“Get Out Of Here Punky Kid” (& Other Things Not To Say)

IMG_0062Do you remember when you first discovered fly fishing? Was it with a family member when you were a child? Was it through a friend? A girlfriend? Boyfriend? Or was it that it looked just plain cool and gave you a reason to be outside and explore? But think about it.

My first time fly fishing was when I was maybe 11 years old. In my family, there were two specific rules; To play pool on the big table, your belt buckle had to clear the top of the table, and to cast the fly rod you needed to know it was a fly rod and not something to poke my brother with from a distance. So with that established, I was taught first thing to respect the all the equipment. Very, very important.

My father was not a sportsman, he was a business man. “Games”, he would say, were only a game and only something to do once you have a good job… Thank god for my uncle. My uncle grew up in the wilds of rural Minnesota and moved to Colorado with his family when I was a really young. But one fact, in his soul of souls, he LOVED to fish. He fished for anything that would possibly bite what he had on as bait; bullhead, catfish, trout, sunfish, bass, anything and everything. He is the one I have to thank for teaching me, first hand, how to fish. But I need to be clear, he taught me bait fishing, not fly fishing.

When I was a kid fishing with my uncle at a lake by our house, I first noticed a guy fly fishing on the inlet of the lake. I remember that fly fishing looked really hard and not productive. Using the only reference I had was how many fish I had on the stringer? Me- 6, him-0.

You need to keep something in context, catch and release in the 1970’s was almost considered unimaginable. “Why would you let it go? You caught it?” is pretty much what you would say to a fly fisherman. I would watch them casting back and fourth, always picking up their line, do it again and again, hardly enough time for a fish to swim by and see it. Stupid.

Then I asked if I “could try it”? Bold for a strange, awkward kid to ask an adult he didn’t know to even touch his expensive gear, but I think he might of saw something. Maybe it was the way I watched how he used the rod, the rhythm of it all. Or maybe it was that I   really took interest in the flies he was using, they weren’t wet, slimy worms, they were cool looking things made of feathers and wire. I fell in love with the sport. And now I can’t remember the last time I put a worm on a hook or when I sat on the bank waiting for something too happen. I tie my own flies and have been a professional guide for over 24 years. I’m sure that guy at the inlet had no idea what he had started.

As a side note: I spent most all of my youth in my dad’s workshop making anything out of everything. I was the youngest woodworker in my shop classes to be certified to use all the power tools. My dad may have not been an outdoorsman but he was a great “indoorsman” that made sure I knew how to use tools, make things and solve problems mechanical and such. I still use those skills today.

You’re probably wondering where I going with this? It’s simple; Don’t discount youth, don’t misunderstand the slightest interest, share what you know and always be patient. You may never know that what you share will directly affect a person in ways you will never know.