Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Crawl Before You Walk

When I purchased my first fly rod, some thirty three years ago, it was a gaudy creation by Johnny Hooker, a local Portland rod maker. Johnny bought all the factory seconds fiberglass blanks that he could get his hands on from Lamiglas up in Woodland, Washington. These blanks, while structurally sound, usually were linearly challenged meaning they were not close to being straight. I had really no idea what it was I was after but I knew I wanted to catch steelhead on a fly rod so old Johnny set me up an eight foot seven weight with a severe left turn permanently built in the tip.
Now mind you I had never even caught a trout on a fly much less a steelhead but I wanted to skip elementary school arithmetic and dive right into college trigonometry.
Needless to say things did not go as planned. I should have started out pursuing trout and going on from there. Could have saved myself more than a little frustration I think.
I see a lot of people doing the same thing these days and after a season of frustration, which usually includes a windy day on the Deschutes, these folks discard the notion that they too can be the second coming of Paul Maclean. Their enthusiasm for fly fishing is shattered and their gear ends up on ebay or craigslist.
Not all of them are stubborn like me and doggedly pursued this addiction called fly fishing.
It's really too bad that this happens because they are depriving themselves of the joy of angling that, in my opinion at least, cannot be matched.
The legend and lore of fly fishing has filled countless books that inspire the imagination of each generation that reads them. Where else will you find names that will be recognized by those of us that love this sports. What serious fly fisherman is not familiar with names such as Wulff or Kreh or Haig-Brown.
While it's true that the movie "A River Runs Through it" brought droves to the river when it came out in 1992 you have to wonder how many got fed up with tailing loops and wind knots so they gave it up.
When I am asked by newcomers about steelhead I always try to counsel them to experience the joys of trout first before becoming the hopeless masochist that is the steelhead fly angler.
I also think those that get past the clumsiness of those first years become, not only better anglers, but also learn to appreciate the fact that fly fishing encompasses many things beyond catching fish. The learn to care deeply for the fish, the river and the environment.
So the next time you encounter a neglected fly rod or reel at a garage sale think about the hope that rod once provided and take comfort in knowing you crawled before you could walk and became the angler you are today.

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