I am the oldest of three, recently I took my younger brother fly fishing for trout. We discussed the idea of him spin fishing but after explaining the challenge of fly fishing and accepting that a first day on the fly might result in few fish if any (for either of us) Jake decided that he just wanted to see what it was all about first hand. He arrived the night before and we enjoyed a few beers and some local food then hit the hay. 5am the alarm goes off. I gathered a bit of my gear from when I first started fly fishing; a pair of my hippers,
a vest, my old rod/reel. The thermos was filled to the brim with strong black coffee. I left Jake sleep until just before it was time to take off. Knowing the amount of rain we’ve received hasn’t been a ton but hearing whispers of high muddy water to the south I chose a spot that I knew we would run across other traffic but offered a nice cow pasture to practice casting. My other motive for choosing this spot, stocked rainbow trout, they are easier to catch, perhaps larger and usually eager to smack the SMB.
I’m no guide, not a casting instructor, and had no instruction from any “professionals”. I learned to cast on my own with some advice from the Internet and my friends and I figure if it can work for me, it can anyone. Now consider this, my brother has spent time spin fishing for other specie on lakes but had never touched a trout, never touched a fly rod that is until 6:15am on the 15th. I stuck SMB’s on both our rods and figured that in the past a down/across approach would pull a rainbow up and out basically doing most of the work for you. It would have been nice to get him a trout on the fly but being very realistic we both knew the day might end up just talking through fly fishing, reading water, explaining bugs, the trout, behaviour, anatomy, everything.
Jake started swinging a streamer and I sat behind sipping coffee (remember that thermos) trying to give advice without sounding like an overbearing ass. Careful to keep the rod tip up, watch your wrist, come to a stop on the backcast. These were the phrases that I remember using to help Jake approach casting. I did no overhand anything, I showed him how I do it a few times and sat back. I set him on a foamy run and explained that foam is home, something I was taught by a good friend. With a target and some patience he was going to do just fine that and perfect low wind day really helped.
We worked through a few spots taking our time, enjoying the sun. Love the morning sun as everything grows around me. Nothing was smacking the streamer and I knew that to get him a trout a nymph rig was necessary. I could have set him up with a single fly, made it simple but he wanted to do it the way I would have, I explained that this might result in many knots and that more care was needed with the cast. I hooked him up with a #16 PT, rocks were showing many Ephemerella Invaria nymphs, and a #16 Peacock and Partridge thinking to my recent success with that pattern. Two flies, a sinker and an indicator later, he was swinging up into the riffle so that the flies could sink in time to be deeper in the run, concepts innately ingrained in my mind. He was doing well, his cast was opening up and of course a few snags/knots were bound to occur but I spent my time watching and helping him to understand basic tactics I use to keep my self casting and not fiddling with my line.
One big thing that I advocate is patience and halting when ANY sign of trouble arises be it a snag from behind or a mess of line from a bad cast, just stop and deal with it, don’t keep swinging. It seems simple but I learned this rule the hard way early in my career fly fishing and seem to revisit learning it from time to time.
So no fish, water was stained, neither streamers or the nymph rig was working and Jake was doing everything correctly, still no trout. We discussed the concept of the drift and how to approach a spot so as to get a good presentation with a good drift. I would occasionally step in and give it a go to see if I could pull one out with what he was fishing but nothing for either of us. Cattle were about and the rain from the last week was contributing to the stained water which I figured would benefit us but by 10:30am we had done nothing but practice casting. I decided we needed to bust out and try a second location but before we could get into the truck I noticed a few rises, then…a few more. Splashy, nasty Caddis fly rises. I figured why fight it and stuck on a #16 Grey Caddis imitation and swung it twice to see if anything was
interested, first fish of the day came up for the fly as I drug it down and across through the pool, just as I was going to have Jake do the next cast. Casting a dry fly was a bit more challenging and after thirty or so minutes attempting to take a fish none were cooperating and we blew out.
Local 2, cleaner water, running 52 degrees on arrival. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew of a run that I had been to recently that was packed full of hungry trout. Figured if he could get a nymph rig in there he would hook into at least one trout. His rod was still rigged with the #16 EHC and as we stepped up to a run I’ve nicknamed the Double Stump Jake noticed the rising. As I was rigging a single nymph rig on my rod (incase the # 16 EHC produced nothing) Jake set loose on the trout. I was standing a good ways back, and not paying attention to how close he was getting to the good part of the run, I look up thinking he was getting too close when he tightened the line and took his first trout on a dry fly. Wow.
I dropped everything and busted over to get a crappy shot of him handling his first trout but before any real photography could begin he slipped and the trout went swimming. Well, awesome he got a fish, the day was not a loss but I was hoping for a fish worthy of a photo.
To my brother’s credit he stuck with it and listened well as I let him know when he was getting close to catching tree limbs or if he was getting to anxious and letting his rod tip slip too far on his backcast. He continued to do well and the trout continued to come up for his caddis fly. During this time Jake lost several fish to late hooksets and sloppy line management but was learning how to land a fish by himself. He learned to wet his hands before touching the trout so as to keep the slime coat in tact and not to play the trout to exhaustion. By 1:15pm he had caught and landed several fish all on the first run we were fishing. We moved upstream to a second location and after assessing his fly I decided though sparse if it was still taking trout it could stay on.
I took a few bug photo’s and assessed the water temp as I left Jake alone with the trout. He continued to do well landing a few more small brown trout to add to his count for the day and still had yet to loose his fly despite a couple of very sharp hooksets that left me asking if he had anything left on the end of his line. Despite the rising trout I found few adult Grey Caddisflies, one or two could be seen here and yet the trout were readily rising and Jake was doing well not to put them down, each fish landed was another good photo and a bigger smile. Was he was actually getting good at this?? I mean this blew my expectations completely out of the water, now the day was not without it’s mistakes, bad casts, knots ect. but for never having fished a stream or held a fly rod Jake was doing very well.
To round the day out Jake wanted us to both fish at the same time. We hiked upstream a bit to a spot where Wendy B. and I whacked many fish from weeks earlier. I left him to start and I rigged my rod with a single #14 Red Peacock and Partridge. I deep nymphed the tail of the run while Jake was fishing the head of it where the trout were rising. I lost two strikes then landed
the third, 11 inches, the dinner fish. Jake wanted to learn how to clean a trout, I obliged knowing that I could send him home with it and a couple of others I had in the freezer to try for himself, an opportunity to experience the day again at a later time as he cooks trout for him and his daughter, sweet. I was cleaning up and Jake went back to the fish, still swinging the #16 EHC. The day was now complete, or was it? Just as I was missing a strike Jake caught another trout, he says, “I think it’s a bit bigger.” I look over and just grin from ear to ear, I could see the bright body deep below. He got a good fight and I helped him land it in the riffle, 15inches on the dot. He wanted to keep it but I explained that this fish had many years left to grow and make more like it and that it was too cool to take home for dinner, instead we let it run up a shallow riffle down to his hole. I kept the fly and we hiked out (3:00pm), I’ll have that fly for along time. I’m still floored by the striking number of factors that aligned to really make this day one to remember, beautiful weather, a willing patient partner, active trout, CADDIS FLIES, and realistic expectations that were far exceeded. Thanks Jake for getting to know this part of my life, I’m glad you dug it, I know I did.