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Old 12-30-2011, 11:47 AM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Default Remembering Our Mentors

On the dedication page of what many consider the finest book on the outdoors ever written in this country, The Old Man and the Boy, Robert Ruark notes that the book is in memory of his grandfathers, his father, and "all the honorary uncles, black and white, who took me to raise."

I suspect that most of those who visit this forum had someone, or maybe several someones, who took them to raise in the sense of introducing them to fly fishing and guiding them as they took their tentative first footsteps down a path of enduring joy.

Certainly I did, and I'll start this new thread by saying that I hope it will provide many of you with the opportunity to thank the person or persons who served as your mentor(s). For me it's a chance to tender a heartfelt thank you even as I look back in longing to my beginnings with the whistling line and long rod.

My primary mentor was my father, Commodore (and yes that was his name, not a military title) Casada, a man who loved fly fishing, who grew up in what is now the Park, and who somehow found time while eking out a hardscrabble living to teach his boys the joys of casting to trout. He gave me my first fly rod (a hand me down South Bend Tonkin Cane 7 1/2 footer which I still own), turned a blind eye on regular visits to his vest to get a few more flies, and most of all took me along from the time I was six until I was old enough to go it alone. It was a gift beyond compare, one which has now lasted for well over six decades and continues to give every time I string up a rod, step in a stream, and make a cast. It was also a great privilege, in his final years, to be able to go back in our joint memories to shared days on Smokies streams (Dad died last January, aged 101, and still full of memories of his times on Deep Creek, Forney, and other streams).

There were other mentors, lots of them--Claude Gossett, Levi Haynes, Alvin Miller, "Hop" Wiggins, Raymond Mitchell, and especially Frank Young--who were part of backcountry trips, patient teachers, or just "heros" who didn't even know I looked up to them as only a starry-eyed boy can do. The names won't mean much to any of you, but I hope you share my thought that it is important for all of us to respect and remember those who "brought us" to sparkling waters and special places.

With that in mind, I hope many others will share their recollections and insights on their mentors, even as I know you'll concur that the best way to repay them is to pass this grand sport on to others (especially coming generations).

Jim Casada

P. S. I'll offer a sort of New Year's gift--if you haven't read Ruark's The Old Man and the Boy, make a point of doing so. It is compelling, wonderful reading, and while it has nothing on fly fishing or the Smokies, the book is full of lessons for the sporting life. A treat awaits you.
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Old 12-30-2011, 01:48 PM
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pmike pmike is offline
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Default Good subject....

...and a sweet post. I recall my earliest fishing experience took place in my birthplace of Manatee County, out at Myakka State Park. In anticipation of the upcoming picnic and fishing venture, my Pappa (maternal Grandad) took my brother and I out behind his property in East Bradenton to cut several bamboo poles from a stand that grows back there to this day. Pappa used some old friction tape to fasten a wire hook to each of the bamboo shafts on their slender, top end. He then hooked those wire hooks over the top wire on the power lines in front of his house, (did I mention, "DON'T DO THIS AT HOME" ). Pappa had also fastened a brick or a piece of a cinder blok to the bottom end of the bamboo to weight the poles so they would dry straight. The power company dispatched a truck and the fellows fussed at my Pappa about the possibility of electrocution, laughing to themselves at the same time. No sonner had they left, Pappa went back out and rehung the poles.

Needless to say by the time we used those poles, they were some of the longest and straightest poles to be found. We used them on numerous picnics and caught a few stringers full of bream...yet nothing has been more precious than the memories that surrounded the entire process, oh and my Mommas fried chiken n her German Chocolate cakes

Thanks for the post Jim and the suggestion, I plan to check it out!

God Bless,
Mike
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Old 12-30-2011, 05:15 PM
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My brother Al, the most senior of the six-pack of us Turners, is my mentor. He gave me a few casting lessons and took me on my first trip on Watauga River several years ago. I was addicted. This fall Al returned from what could be his last trek to his beloved western US with the need for major back surgery. He is presently undergoing intense rehabilitation with the goal of walking once again. My money is on his doing just that. He was a career professional in the wood products industry and a pioneering GIS specialist. He could have been an accomplished musician or bestselling novelist, but he much preferred being in, over pickin' 'n singin' or writing about, the outdoors. He was especially fond of flyfishing, so much so he fished in all fifty states. More on that to follow.

Al, as do I, like this written by Theodore Gordon:

"Time flies so fast after youth is past that we cannot accomplish one-half the many things we have in mind, or indeed one-half our duties. The only safe and sensible plan is to make other things give way to the essentials, and the first of these is flyfishing."

I like these personal accounts by Al…

"I'm quite fond of fishing, especially fly fishing. I fish, not to catch fish, but because I find them in such beautiful places.

I am an advocate of 'catch and release' because a trout is much too beautiful to be caught only once. Release, however, does not become an issue until you catch; a fact that some of my more insensitive fishing buddies have pointed out to me on more that one occasion. "

His entertaining article, “Fish I Have Known” includes these gems:

"The Del Rio Kid:
This beautiful 19" cutthroat or "cutbow" trout - not sure which - that I hooked in this bend of the Delores River near Del Rio in southwestern Colorado. It was one of those perfect holes where you always expect to hook a big trout but never do - except on this occasion. I drifted a Grey Ghost streamer under the log and he nailed it! We fought to a draw on that beautiful day in October, 1994. I took his pic, revived him and let him go. I hope he is still under that log in the bend of the river.

