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Fly Fishing

I enjoy fly-fishing. I'm not very good at it, but it fascinates me—trying to get a fish to bite a bunch of feathers tied to a hook. You tie those feathers onto the hook in such a way as to make the fly look like a bait fish, an insect, a shrimp, or some other natural fish food. They don't really look very natural to me, but then again, I'm not a fish. Maybe fish need glasses.

I have lots of fly fishing rods and reels. Fly rods come in different sizes, depending on the weight of the line you're casting. A three weight is a very light line, good for trout fishing in streams. A twelve weight is a big line that can be used to fish for tarpon. I have lines from three- to twelve-weight, with six-foot to twelve-foot rods. Light lines, small rod; heavy lines, big rod. I also have at least a dozen fly reels ranging in value from around $70 to about $1,000.

Now, let me tell you a story.

Years ago, when my youngest daughter was about seven years old, I wanted to go fly-fishing. I had just bought about $1,200 worth of new fishing equipment. My wife insisted that I take my daughter with me. How can I do that? I demanded. She doesn't know how to fly fish! But when the wife insists, there are no options.

I didn't have a rod for her, so I cut down a six-foot tree branch and tied a string onto the end. I then tied a hook onto the line and grabbed a can of corn to use for bait. Off we went in search of the elusive trout.

When we got to the fishing spot, I set my daughter up to sit on a rock, put a piece of corn on her hook, and told her to just dangle it in the water. Once she was all set, I moved down the stream a short ways and began fly-casting. I looked magnificent! New fishing vest covered in trout flies, new rod, new reel. I looked like I should have been in an Orvis ad.

“Daddy, I got one!”

I looked over, and sure enough, she had a trout on her hook. Beginner's luck. I unhooked the trout for her, put another piece of corn on her hook, and went back to looking magnificent.

“Daddy, I got one!”

Once again, she was right. Another release, and now I'm pissed. I've got all this wonderful equipment and she's already caught two with a damn tree branch and a piece of string? I should sign her up for Survivor.

Long story short, that fine summer day my daughter caught seven trout. Me? I didn't catch any. It was then that I discovered two things: 1) the fish have no idea how much money you spent on your equipment, and 2) trout really, really like corn. I don't think I've brought her fishing with me since.

Any fly fisherman worth his flies will learn to tie his own. So one day I made a pilgrimage to L. L. Bean, the mecca of fly fishing. I needed a vise, hooks, thread, scissors, hair stacker, head cement, feathers, marabou, deer hair, tinsel, and everything else they had in the store. When I got it all home, I realized that I had nowhere to put all my new stuff. At L. L. Bean they had all kinds of storage options, but I had forgotten to get one. Big, plastic storage cabinet, coming up.

My first attempts at tying a fly are not worth discussing. My fingers aren't that big, but they're way too big for tying flies. Perseverance and practice eventually paid off, however, and I was finally able to tie a pretty good streamer (that's a fly that imitates a bait fish). I now have hundreds of streamers, and if I need something different, I buy it from a guy who knows what he's doing.

You may have figured out that, with all the money I've spent on all my stuff and the small number of fish I've caught, the fish works out to somewhere around $1,765.00 per pound. But that's not the point. Standing on the bank of a stream all alone in the middle of the woods or sight fishing for striped bass on a salt water flat is an experience unlike anything else in life. And that's why they call it “fishing” and not “catching.”


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