Learning a new technique and trying to employ it always reminds me of riding a bike. My heart rate is slightly accelerated, the sense of uncertainty or potential embarrassment is present in my mind. Ever since I can remember, I really dislike being bad at things. There is a lot of self-judgment going around in my mind. The calmer, wiser portion of me knows I won’t skin my knee by making a bad cast or missing a fish, but the scared kid falling on his bike in the road is still hanging on.
I set my goals for the year, and I remind myself to focus on those whenever I feel like I’m repeating a fishing pattern or getting stuck in a non-learning space. One of my goals was to attempt and learn more about wet fly fishing. To prepare for wet fly fishing, I’ve spoken to friends who are skilled at the technique, watched several videos from Davy Wotton, and read some blogs online. The basic technique involves casting downstream at an angle (45 degrees is often mentioned) and allowing the line to swing across the current. An angler should mend the line to keep the flies, often two or three flies are used, in one seam. As the flies move with the current, the line becomes tight, and the flies ascend in the water column to simulate emerging aquatic insects. The rising motion triggers feeding fish to eat the flies to prevent the insects from leaving the water column to fly from the water surface.
The technique is a traditional style, utilized for many years in the United Kingdom and throughout the world. James Leisenring and Vernon Hidy wrote a wonderful book, The Art of Tying the Wet Fly and Fishing the Flymph. I followed their fly tying and fishing recommendations, reiterated by my friend, Dr. Stephen Wright and put them into practice.
I found a nice run along a stream I fish frequently and tested out my technique, building off what I learned last year fishing for shad. Within the first handful of casts a fish aggressively hit my fly. My instincts from years of nymph and dry fly fishing were to quickly raise my rod to set the hook. This rapid motion pulled the fly right out of the fish’s mouth without hooking them. I was reminded that with swinging flies the fish often hook themselves by grabbing the fly and turning downstream. Using a “trout set” will often break the line or pull the fly away from the hungry fish. Fishing for shad the year before was different as the shad hit so quickly and with force that I had no time to react, I just held on.
Within moments another fish struck my fly, and I did the same thing, rapidly pulling away the fly. My heart began to race, and I could feel my face flush. No skinned knees, but wounded pride. How did I do that again?
I took a deep breath, and said to myself, “let it hook itself and slow down.” Fish began to rise around me, and I contemplated switching to dry flies, but I resisted. Soon my patience paid off as I hooked and landed my first trout on a wet fly. It was a small 7–8-inch trout, but it felt like a big victory. I moved toward my goal and caught my first trout on a wet fly. Deep breaths and repeating reminders in my mind calmed me down and helped my focus.
Completing a task and achieving a goal for the first time is rewarding and memorable. Holding the small trout in my hand as I realized it back to the stream, I felt the moment becoming etched into my permanent recall. I remember my first trout caught, my first fish on a dry fly and streamer, my first fish over 20”, and now my first fish on a wet fly. There are several other memorable moments of catching fish in different circumstances. The memories bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart.
This week I also had another first in my life. My stepdaughter graduated from high school. My first child is graduating and preparing to go to college. It was a beautiful ceremony, and I am proud of how responsible, hardworking, and successful she has become. I was filled with emotions of appreciation, excitement and love for her accomplishment. The first family events helped to remind me that the firsts of fishing are not anywhere near as important. I need to lighten up. The sense of fear or not being good enough for fishing is inconsequential compared to being there for your family. Congratulations Kayla!
Happy Memorial Day! Thank you to all who have sacrificed for our country!