So the Pelham Fly Fishing Show is this coming Saturday and Sunday and I have stocked up with some new stories, videos, pictures and flies to share. As I have done in the past, I plan to have a Pelham Show Deal. My plan is to take $25 off of any trip that is booked with me during the Pelham Show. SO if you are thinking about going on a trip with me this year, you can save a few dollars and a date in my book, by letting me know at the show! I hear there are a lot of great presenters as well this year. Tom Jutras will be giving casting lessons once again as well as sharing a booth with me. Stop on by and we can chew the fat for a while! I still have openings for the the last full week in April and that is my school vacation, so I have a few weekdays available as well! See you all at the show!
Friday, February 8, 2013
6:00 AM. My watch alarm would have gone off had I not woken up two minutes before it. It was the last day of my final trip of the year in Pittsburg and my father and I were planning on making the best of it. Well, I certainly was at least. My father is the type who would much rather have a rifle in his hand and be sitting in the woods waiting for a monster buck to wander within range. I on the other hand only step foot in the woods when there is no viable option to be fly fishing anywhere else. As I got up and started putting my gear together, sorting through fly boxes and making sure I had all of the flies tied the previous evening, my father took his time and sat to eat a donut and have a cup of O.J. The sun was not yet up and there was certainly ice on my truck windshield. “Are you ready to go?” I asked. “It’s 6:07”, my father responds with a glare. “Exactly, we are late. We should be walking out to the river right now.” I respond hoping to increase his sense of urgency. I am the type of person that likes to take advantage of every sunlit minute if I am fly fishing. I do not like to arrive to fishing spots late and I certainly do not like to be waiting on others. My father is rather new to the sport of fly fishing and I try my best to make sure he is having fun. I want him to understand why this is my passion. I want to teach him everything I know so that he can find the same type of fulfillment in the sport that I have. Some things are easier said than done.
I am a fly fishing guide and have taught countless numbers of beginners how to fly fish. It seems so effortless and easy with strangers. As most know there is just something about trying to teach a relative or significant other that can be a hair-pulling endeavor. I feel as though it may be the high standard that I set for my father that makes it tricky. He is my dad, the one who has taught me most everything I have learned growing up. He should automatically be good at fly fishing, shouldn’t he? Well maybe not good but at least pick up on everything faster than all of the strangers I have taught over the years. That’s where I always have to stop and take a look at the big picture. It has dawned on me now that I have to actually pay more special attention and be even more patient with him than with others. This is a fact that I still struggle to remember while on the water.
Ok, so back to the story. After I took a second to down a donut and a glass of ice water, we threw on our waders ,boots and jackets and packed the rest of our gear in my truck. The sun was starting to rise and we had about a twenty minute or so drive to the specific trail on the river where we would hike in. The fly fishing season was dwindling in Pittsburg, but the action on the river would surely be increasing daily. The salmon were in, but had been really picky the previous two days of our trip. We fished all of the “hot” spots and did land some nice landlocks and rainbows to boot. But my “go to” spots that always produce at that time of year were doing just the opposite. I love a challenge. Especially when it comes to fly fishing and figuring out where the fish are and what they are taking. It was time to take evasive maneuvers and try some of the lesser known areas that I really only fish when I am alone. The primary reason that I usually do not take clients or friends to these spots is just that they are really “out there”. The majority of the people I guide are beginners and lots of them are not in what I would call “hiking shape”. My father however, is sixty years old and still runs 5k road races. For his age, I do not meet many people who could keep up with him on the roads. Trails and rivers however are a completely different ballgame. My dad has learned the hard way, a few times, that rivers are tough to wade if you don’t do it a lot. He has a knack of winding up wet in some of the most comical situations. He also hates snakes, which does provide humor occasionally as well. (Remind me to tell you the snake story some time if you want a good laugh.)
