How Hard Could It Be? Learning to flyfish

Written by Sheila Chapman on  at

I haven't been fishing since I was twelve years old and let's just say I'm close to quadrupling that age now. Living in the mecca for fly fishing, I jumped at the chance when I was invited to go. I really didn't have any gear, only the tackle box my Dad bought me for my twelfth birthday (yes, the same trip that made it my last until now), of course it's now full of art supplies so I decided not to take it. My boyfriend set me up with all the gear I needed and the terminology: indicator (aka bobber), nymph (I remember these being worms), split shot (aka weight), and dry fly (mimic the bugs on top of the water - hate those bugs when swimming). After being quizzed on my new fly fishing vocabulary we arrived at the river, put in the boat, and started some fishing... um, I mean, fly fishing.

Once we were on the water I learned time: 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock, don't break the wrist, and drop the fly in the right spot. Easy enough until you're trying to get the weight, I mean split shot, to float through the air. After some tangles and a lot of "I got it, I got it" toward my boyfriend, I truly did get. I had the fishing line and tippit (yes, another new term I learned, but I like to say, "the clear line tied to the yellow line") moving like a pendulum through the air before I cast to the perfect spot. Now, the perfect spot would actually be where my boyfriend told me to place the fly, but I came to soon realize that maybe the perfect spot was where the fly actually landed. Hitting the perfect spot is not easy, believe me, when I got remotely close to where he told me to place the fly he was rather shocked and congratulatory.

Hooking my first fish was, let's say, a miscommunication as I wasn't equipped with the new terminology my boyfriend was excitedly expressing to me. Down. He excitedly said "down", I took my rod (never call it a pole) and pointed it down and lost the fish. I now know in the fly fishing world, "down" actually means "up." Yes, I was supposed to pull up on the rod when the indicator goes down. As the day went on I received some good bites, but I wasn't able to hook the fish. Tired of standing I asked if I could try rowing for a bit. Happily my boyfriend relinquished the oars and took to the front of the boat. Five minutes later he was pulling in a beautiful Rainbow Trout out of the water. Man, I'm a good rower. Put him right where he needed to be.

After a short bit, he gave the fly rod back to me, determined I would catch my first fish in (cough, cough) number of years. I cast out with good 10 and 2 pendulum form trying my best to place the fly in the right spot and mending perfectly (another term for making sure the yellow line is ahead of the clear line. I got pretty good at this). I hear "down" and pull up fast. Fish on! I start pulling line in and reeling in excess fly line. I'm completely out of my head excited. It's not just a fish, but a good-sized fish. I'm all of the sudden a professional fisherwoman calling for the net.

As it gets closer to the boat I ask what kind of fish it is and he says with a sigh, "a Whitefish". How cool is that, my first Whitefish and I moved to Big Sky from Whitefish. I'm just beaming until I look over at the disgust on my boyfriend's face. Each person I've told this story to give the same disgusted look, like Whitefish are rats in the water. No good. I insist he takes a picture.

"But it's a Whitefish, you don't want a picture with a Whitefish," he says.

"Oh, no, brother, I don't care. I caught this fish and I want a picture," I retort back.

He took the picture. A beautiful picture of me and my first fish I've caught since I was twelve and fly fishing to boot. I held it proudly for the camera with the biggest smile on my face and a death grip on this poor Whitefish. As he releases my fish into the water it starts to go belly up. I'm in a panic. I've killed it. This is supposed to be catch and release and I killed the first fish I've caught. I'm devastated. My boyfriend kept chuckling and saying "don't worry, it's just stunned from your death grip." Within a couple of more minutes it begins to wiggle and finally swims away. All smiles again, I crack a beer.
-Sheila

Sheila