A Beginner, Forever
The beginning of my fly fishing life occurred in 1991, and it started on a whim. Byron and I were dating and he wanted to introduce me to the sport. The stream that runs through our property was, at that time, stocked with trout that were Byron's pet fish. He rigged up a rod for me, tied on a fly, stood over my shoulder and showed me how to "cast".
On about the second drift of my fly past a lunker bunker in this one pool, I hooked and lost a monster fish; on the next cast I hooked into another nice sized fish and was able to land it. I will never, ever forget that moment. Just thinking about it makes goosebumps stand up on my arms. I was hooked.
Soon after, I took a class offered by the newly formed Little River Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The class was taught by some of the most accomplished fishermen in the area and it was a tremendous experience. I learned all the knots, how to rig my own rod, how to select a fly, about reading the water. What I didn't learn from that class was how to cast. It wasn't the fault of the teachers, it was because I am not a visual learner. Their method of teaching the fly cast was to say, "Do it like this." I am one of those people who has to know why something works, so I just didn't understand what made a cast happen.
Fortunately for me, I was a lucky fisherman; I almost always caught fish. Trust me though, it wasn't pretty. I spent many a frustrating hour on the side of the stream with my leader tied up in knots or not being able to put my fly where I wanted it to go. Even if I placed my cast where I aimed, I didn't know how I did it and wasn't able to replicate the feat with any consistency.
After several years owning Little River Outfitters, Byron and I were talking about how I saw myself developing in our business. It was a goal of mine to get to the point where I could teach beginners. Being new to the sport and new to the industry, I just knew that fly fishing wasn't as complicated as many tried to make it seem. It was essential that I gain some skills; the first among them being the cast. Byron suggested a laundry list of schools to take and instructors to have private instruction with in order to reach my goal.
The most significant suggestion was to go to New York and take Joan Wulff's fly fishing class. Joan is an internationally famous fly fisherman, casting champion and author of books and videos. Finally, I learned how to cast! Since then, I've taken Joan's instructor school twice and have developed Little River Outfitters school program. In the spring, we will start our eleventh year of schools.
I still miss casts, I still miss fish, I still have loads to learn. That said, it's more rewarding than I can say helping people get started fly fishing; the thrill I felt when I caught my first fish comes back when I see that spark in a beginner's eyes. When I hook into a fish, whether a small wild mountain trout or a huge tarpon, I feel that thrill. I hope that I keep that forever, that I never take this sport for granted, that I am forever a beginner at heart.
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