Beginners Fly Fishing Experience
By Anon – for reasons which will become obvious
My story of a beginners fly fishing experience!
Several years ago I was invited salmon ﬁshing on the Rakaia River for the day, my host assured me that due to the first release of commercial salmon returning to spawn, “the ﬁsh are huge and with about three and a half million of them we’ll catch heaps, we’ll need to take your truck” he said.
I’d never been salmon fishing and, not wanting to look the novice in front of my streetwise mate, I made a Friday night visit to a prominent sport shop to get some gear.
Well, not knowing a ticer from a treble the assistant soon fitted me up, (more completely than I realised), quite a fist full of dollars lighter, I staggered out clutching my super strike hyper strong rod, reel, a kilometre of nylon, net, waders (expensive chest ones of course “you have to get out to the big ones”), several dozen irresistible killer lures that he assured me, were so effective they bordered on being declared illegal and last but not least, a fishing license. Almost everything needed for beginners fly fishing.
Though we were on a first name basis, I haven’t yet worked out why he kept incanting fishing lore under his breath, words like spoon, dippy, right one, but he loved discussing fishing, his eyes glittered and his breathing was short as his hands ﬂittered over the immense heap rising on the counter.
I felt completely bewildered when I walked out of the sports department yet my wits were razor sharp by the time I arrived home.
How to scatter my acquisitions throughout the garage so as not to attract the attention of a certain state registered housewife. Fishing novice I may be but 20 years of marriage had honed in me healthy regard for impeccable timing when introducing new purchases to the household.
That Sunday morning, to be followed with countless other stolen hours, I ﬂailed the Rakaia Waters to foam “can’t understand it“ my mate moaned “must be the trawlers”. I have yet to catch my first salmon.
One Sunday afternoon, on a dutiful visit to the botanic gardens, I idly gazed at the many trout cruising safely under the footbridge when the penny dropped, trout would be easy to catch, at least I can see them!
Another trip to another sports shop, another super whippy rod, another reel, another box of lures etc and I metamorphosed into a spin fisherman. Selwyn River, Waimakariri, Waiau, Hurunui, Styx River, Ashburton etc. been to the lot, nary a sign, my rod is still virginal, so to speak.
“No, the idea is an expedition to the high country, Lake Coleridge”, I announced.
That next weekend, the truck loaded with the boat, outboard, tent, bed, cooker, minimal food – no meat needed, “I’ll eat fish” I announced, I headed for the high country – frozen slicker pads, empty chilly bin and plastic bags at the ready.
Arriving at a delightful bay on the northern side, I surveyed the glassy waters and decided to camp out on the point to the left, about a kilometre from the launching beach. Loading the boat up, I headed off, motoring quietly so as not to disturb the beautiful calm.
On water so clear it felt like ﬂying, I decide to troll a little black metal ﬁsh called a “Toby” and WOW still within 100 metres of the beach and less than 20 minutes of arriving – I caught my first trout! I gallantly played the little fellow, gently drawing him alongside to inspect. About 300mm long, not at all like I expected him to look, he was magnificent.
Looking around proudly, I noticed a couple of people on the shore watching me, so puffing up even larger I magnanimously release him, “Heck, if I can catch them this easy I’ll get plenty to keep tomorrow, besides I will want them fresh to take home.”
Pitching camp on the point, I was quickly back on the water trolling up and back, and up and back, and up and back, for 11 hours through to midnight and a further four hours on Sunday. Not a skerrick!
The start of a beginners fly fishing:
A bad case of sunburn, yes.
A very sore arse, yes.
A broken top section of the rod, yes.
R.S.I. of the wrist from the winding, yes.
But any more fish, not on your life.
Around 11 am on Sunday the wind very suddenly rose from the north-west, and soon was blowing about 20 knots.
Before I realised, the bay I had camped in was untenable with quite large rollers dumping on the shore.
Teeth gritted, lifejacket quickly relegated from cushion to coat I plugged into the still rising wind and managed to finally surf back onto the beach by the trailer.
I mentally thanked the Seabird dinghy designer for its excellent seaworthy qualities I had just experienced and, with great difficulty, retrieved the boat.
Suitably chastened, I then had the job of trudging back along the shore to retrieve my camping gear.
