Rookies beware: there's no ego in fly fishing
I've been fishing since I was little.
Rather I should say that I have been waiting to catch fish since I was little. That would be a more accurate description of my fishing acumen - bait the hook, drop it into the water and wait.
I've performed that discipline since I was a kid growing up in Colorado, often finding a stick to poke dead things with on the shore until my bobber hinted at a bit of life.
I also did it as a teen, often finding the rod holder on the side of the boat a necessity as I picked through the bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken only to fall asleep while my worm suffered a lonely, wet death.
But, I'm getting restless in my old age.
I'm certainly not a great fisherman, but I have caught fish with my own ingenuity and savvy. From the smallmouth bass of Colorado to the halibut and salmon of the Alaskan waters near Montague Island, I'm no greenhorn to catching, landing or handling fish of most sizes.
With that in mind and my restlessness growing, I decided I'd try something foreign and mysterious to bottom fisherman - fly fishing.
How hard can it be? Well, I know now what I should have known then - fly fishing and ego don't mix.
I found the bait fishing world I used to know completely torn apart as I walked up and down the fly fishing aisle at my fishing store of choice. I peeked at the hundreds of flies for sale and felt like a teenager thumbing through a dirty magazine for the first time - amazed and curious.
"Where do I even start?" I wondered as I walked in circles, stars and price tags in my eyes. Luckily I was able to pull on the shirt tail of a friendly clerk who helped set me up with the basics - line, leaders, flies, flashy vest, etc.
I had a fly rod already on loan from a college friend in Colorado who gave me the thumbs up to learn with it knowing full well my rookie status and clumsy nature.
With my newly purchase equipment in hand, I drove south to Johnson Lake to test it out. On the way, I called my friend so he could give me the basics of the sport on the phone.
I'm not ignorant, of course. I watched a video on YouTube the night before so I could learn proper casting technique - I mean, just how hard could it be?
I told him this and he simply laughed. I would soon learn why.
"Well, good luck," he chimed, not really knowing where to begin with my request. He did however remind me of the expression that it's 1,000 casts before you get your first fish.
Stepping out into the water in my Chacos, I fastened the reel to the rod determined to prove him wrong. Step one. Heck, maybe I'll even surprise myself.
"Wait, which way does this thing go?" I thought examining the reel half blushing. "Hah, details. Just move on, Brian."
I pulled out a bit of line, and shook the fly from the tip of the rod. I closed my eyes and tried to remember how the dude in the video so smoothly advanced the line forward with minimal surface disturbance.
A few casts later, I was getting confident and cast in right beside a lily pad. It was prime territory for a fat trout, I supposed. Fifteen seconds or less later I wasn't satisfied and cast out again only to latch onto the tree branch to my four o'clock. Uttering a string of curse words as I trudged through the mud, my only choice was to cut the line.
By that time the wind had started to kick up. No problem, right?
A few casts later, as I felt the sting of the newly tied fly land itself in the fleshy top curve of my ear, I concluded differently.
Gathering my ego, I trudged on and found a location out of the wind with no trees and a patch of reeds within shot.
Casting out, my heart jumped. A flash of light came from under the water. I stuck my tongue out and tucked my ears in and landed my fly right on its nose, expecting the water to explode to life with a big trout leaping toward the heavens.
"Easy, easy," I told myself. Nothing. Again, I cast out and nothing. I strained my eyes and saw the glimmer of light again. I continued to cast toward it as I crept closer and closer. C'mon, Brian.
Then I clearly saw my fish - the silver side of the beer can. Yup, a beer can.
Dejected, discouraged and soggy, I packed it in. On the way back to the car, I saw a few kids splashing about by the shore with toy fishing nets in hand.
"Hey, did you guys catch all the fish?" I asked them with a laugh expecting no reply.
"Nuh-uh," a particularly sunburned one shouted. "You can only keep four, mister."
Shut it, kid. Don't you know nobody likes a know-it-all?