About five kilometers north of where you’re staying, you’ll see a large rock that looks like a house. People have painted a door and a window on it. There’s even a satellite dish. Stop there. Fish downriver. Don’t go upriver. The water is only three inches deep for a mile. Ask me how I know…
The man from the fly shop’s words played over and over in my head as I drove to my destination. The landmark was unmistakable. Just as he described, it sat on the side of the road, slowly modified over the years by locals. I remember passing the rock on my last trip out here (more on that in a bit).
I pulled over and got out of my car. I grabbed my rod and flies from the trunk, climbed down the bank and waded the river to get into position.
After a few casts I had a sense of how the current was moving. I moved down. Found my target and cast. After a few seconds the indicator plunged under the water and a beautiful rainbow trout popped out of the water about 15 feet away.
I couldn’t have been happier. Well, actually I could have, since the fish shook the hook about 30 seconds later. But, in the moment, before the fish said goodbye, everything I spent the last year working on paid off.
A year earlier, we camped on the same river, about 25 or so kilometers north of where we were staying this time around.
It had been a great trip, but aside from a bunch of little fish that I had managed to catch near the campsite, I didn’t have a lot of luck fishing. In fact, it was one of those trips that left me feeling as though I didn’t know the first thing about fishing.
And, to a certain degree, I didn’t. I mean, I haven’t been fly fishing that long, most of the fishing I did was on lakes and just about every time I went out on a river I’ve been successful using some kind of dry fly or another. I knew absolutely nothing about fishing with a nymph. Not a thing.
It was a pretty humbling experience and, as I walked away from the river for the last time on my first visit, I knew that I had to change that.
With the wrong attitude, fishing can be a very frustrating experience. Places you’re familiar with and know where the fish hide, can be seemingly barren on any given day. Other days, you are surrounded by fish that are leaping out of the water, clearly eating something, but for the life of you, you can’t figure it out. I take these experiences to be a sign that I need to learn a little bit more about the hobby that is slowly taking over my life.
That trip to the river last year let me know I had a gap in my knowledge and I was excited about the chance to fill that gap.
The first chance I got, I started to learn about nymphing. I watched a series of videos on YouTube that covered most of the basics. Things like how deep you want to be, the different kinds of nymphing that you can do and things like that.
It was a great crash course in what I needed to know about nymphing.
It helped me understand that when the fish weren’t taking my dry flies, it didn’t mean it was a crappy day of fishing. It just meant they weren’t interested in topwater offerings.
This saved more than a few days of fishing and, in some instances, I even started trying nymphs first.
Then came the day I had some luck, but not tons and I decided to take nymphing a little more seriously by learning more about euro style nymphing. This involves using a piece of coloured line in the middle of your leader to help you gauge the depth of the water.
This is helpful for a few reasons. The biggest is that you want to feel the tap, tap, tap of your fly dragging along the bottom of the river as you drift. It also helps because, without an indicator attached to your life, plopping down in the water as you cast, you’re less likely to spook the fish–something I had noticed happening.
After a year of playing around with setups, styles and fly patterns, I found my way back to the river that started it all.
After losing a couple of fish, I continued to fish my way downriver. I found myself in front of a downed tree covered most of the width of the river, better known as a sweeper. The water looked good and fishy. I lined up my cast and almost as soon as my fly hit the water, the indicator went under.
This time, there was no shaking the hook. I quickly got the fish in the net, snapped a couple of quick pictures and said good bye. Not only did this fish help me feel good about the time I’d spent learning about nymphing, but it was just a beautiful specimen of a fish.
I made my way back to the car after that. It was time to get home. On the way, I stopped a made a few more casts and, this time, pulled an even nicer fish out of the water.
After two beautiful fish from a river that left me with nothing the year before, I was content. I went back to the cabin, found a nice spot on the side of the river and enjoyed a beer.
Be careful, the deeper you get into your “hobby,” the harder it is to extract yourself, which is why it’s good to keep appointments at the riverside with a favorite beer. Good work!
I’m already beyond saving with this hobby. I have to set timers to remind myself to go home. They’re mostly effective.
I don’t fish, but reading this, I’d say you’ve moved beyond hobby and into deeper waters…
I’m certainly with you, and Walt, when it comes to a riverside and a beer – always a fair reward to toast a decent day!
I only wish I’d had a better beer to enjoy at the time. Still, a beer by a river is a beer by the river.