All About Fly Fishing!

To Teach A Kid

Teach a kid to fly fish, and you will help an adult to develop to character, perhaps two adults if you include you!

For most anglers "Doc's Fly Shop" is an very easy place to hang out. Almost everyone who show up is on vacation. Everyone is willing to swap a few fishing stories. The phone that occasionally rings will not be for you and, if you want to eat a picnic lunch in the shade of the front porch. . . go ahead and knock yourself out. It is this noon to mid afternoon time when things "get lazy" and conversations turn from, "what are they hitting" to, "Hey Doc. . . I have this nephew."

In teaching a beginner the skill of angling the experience can flow like good wine or it possibly be closely related to shooting yourself in the foot. (And, if you do that then; good for you and too bad for the student.) But, if you have it in you to educate a novice these few suggestions may help.

The first suggestion is simple. As a rule most beginning anglers (novices) are not as interested in the "art- or sport " of fishing as you probably are; so lighten up. Our nation is not at war and the last time I check McDonalds still had a pile hamburgers. Most beginners actually just want to see if they can catch one fish. That first prized fish could either make them a life long angler or turn them into a golfer. Then again, there are many people should be hacking up a golf course instead of falling into streams and lakes. Equipment is secondary to any beginner. Since they haven't a clue about whatever it is you place in their hands don't extol the virtues of your XYZ reel or the 300% graphite composition of the rod you probably paid too much money for. Novices just want to see a fish appear before them.

Location for the first "lesson" is of prime importance. The closer the stream or lake is to becoming a "hatchery" the better. Fish size is definitely not important. Neither is the specie. Let me explain this point a little further.

The first time I went fishing I was with my father. He wasn't much of an angler but he understood the "concept" of fishing well and within minutes I was releasing blue gill after blue gill. I even was "quite content" about the "worm juice" and "fish slime" that I was periodically smearing on my pants leg. I still remember my mother ragging on him (Dad) about that point! In hindsight old Dad. . . He did okay.

Then there was this guy who came to the shop several summers ago. Since I was fortunate enough to be pretty near the "top of the heap" in the business world my entire adult life, I had seen "his type" before. He was successful by default. He hired the best people for his father's business and he was smart enough to "get out of the way." But for him, his son's first fishing lesson was another story.

The father had purchased two tickets to Bozeman, rented a big SUV, stopped into the first fly shop he saw and dropped another chunk of change on a fly rod outfit that made the son, we'll call Brian, feel like he was carrying the silver chalice or Nero's scepter around. That was a poor choice for both the fly shop owner as well as the father. However, that was not enough. The fly shop owner had also decided to cash in a little more and recommended the father take the son to a "spring creek".

After another two hundred dollars, Brian arrives at a "famed" spring creek. These crystal clear artesian springs do hold fish. Yet, everyone and their mother has been whipping the water to death for decades and the fish are either really spooky or so complacent that you might have to beat them to get them to move. I guess you might easily say they (the spring creeks) are highly overrated. And, they are definitely not the place for someone who is not content just to "soak in the beauty" and catch one very lip punctured fish...

Well after several hours of misery (for Brian) the father realized that the experience wasn't working out and wisely decided that another route was needed. That's when I got into this picture. While Brian showered before dinner, Dad slipped out of the Chico Hot Springs complex and showed up at my shop. He was willing to admit his failure and (thanks to one of the resort's employees who fly fishes ) decided to enlist my help.

I spent the whole of the next morning with Brian. I found that the previous day's experience had definitely left a bad taste in the boy's mouth. But after we had completed a few chores. . . (I let the twelve year old feed some hackle birds) I handed Brian a beat up beginners rod and asked him to cast a hookless fly to my hat (which was tossed thirty or so feet from where he stood). After a few minor modifications I was satisfied that young Brian could cast straight and close enough to any given target. I told him to pile into the old Wagoneer and after a short, bouncy ride we stopped alongside of a small mountain stream. I don't believe it was what the boy had in mind but, as we stepped into the cool mountain water, I asked him to lay the fly at the head of a nearby pool of water.

The fly fell short several times and on his fourth attempt Brian's fly landed in a upper pool and silently fell into the intended "target pool". A native Yellowstone cutthroat rose and sucked the fly into its mouth. The boy missed the first "hook set". He steadied himself and he cast again. On this cast a fish rose and was promptly hooked. Brian brought the fish to his side where he raised the squirming red slashed troat to my camera. His smile was real and no "cheese" was needed. From that point on Brian was hooked (as certain as that fish) on fishing.

There was nothing but "reality" that made Brian enjoy what he experienced on that day. The rod was old and "breakable" and this fact allowed him some movement needed to present a fly to the target without worrying about scratching or denting the glorified rod and reel.

The fish he caught on that stream were not large. I think the largest was all of ten inches. But, since that day, he now haunts streams and lakes near his suburban community. Each Christmas I receive a picture of a new and bigger version of that twelve year old and in each photo he is holding a fish. . . sometimes it's big and sometimes it is not. Sometimes I can tell he's so intent on "getting a picture for Doc" that his photographic pose has his reel in the water... with cork handle soaking. Sometimes his waders have had patches. His fishing vest is showing more rips as the years march on. Hat is becoming progressively stained.

Brian is just a youngster growing into a man who may (hopefully) teach another youngster to fish simply for the enjoyment of it.

By Doc Knoll