When I was first learning to fly-fish, I'm not going to lie, I was often very, very frustrated. I was constantly getting tangled up in trees and snapping my fly off and retying patterns that didn't seem to work. I was trying to finesse my fly into the water and worried constantly about my presentation. If my cast flopped I would immediately strip it in and start over.
Larry was the husband of my mother's second cousin, saying that doesn’t do it justice because he was more than a relative he was a true friend. His kids are my age and growing up they were my friends. At family reunions they were the ones that I constantly tried to keep up with. Military service and distance made us grow apart but we’ve remained friends. Their father however, was a fast friend with my dad and through the years they camped, traveled, and did a lot together.
Larry and Ginger (his wife) were the best of friends with my parents and they did everything together. But their favorite thing was to go four wheeling and camping.
It was on one of these trips that I got "untangled".
Until then, as I said before, I concentrated on the "art" of fly-fishing. I tried haphazardly to fish big open water and used small flies and leaders to attempt to create the perfect presentation.
During this trip Larry, my dad, and I woke extra early to fish the stream that ran behind our camp. We hiked a long ways downstream in the early morning light so that we could fish our way back to camp upstream. Not too much was said that morning except a few remarks about my lab/collie pup named Leary accompanying us. Upon reaching the stream we each went our separate ways. I fished behind the two older men and did manage to pick up a few brookies but also became quite enraged that I had lost three flies! The stream was closely hemmed in by towering pines and had to be be fished with roll casts and timely drifts of the bugs into the larger pools. About halfway back to camp my frustration began to boil over to the point that I had actually corked my fly into the handle of my rod and started back to camp.
About that time my pup Leary came bounding toward me and flat refused to accompany me any further upstream. He raced back down the stream and I had no choice but to follow him. We happened upon my dad who was sitting on the stream bank enjoying a cold one he had packed in his creel. I sat and decided to join him as the day was beautiful and, after all, days like that don’t happen too often.
"Where is Larry," I asked, and he simply pointed to a large rock out in the middle of the stream. There I could see nothing but a white baseball cap and the glare of Larry's glasses. He had waded into the water up to his chest (sans waders) and was fishing a large pool on our side of the stream. Almost on cue he had a strike on a large brook trout and landed it, he dropped it in his creel and stripped line for another cast. He looked up, saw us on the bank and decided against that cast and slowly made his way to the bank. While we had been sitting my dad and I compared catches so far and thought they were pretty decent for only a few hours of fishing. Larry on the other hand had a FULL creel of shiny trout all of which seemed just a tad bit larger than anything we caught.
"What fly are you using?" I enquired, as I just had to know. Larry looked right at me and said "bumblebee." He opened his fly box and the variety of flies he had were minimal to say the least. He kept a few bumblebee patterns, some San Juan worms, and a few coachmen and that’s it! He followed this with "It's not the fly it's how you fish it." I knew then and there I was done fishing for the day and would watch Larry fish in an attempt to solve some of my problems by osmosis.
What I learned that afternoon was nothing short of amazing and it held lessons that I will never forget and still hold dear today. Larry was not into finesse at all; instead of hopping from rock to rock he would simply plow right out into the stream and almost always in a place that threatened to sweep him under at any second. More than once he went down to his knees in a particularly hairy section, but would bounced right back up every single time. Soaking wet he clambered up onto the bank that final time just a few yards from camp. Watching him that afternoon not only taught me patience but how to fish the fly and most importantly: sometimes you just got to get in and get a little wet.
Until next time!
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