As a guide here in Western North Carolina early spring is a special time. All those folks who love to fish, but not in freezing winter conditions, knock the dust off their gear and get out on the water for the first time in months. Seemingly endless potential hangs heavy in the air. Potential for all the new fly patterns created over many hours of tying on cold winter days. There is potential for a great day of fishing, potential for a great season.
Last Saturday was a perfect example of why I love guiding trips in the spring time. My client, Mike, a semi-retired pathologist from Greenville, SC had some fly fishing experience, but wanted to improve his skills and was very accepting of instruction. Because it was a half-day trip we arrived at our private water around noon and after seeing the peaceful stream the word “beautiful” was spoken more than once.
As we worked to smooth out his role cast and mend for better drifts it was not long before the strike indicator was dipping, twitching, or going for a ride upstream. He was surprised at the subtleness of some strikes. As I would call out “set” he sometimes looked at me as if to say “really?” as I watched the definitive flash of rainbow that had just taken and spit out the fly. It didn’t take long before he was ready on almost every cast. We netted a few big bows on a nymph rig, and lost some, and broke some off, all part of learning to hook, play, and land bigger fish. As the afternoon progressed we started seeing rises and swirls, telling me to switch up to a dry/dropper rig. I helped him adjust his cast to accommodate the lighter set up and we both relished the sensation of fish consistently inhaling the #12 parachute Adams. His casts got longer, his drifts smoother, and his experience handling big fish better. Sure we lost some flies to the ever-present rhododendron but we landed some nice fish on the dry fly, including two beautiful wild brown trout, one about 14 inches and the other pushing 16.
As the afternoon shadows got longer activity on the surface began to slow down – back to the nymph rig. We finished the day in a run that is not easy to fish. Mike was casting over swift current into a swirling pool behind a large boulder. “Rod tip up,” I reminded him, “keep that fly line off the fast water.” We noticed a big rainbow patrolling the swirling pool and were determined to get it in the net. With a little persistence the synthesis of the skills Mike learned came to fruition. He made a perfect cast, just behind the large boulder, kept his stick high with a couple of timely mends, set the hook firmly and confidently, and played the fish out of the fast water, directly into my waiting net. This 20 inch rainbow was the perfect symbol of our mutual hard work and especially Mike’s willingness to follow instruction. After a few moments of admiration the girthy beast slid out of my hand and headed back to his domain. All smiles, Mike and I shook hands and headed back to the car.
On this perfect spring afternoon some potential was realized and some new potential born. Potential for a new relationship between client and guide, and potential for the sport of fly fishing to hold an elevated place in someone’s life. “This can be addictive, can’t it,” Mike commented. “Hah! I think about it every day and dream about it many nights,” I replied. That’s just the nature of this great past time. Once it gets in your blood it can be hard to think about anything else.