While reflecting on the memories I have had through fly fishing, I couldn’t help but think of my first fish. I want to share my story. I hope that as I do you can not only reflect upon your first fish but think about the memories you have from fly fishing. And if you haven’t had your first fish moment yet, keep going at it!
I had heard about fly fishing from a number of friends over the years but never brought myself to try it. When I was helping my grandparent’s move we had to put some of their things into the storage unit. Among those things was a pair of green, musty, neoprene Hodgeman waders and felt boots, my grandpa’s 9 foot, a 6 weight fly rod, and a 6 weight medalist reel. I always enjoyed firing up the trolling motor on my grandpa’s boat and fishing with him. Unfortunately, these days came to an end when my grandpa was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to sell his boat. With my grandpa’s deteriorating health preventing him from fishing, I thought it would be really cool to learn how to catch something on my grandpa’s fly rod.
I began talking to him a lot, as well as other people about fly fishing and did a lot of research on it. I learned the basic terminology of a fly rod setup….leader, tippet, clinch knot, blood knot, nymphing, dry fly, strike indicator, split shot, floating line, sinking line, etc. I got everything in “fishable order” and headed up to the Provo River. To make a long story short I must have logged more than 40 hours over the course of about 3 weeks of not getting a single fish, let alone a single bite. I always thought for some reason that in order to catch a fish I needed to be in chest deep water. So I remember standing in the water during the late summer evening hatches, witnessing fish jumping all around me. It seemed like they covered all of the surface area of the water around me except for the small surface area that my size 16 elk hair caddis covered. I ended up slowly losing the faith and not bringing my net along with me anymore. I began to give up but I just wanted to catch something so bad on my grandpa’s fly rod that giving up was not an option!
It was on a warm, summer evening when I rigged up my size 16 sow bug (which I have saved to this day) that things changed. I can still feel the consistent tug that occurred as a fish began to violently shake its head. I was in utter shock when I realized this was no chunk of moss, no stick, no snag in a heavy current, but something with life in it….I had hooked up on a fish! I can’t describe in detail about the fight because I was stressed out of my mind in trying to get the rainbow over to the bank without having it break off. And because I was losing the faith, I did not have my net so that didn’t help. I didn’t know how the drag system worked and was shaking so bad I could not palm the reel. I ended up getting the fish to the bank and nearly filled my waders as I literally dove into the water to get my hands on it before it took off. I was able to get my friend’s attention to come, witness, that catching a fish on a fly rod was a reality. We measured the rainbow out at 16.5 inches and I was able to get a picture of it for my grandpa. I was on cloud nine as I trudged along the bank in my neoprene hodgemans that were a number of sizes too big. I couldn’t wait to tell my grandpa about it!
The times have changed from going to just get one fish on a fly rod, trying to not get skunked on each outing, to sight fishing a particular fish and catching that particular one. But it has been amazing to be there to witness the “first fish on a fly rod moment” for a number of my friends and reflect upon my own. It is a moment all of us should never forget…a moment where if you are like me you don’t think twice about how big the fish was or how many times it jumped…but that you fooled a fish into devouring something that represented a natural bug in a river…cool stuff!
I am grateful for the lessons I learn through fly fishing, the places it has brought me, and the awesome people I meet through it. My grandpa has already passed on but I cannot help but think about him while on the river. I have been in instances where it seems at times the fish just are not going for anything. I have learned that we cannot completely control that…but that we can always control whether we have a good time out on the water. And that is what matters most!
Jesse Rawle is a member of the Tug Life Trio based out of the Provo area in Utah. Although Jesse started off self-taught like many fly fisherman, he knows how to fool picky trout. These guys know how to catch some fish! Check the team out on Instagram here.