Story last updated at 3/19/2014 - 1:37 pm
From what I could gauge I needed another three feet on my cast, so I greedily flung the fly line behind me one more time and ended up wrapping the heavy steelhead rig around the dead limbs of a blown down spruce.
Fly fishing seemed an unnecessary waste of time to the teenage version of myself. The neighbor kid would wave an obscenely long rod over his head, flinging line all over the place - including tree branches. What the point of that? Of course at some point in life you will be pitted against yourself, and thus have the opportunity to confront your own words or perceptions.
A few years after I shifted from Klawock to California, I heard of some spots in the mountains with pretty brook trout and thought the best way to catch them was with a fly rod. I bought one.
I held the fly line in my hand and started to understand the principles of casting. You don't cast the fly itself, because it weighs a fraction of an ounce. You're casting the line. But before you even get to that, you have to tie neat little knots which attach the backing to the reel, the fly line to the backing, then the leader to the fly line. It took me over an hour to get the knots to look right, but I managed to get the $65 starter kit rigged.
I am far from an expert, but I catch fish and can't imagine any other method to catch fish in fresh water. The best way I can describe the difference is that my spin-casting days are about the catch, whereas fly fishing is about the process - a process that can start days before you get on the water. This is why when I started tying my own flies a buddy warned me about the fly fishing vortex. But isn't that what a hobby or passion is supposed to do? Trap you in a maelstrom of positivity while eliminating the detritus of the work week, or at least legitimately distracting you for a few hours?
One of the beauties of living in Southeast Alaska is the proximity of places with limbs in which I can ensnare brightly colored steelhead flies. If I don't feel like doing that for a few hours, I can wade pelvis deep in leaky waders to throw roll casts. Once in a while I'll put together a string of great casts, some ending when I hold the tail of a steelhead. My wet gloves then attempt to trap whatever warmth is left in my fingers as the exuberance of landing a fish keeps me out until almost dark.
It's paradise. I think not of work, or bills, hauling firewood, shoveling snow from the driveway or replacing the windshield wipers which are a half decade past their prime.
I think about my early days and wonder what I will have filled my time with had I not taken up fly fishing. Even on days I go home fishless, I'm glad it's something I don't say I never got around to. Life is too short for too many of those.
So back to my plight. I dropped the rod and walked back to my fly which hung like a beautiful ornament on an otherwise pathetic Christmas tree, untangled it, tossed it forward out of the mess and returned to fishing. Maybe it was luck, or maybe the delay in presenting the fly to the steelhead made one panic and think that if it didn't take a bite now, it would forever wonder what the heck kept drifting by it.
Regardless of which, it bit and I felt like an accomplished angler rather than a greedy fool, if only for one cast. v