Woke at 4:45am to drive. I met Joel at 6am we grabbed a mug of the black stuff and headed towards flowing water. The goal for the day was to get Joel, my soon to be brother-in-law, his first trout on a fly rod. I posted a while back about lending him my old rod/reel to practice casting and I know he practiced, it showed on the stream today. I’m no guide, and I don’t have all the answers but I was hoping with some willingness and a bit of luck I might get this guy hooked. We arrived and took a water temp of ~60 degrees at 7:15am and upon assessing the stream and the fish I decided to get him a trout we were going to have to go deep and nymph fish. I brought my rod but did not rig it until later, for now I was concerned with making sure Joel could ask questions and get information and advice as we went. I rigged his rod with a #14 Caddis larva pattern with a trailing PT nymph, knowing the water I added one small split-shot and explained that casting this rig with an indicator was going to be very different from the practice casting in the yard with no weight.
I’m not the best at casting and without being overbearing I attempted to walk him through each approach to a run or hole. Joel never having fly fished before and never having fished a smaller stream needed some guidance with respect to the water and where the fish were. I explained how we move from opportunity to opportunity passing the sections of stream that the fish avoid. Riffle, Run, Pool. We went through reading the water and how depending on your casting location the current might pull your flies and keep them from sinking properly. Joel did very well casting the weighted rig with an indicator, we all know the potential for disaster, I did untangle a few knots and tie on a bit of tippet but for the most part Joel was making it look easy. Fishing a slower deeper section Joel got to practice setting the hook on creek chubs hoping one would turn out to be a trout. Determined to get him a trout I decided to pack it in here and drive to the second spot I had in mind.
Rather than sticking with the nymph rig I set him up with a #12 Stimulator to let him get the feel of drifting a dry fly. We worked upstream from our access and each time we saw a rise form I explained how we would need to target a bit upstream of that location without giving our position away or spooking the fish with the fly line and fly. Joel had his first top water strike and I could see the excitement in his face, improper line management made for a poor hook set but he was enjoying the day and we had wonderful weather.
No surface flies and the sporadic rising scenario that seems to take place during the height of the day made me choose to rig both of us with a #12 Stimulator and a trailing Sparkle Larvae after my recent success with this set-up. We found a slower moving section of stream and was very wide and deeper on the opposite side. Never having fished this before it was a crap-shoot, might get something good but we might end up slowly drifting flies for the rest of the day coming up empty-handed. I started first and within three casts I was into a nice brown trout taking the sparkle larva. I knew if Joel could get his flies to the fish it would be nothing but smiles. I worked the fish downstream and set Joel casting upstream and across explaining that with the slower water he would have to allow for some slack so he didn’t drag the flies.
I stayed downstream of Joel and after a few missteps he made a great cast and sure enough a brown launched and I had thought it took the Stimulator but it turned out later that he rose quickly to take the Sparkle larva as it entered the water. Joel set the hook and was quickly looking over his shoulder as the trout ran around him. FISH ON! I loved watching this, it made my whole day. I watched him play the fish loving the feeling, a minute later the fish surfaced and his first brown trout was a nice 14inch fish that fought him hard. I took another fish as Joel worked upstream, although he only took one fish he did lose one and missed a few other strikes but I think as a whole he had a great time. Fly fishing isn’t easy and even with someone helping you it can be frustrating, working with Joel I never once felt frustration from him, very commendable. We talked trout on the way home and I explained a few things he might want to get before heading out on his own, I also gave him a few of my maps with some good locations and directions for him.
I learned alot just watching Joel work the fly rod today, I observed behaviors that I know I need to work on, the eagerness that causes poor casts and other things that seem to go unnoticed in the moment. Watching Joel I noticed a feeling of accomplishment knowing that it was only a bit over a year ago that I was in his shoes just starting to figure the stick out. He has plans to continue working the stick and I might just have to donate my old gear to a worthy cause for the time being.