluegill along with more than a few flies left dangling from branches which had somehow gotten in the way of my backcasts. This was how I spent my morning until I decided to head back to find Joey to share notes and grab some lunch.

I waded back upstream, finally finding him at the downstream end of a large hole. He had his rod tucked under his right arm pointing straight up as he tied on a new offering. Just as he started to tighten the knot I saw a few ripples form around his knees, which was how far the water came up on his legs. He did that half lurch forward we all do when slipping on rocks while wading, hips going forward as his shoulders tilted back, then just disappeared. Hardly a splash at all, just not there, like the creek had inhaled him. As I stood there with my jaw hanging open all I could see was about 2 feet of his rod sticking above the surface. I threw my rod down on the bank to try and help when his rod began thrashing around in circles, bobbing up and down, then he popped back up amid much cussing and splashing. I got to him and helped him get to the bank. Other than being wet turns out he was fine, didn’t even drop his rod or lose his fly case.

We sat there getting warmed up, laughing about his swim. Turns out he was standing on the edge of a drop off he couldn’t tell was there. Some optical illusion caused the bottom to look flat even though it dropped a good 8-9 feet which is where Joey had decided to stop. One more step before I got there and I would have missed all the fun.

We finished up our day without anyone drowning or catching a single trout. This last part isn’t a surprise considering our complete lack of skill or knowledge. This was about the point we realized we weren’t good at creek fishing with fly rods, switching our efforts to local ponds and lakes with more success on warm water fish. We did get fairly good at catching bluegill or an odd bass or two but moved on before long to casting and spinning tackle never really going back to fly rods.

All my friends talking about fly fishing makes me want to pick one up again to revisit my youth as a would be fly slinger. Watching them post great pics of flies they are tying or have ordered just adds to my wanting to give it another go. Maybe I will get a chance to pick up a half decent outfit to join back in their fun, catch a few fish, add to the selection on my rod rack, tackle boxes and memories.


MNAngler said...

Wow. An 8' drop off without any surface indication. That's crazy.

Digital Dave said...

I grew up in central Alabama. I picked up a fly rod at age 8 and quickly mastered the art of top water fly fishing with cork poppers. Greatest memories of my youth are the countless days spent with my Dad on quiet, clean, watershed lakes at the foot of numerous mountians near my house, catching stringers of Bass and Bream. The best technique I've found is to fish shady banks from a boat! Open water behind you so no snags in trees and bushes etc. The bigger bass sometimes take 60 to 90 seconds to decide to take the bait as it sits on the water.. cast near the bank and wiggle it out 5 or 6 feet from the bank as if a grasshopper had jumped in and was swimming out stop and wait for an explosion from below. Finding a Bream bed in the spring is quite the "Honey Hole" often catching the limit in a couple of hours. Smaller bass and panfish will most times hit the bug as soon as it settles on the water. The hour or so after sundown (twilight) was ALWAYS my most productive time for Bass. I would catch Bass when there was no longer enough enough light to see my popper... I just hear the strike. :) On a lake... from a boat... trolling the banks. No better way to spend the day!

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Born and raised in middle Tennessee.I'm a working wildlife and landscape artist specializing in watercolors. Now making cedar lures and custom turkey calls.



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