Aug 17, 2011

First Fish on a Fly Rod

My friend Eric and I have been fly fishing off and on for the past couple of years.  We are both, more or less, beginners.  I grew up salmon and trout fishing Washington State and I consider myself to be a decent fisherman when it comes to conventional styles of fishing.  However, learning to fly fish has been humbling. 

A few years ago, my wife bought me a nice Orvis 6 weight rod and an Orvis reel.  I was really excited to receive it.   I bought myself a fly fisherman's vest and a bunch of the accompanying tools and gadgets.  I also did just enough research to be dangerous and bought myself some flies.  I was eager to head out and find a river.  My first trip was out to the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River.  It was beautiful.  The water was that amazing blue green color that is both peaceful and inviting for any fisherman.  Here are a couple of pictures from that day. 
Eric fishing on one of our first trips.
Middle Fork Snoqualmie River

Eric and I have made several trips out to the Snoqulamie with no luck. We saw fish, threw flies at them, but never anything more than a rise. More recently, we read about the Cedar River and decided to give it a try. The Cedar is a protected fishery and the rules are catch and release fly fishing only. Because of these rules, the trout can grow to an impressive size. There are stories and reports of fly fisherman catching fish of well over 20 inches even into the four pound realm. Obviously, hearing that kind of report gets the mind racing.

Two weeks ago, Eric and I made another trip out to the Cedar. It was a beautiful day about 5:30pm. The sun was shining and it was about 79 F. We decided to try a new spot and hiked in about a mile further than usual. We found a trail leading down below an old railroad bridge and hiked down. It was a stretch of river about 500 yards long that had some slow moving water and one deep pool. It was so nice out, I decided to wade out into the river in my tennis shoes. As the night progressed, the fish became more active and were feeding pretty aggressively. I was using a caddis type fly, casting it up to the top of the deepest pool, and letting it drift down toward the edge of the pool where the water started to speed up. I had cast my fly out a little further this time. When it was just about in the middle of the drift, Eric commented with one of his usual witty and comical quips and distracted me for a second. Just as I looked back at my fly, it was swallowed up. I yelled out, "Oh my god!" As strange as it may sound, I was not expecting that to happen. I immediately raised my rod tip. The fish began to run and pulled out all of the extra line I had stripped off. I was then able to use my reel to bring it in. I couldn't have been any more excited to catch my first nice trout on a fly rod.

I released it as gently as I could after Eric managed a picture with his I-phone. The fly slipped out of the lip and the fish was off like a shot. I took a break after the release. I thought to myself, "did I do something right? Or was that dumb luck?" I went back to the same spot and started fishing again. About fifteen minutes later, I had another hard strike. This one was different. It was much stronger. My rod felt much more stressed as I worked with the stripped line and let the fish run a little. The fish came out of the water and I caught a glimpse. It was a darker fish. It was the deep reflective purple that a more mature rainbow often has. It also looked like it was about twice the size of the one I caught. In my inexperience, I fumbled with the line and tried to use the reel to pull up the slack and bring the fish in. I let the line go slack and lost the fish. Eric yelled out, "That is the one you needed to bring in!  Your pole was bent over double!"

All of the excitement re-invigorated my passion for the sport. As difficult and as frustrating as it has been, this trip made it all worthwhile. I think it's akin to golf. Golf is a tough game that can be very difficult, at times. But, hitting that one or two great shots a round is what brings you back. Eric and I were back at the same spot the following week. The temperatures were about ten degrees lower and the fish were not nearly as active. We didn't catch anything, but I am sure will be back at it soon.

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