Larry, Darrell and Darrell:
The 18" rainbow and the two 19" browns caught and released on the Hiwassee River in southeastern Tennessee. There was a blanket hatch and fish were rising all over the place. I had hooked not a one until these boys came by and saved the day. Thanks guys. The world needs more dumb trout. Anything for a buck, huh?

The Brown Bomber of Sportsman's Hole:
Last and certainly biggest is the brown estimated at 20 pounds that I had on for two jumps in the White River in Arkansas. My heart is still pounding. I stood in that hole all day the next day and caught pneumonia."

Lastly, here is Al's account of "Fishing All 50":

"At approximately 11:00 AM, Hawaiian Standard time, on June 14, 1999, I made my 3rd cast into Lake Wilson in the historic town of Wahiawa, Hawaii and thus accomplished my goal of fishing in all 50 states of the US.

I have also managed to fish in several provinces of Canada; North Yorkshire, UK; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Queensland, Australia."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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Last edited by JoeFred; 12-31-2011 at 10:31 AM..
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Old 12-30-2011, 07:15 PM
Knothead Knothead is offline
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My father was the kind of guy who gave up a lot to take his only kid (me) fishing. We lived on a farm in Shadeville, Ohio. The dairy operation was at my uncle's farm on Parsons Avenue- on Big Walnut Creek, home of some great fishing and huge catfish. One was reported to be over six feet long but that's another story. My uncle's farm is now covered with horse barns for Scioto Downs. Now on with the story.....my father had promised to take me fishing but something on the farm came up, as it does on a farm. I told him, "But you promised!" Six months later, he sold his interest in the farm, moved to Grove City and took work in Columbus. Let me mention that this was a top notch farm; Dad and Uncle Mike sold Jersey cattle to some of the top dairies in the country. His job had an outdoor club with several acres and a pond with bass and bluegill near Westerville, Ohio. Dad was the one who got me started fishing, on the farm and later, at several places where we lived. We only went trout fishing in Cherokee in 1958. Flyfishing came later. After I left home, the tradition continued. Now I have four grandsons and two granddaughters. Three of the boys are into fishing and have custom rods made by yours truly.
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Old 01-01-2012, 05:58 PM
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My father introduced me to fishing before I was two...this was fresh water pond and lake fishing mostly with cane poles and worms....he instilled the patience all fishermen need....I began fly fishing for bream and bass as a result of a friendship in junior high school....when I took the next step it was at the feet of my grandfather that I studied fishing for the mountain trout...I can always remember my grandfather and his long cane rod strolling off from our family picnics heading up whatever stream we were next to...my grandfather fished the Park until he was 82 and his doctor said he had to stop...while he never taught me the fundamentals about casting or mending a line what I learned while watching him work whatever water it was we were on was invaluable and I have passed a lot of this on to my son now that he is following us as a forth generation participant....when I was finally able to hold my own with him I can still remember the pride he took when I would match creels with him...I can still hear him answering my grandmother when she would ask when to expect us home from fishing with his standard reply..."We will be home when you see us."
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Old 01-01-2012, 06:17 PM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Rog 1--I knew a good many old fellows who lived in and around Bryson City who fished exactly like your description of your grandfather's approach. With the simplest of equipment--a cane pole, a length of line equal to or slightly longer than the pole, a few wet flies or nymphs (or maybe grasshoppers, crickets, or stick bait), and a few split shot, they were trout-catching machines. One of them of my acquaintance, George Monteith, walked to wherever he fished and could consistently outfish most everyone.
I have mentioned his name here before but I'm not sure I shared one anecdote about his legendary walking abilities. He lived on lower Forney Creek in pre-Park days (keep in mind that the lower elevation areas of what became Fontana's North Shore weren't in the original Park) at the time Franklin Roosevelt came to Newfound Gap for dedication of the GSMNP. Interested to hear what FDR would have to say, George hiked up Forney to the main ridge line of the Appalachians and then took shank's mare on out to Newfound Gap. He listened to the speech, ate a lunch he had carried with him, and walked back home. That would likely have been a one-day trip of somewhere between 40 and 50 miles. So a jaunt to Noland or Hazel or Deep creek would have been child's play for him.I may have related this anecdote before, but if so it was enough of a feat of walking to bear retelling.

Incidentally, I love your grandfather's "We will be home when you see us."
Jim Casada
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Old 02-25-2012, 10:11 AM
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My next to oldest big brother passed away suddenly Thursday. Although as kids he and I managed to set a sagebrush field on fire in the process, Bill taught me you can enjoy a hike to just about anywhere. For Bill, there was never a creek or a bluegill too small. Fish on, Bill!... and on and on.
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Old 02-25-2012, 10:45 AM
Knothead Knothead is offline
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JoeFred, sorry to hear about your loss. I'm sure you will treasure those moments spent together.
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Old 02-25-2012, 12:22 PM
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BlueRaiderFan BlueRaiderFan is offline
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My father was a worm dunker and instilled in me the desire to fish. Bill at LRO hooked me up with waders and boots on my first fly fishing trip to the park (I had bait casted in the park on several occasions) and I caught my first fish on a fly that day. Then it took a mere two years for others on this board to get me to quit wading and get a nice across stream mend. Now I'm catching fish on a regular basis and have started catching them in the 10-12+ range on most trips. Going to try for the 15+ range on my next trip at the end of April. So, no real mentor other than a few nice folks on this board that helped me along with good advice, which I appreciate very much. Sorry to hear that JoeFred. Fish a little extra for him when you go.
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Old 02-25-2012, 08:47 PM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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JoeFred--I'm sorry to hear of your brother's passing, but find surcease from sorrow in two thoughts--remembering the good times (and obviously you had them) and in realization that in the end the good earth never, ever lets us down.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com
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