What had previously been effortless in the boat, weighed a ton on my back, plus simple items like a pillow are incredibly difficult to carry over any distance.
Harassed by vicious rabbits, malevolent sheep, sunburn, exhaustion, hunger and dehydration, I was shattered! “No, I would A take-up flyfishing. A gentleman’s sport. That was how trout were caught.”
In my fevered state, I retreated home but determined to return. Yes, that’s right, another sports shop and another array of mysterious equipment.
But this was it, the real thing, everything before had merely been coarse fishing, for the towelling hat brigade at Christmas holidays etc.
Experience gathered at two previous sport shops enabled me to inveigle the salesman into setting up the rod and reel in the shop, plus he offered to splice the line on. Stiﬂing my initial ignorance betraying comment, I casually replied: “Oh, yeah thanks”.
WelI, my eyes were like a hawk’s, I was dumbfounded at the long process involved. My knowledge made quantum leaps in those ten minutes.
I learned about backing “for when you latch onto a big one and have to let him run” about double taper ﬂoating lines, about leaders, tippets. I watched in amazement as he spliced two lines together with something like an Indian prayer wheel that dispensed cotton. Then as a parting gift, he gave me,
Holy of Holies, 6 flies to get started at beginners fly fishing.
I spring eternal and within days I had mastered a fairly basic casting technique.
“No, the local fish are overfished…” I announced, “I’ll have to go to the backcountry to really get the wild trout. We’ll take a holiday fishing trip through the Haast”.
“No, you go by yourself, I’ll take the holiday and stay home,” she said.
One morning on the shore of Lake Paringa, a Mount Cook tour bus pulled up on the side of the road and disgorged a gaggle of aged American tourists.
Then to my astonishment and acute embarrassment, a number of video cameras purred as I, standing up to my waist in a mirror lake, gave several nervous but perfect long casts to something that kept dimpling the surface some distance away.
After a short stay, they trooped back aboard with calls of “So long.. Good fishing… ” and motored on, (if only they knew!).
About two weeks into my pilgrimage to Mecca, I finally arrived, fishless, at Mitchells on Lake Brunner.
At this stage, I could kit up in seconds and be quickly trudging around the lake edge along the boardwalk when suddenly not three metres away I spotted a huge brown trout. I froze until he cruised by then quickly fumbled on a pheasant tail and flipped it out onto his beat and waited. The first real fish in a whole season. Fifteen minutes passed, I slowly broiled in my waders. Wait! here he comes directly online for the nymph…. when he gets to within a metre, a slight twitch…
“Hey! can’t you read? You can’t fish that close to a stream mouth. It’s in the local rules”. Disturbed, the fish hightails yonder. I slowly turn to glare at the old codger toddling unconcerned past. Gritting my teeth and my answer, I move on.
Several hours later, many witnessed fish later, many fruitless attempts later, my spirits were definitely in a waned condition. Was I to always be a novice? Perhaps I could get a refund on my license, I mused.
I began to work back to the car and noticed a clump of reeds 2 metres out from the shore and more in desperation I eased out to stand right in the centre of it. I parted the reeds carefully and froze like a dog at the point. Several large browns cruised unconcerned not a metre away in about knee-deep water. What to do, how to cast to them? I began to feel panicky.
Keeping the rod down, I unclipped my trusty pheasant tail from the keeper and, with my rod hand right behind me, I guided the nymph over the top of the reeds and lowered it into the water virtually beside me. In the narrow vision between the reeds, I could no longer see any fish but watched my bedraggled P.T. settle on the bottom.
After a minute I gave it the lightest twitch and hell broke loose. A golden streak ﬂashed into view and snatched P.T. and was off. The reel screamed I screamed, my rod bucked and arched, I lunged out of the reeds falling and stumbling about in the mud. So much for all the rehearsed actions, count to three and strike… bloody hell!
Finally, a thread of reason ﬂickered through my gibbering mind and I began playing him in until finally I gazed in wonderment at my first real trout, netted and finally mine. It weighed 3 and 1/2 lb and a magnificent buttery golden brown.
A fixed and goofy grin on my sunburnt face, I drove slowly home at the end of that season, about $2,000 lighter, about 200 hours spent on the water and one fish to show for it.
My fishing odyssey was over…. or was it just beginning of beginners fly fishing?