After our short drive we get out of the truck and rig up. There is frost on all of the grass and I can tell that no one has walked in before us. A sense of relief rushes over me, knowing that the pool we will be fishing wouldn’t hold more than two anglers. As we start our walk down the trail, I can smell what I call the “remnants of summer”. Balsam and cedar, along with all of the other aromas that a northern forest can produce. The hike in is peaceful. Like our hunting adventures, we walk quietly but with a little more pep in our step as to not waist anymore sunlight. When I got the first glimpse of the river I could see steam rising and calm pools. “Perfect”, I thought to myself. I stopped at the water’s edge to observe. “Looks good doesn’t it?” my dad asked. “Just about as nice as you could get”, I added.
Now it was time for business. Although my father likes to think, and tell others, that he doesn’t catch as many fish as I do because I always fish all the pools ahead of him, there is a method to my madness. The majority of the time when I am with him, I will rush to a pool that I know is second best. It may be downstream and ahead of him, but in reality it leaves him with the honey holes. I am not sure if he knows that this is my intention and I do not plan on telling him as it makes it more fun for me. I moved down and around a bend letting the gentle force of the Connecticut guide me along. Once I arrive to the location I wanted to fish I immediately knew that my father would have a good chance in a very productive run just below me. I waved him over and we took a look at what he had on. As most of you know salmon will hit lots of different rigs. I am constantly changing flies if nothing is happening in order to make something happen. My father is the polar opposite. He will use the same fly that he has had tied on and try to make it work wherever he is fishing. I will often ask him, “What are you using?” “Same thing as last week”, he will respond. “Have you actually changed that fly since last week?” I continue. “Hasn’t broken off yet, really don’t see any need to”, he justifies. I just laugh and keep fishing most of the time, but in this instance I know what will work and I ask him to give me some line so I can make the change for him. My father’s two favorite flies are a San Juan and an egg pattern. Making all traditionalists cringe each time he tells them this with a novice smile. He later told me that he likes those the best for two reasons. 1. He can see them in the water and set the hook better and 2. They are damn easy to tie. Both are credible reasons.I switch him over and head up stream a little to give him some space. As I am standing in the water just looking at the scene in front of me, I always think of how lucky I am to be able to witness the things I see in the wilderness. I try to explain this scene to co workers and friends who only ever wander into the woods if they need a bathroom break on a long drive. It never sticks. The solitude, the enjoyment of just being there and soaking it all in so that I can think back on snowy winter nights such as this one and have just that to look forward to again in the spring is what it’s all about. It is tough for me to think that so many people that I care about will never be able to experience those special moments.
But back to fishing. I hear a yell from downstream and snap my head around. To my surprise my father is not hooked into a fish, in fact his line is not even in the water. He is pointing downstream and backing out of the river. As I look down the bend a cow moose is leading a bull across the river. A sight that is fairly common on the Connecticut, but my father seemed a bit nervous about it. “Cool!” I shout back over the sound of the current. We watch them walk out of sight into the low cut brush to our backs hoping they don’t pop back out behind us while we are fishing.
We settle back into the rhythm of casting and it isn’t long before I hear my father shout again. “Got one!” is his line of choice when announcing his connection to a fish. Everyone has their own line when this happens. I find myself announcing less in less as the years go on, but when I do it’s usually, “Here we go!” When I turn back to see how he is handling the fish I can tell by the look on his face that he has a nice one on. Immediately the salmon shows himself. Flailing through the air, desperately trying to shake the hook from his mouth. “Get him on the reel!” I coach from upstream. I walked down to see if he wanted help landing him, but at this point in his learning process I would much rather have him do it all himself. He brings the salmon into his net and looks over at me. It is the largest landlock he has ever caught. Somewhere around 18” I would guess. “Now that is why I take you fly fishing for salmon”, I smile. “I never knew it would be like that!” he starts. “It was like the entire rod was shaking and I could feel every move that fish made! Salmon are a little bit different than trout I guess huh?” “That’s what I’ve been trying to get you to understand!” I grinned. We released the fish after a quick picture and went back to fishing our respected pools.The joyful yells of my father hooking into large salmon would continue on for the rest of the morning. Fish leaping and making drag testing runs would push my father’s newly learned skills to their max. In the end he landed six salmon all of which were over 15”, the largest measuring around 19”. Thinking back I really do not have any idea how many I landed that morning and I do not care to know. That day was all about being there with my father. Sharing with him my passion and knowing that for at least that morning he understood.