I had the opportunity this weekend to take a friend out fly fishing for their very first time. I always enjoy sharing this passion with others who are interested in learning. I didn’t really have any mentors when I started fly fishing. Had I known anybody else who fly fished at that time I’m sure my learning curve would have been much more manageable, not to mention all the bad habits I picked up without a watchful mentor to point them out to me! I remember slogging away for years before I became proficient. There were times I thought catching a trout on a fly was damn near impossible. I’m certainly glad I stuck with it though. Fly fishing has become such a central part of who I am as a person. It’s more than a hobby. It’s more than a sport, or a pastime. That’s why I’m always happy to help pass on what I’ve learned.
I took my friend to the lower Quaboag River just outside of Palmer. Unlike the subtle, intricate, sometimes frustrating, Trico hatch that Jo has been posting about lately I figured that summer dog days smallmouth were about as sure a bet as could be expected given the conditions. The lower reaches of many of our rivers here, even the bigger coldwater systems such as the Deerfield and Westfield offer fast action for smallmouth bass throughout the summer. I rarely hear about very many large fish but there are loads of small-to-medium size bass that aggressively take flies during the heat of the summer.
The lower Quaboag is a fairly small stream at this time of year. No more than 30 yards wide and with some pools dropping to maybe 3 feet deep. Very easy wading and relatively open for worry-free casting. Easy access, coupled with the abundance of bass and fallfish, make this section an ideal place to take beginners.
After a quick casting lesson we started fishing. Well she started fishing. I resigned myself to being the teacher for the day. She picked up casting pretty quickly. Much faster than I did when I first started. She even sort of figured out the concept of the shooting line before I explained it – “…but how do I let more line out and what am I supposed to do with my other hand?”.
Casting lessons were short. I wanted her to try and catch some fish. Casting is important but most people don’t get hooked on fly fishing by running through casting drills all day – they fall in love with fly fishing when they catch their first fish. Luckily for us the fallfish and smallmouth were eager to bite. The hooksetting was a little slow but she finally hooked up with and landed a couple fallfish so that was pretty exciting. The real highlight came though when she made a nice cast into the tail of pool and a good-sized smallie (maybe 13″) came rushing out of nowhere and smashed the small crayfish pattern. Chaos ensued. But only for about 10 seconds before he threw the hook. I’m pretty sure that 10-second battle though was enough to seal it. Sometimes all it takes is one fish, an exciting battle, win or lose. After that all you want is to do it again, catch another one and get that rush of excitement. I was content to just watch and offer a few words of advice here and there. I also brought along some beers. Summer afternoons fishing for bass always call for a few beers.
Anybody else have experiences sharing our sport with newcomers? Anyone been out chasing bass lately? Where do you go?