This past weekend, I discovered (among other neat stuff like compass and map reading and cooking in a dutch oven) fly-fishing, a thing I never thought I would do!
I was very fortunate in that I was able to attend a women’s weekend organized by our state’s Department of Natural Resources where we all got to do cool things like use compasses, shoot skeet, canoe, cook outside, a whole bunch of other things, and also fish.
I have fished twice before in my life, once when I was 2 and again with my friend in West Virginia and his daughter. I caught fish both times. Well . . . I for sure caught one the second time but it’s only been this year that I’ve finally understood that I probably did NOT catch a fish at age 2, but was helped along by the good offices of the family friend who took me out on a boat at a church camp in Michigan. I have honestly assumed for some time that I Caught A Fish At Age 2. It’s part of my own personal mythology.
Anyway, this weekend, at a well-stocked pond with a catch-and-release policy, I caught a fish (no, I have no idea what kind other than it had gills and more on that later) after being instructed by a very nice DNR guy on how to cast with a fly-fishing pole.
The class did not start out to be very promising. It was raining and the wind was blowing. I don’t own water-proof pants (Note to self: Buy water-proof pants) and so I was pretty damp from the edge of my jacket down to hem of my jeans as I stood outside with 10 or so other plucky women, trying to fling out a bit of string correctly onto the lawn. None of it seemed promising but I was there to learn fly fishing and by Godfry, I was going to participate!
One we relocated to the pond, things looked no brighter. First I had to admit that I don’t know how to bait a fishing pole (not the slightest) and then I had to stand on the bank whilst all around me were the glad cries of women who had caught fish. The DNR instructor took pity on me and took me around to a quieter spot. Meanwhile, the wind and rain had gone away and the sun was trying to peek out. I stood on the edge of the pond and cast my little string and my fuzzy plastic bug-thing. My fishing neighbor had caught so many fish she’d almost lost count; she had 13 she thought.
But as my casting improved, I found myself excited by the challenge and thrilled when I managed to get my bait out away from me by more than 10 feet. Cast, let the bait sink, count to five, start pulling in the line. The instructor sat himself down on an up-ended post and lit a little cigar. “The idea,” he said, “is to make the lure as much like a real bug as possible. You want to make the fish think that there’s a little bug up there saying ‘Help! Help! I’m a wounded bug!’ Now, I’m going to take a little walk and when I get back, you will have a fish.”
No dice. No fish either but the sun was out and I was fishing so who cares. With about 20 minutes left of our class, I thought I would look for another spot as even my successful friend was no longer getting bites. I strolled all round the pond, looking for likely spots. Almost back to where I had started out from, I found a pleasant prospect. The water was murky and full of dead leaves. I was not optimistic but I liked casting, so I cast. And then I felt it! The line went taught and the tip of my pole bent and Oh My God I had caught a fish!
“Fish! Fish!” I called out by way of alerting my fellow campers, but I had chosen a spot so quiet that no one was within earshot and since I had caught a fish and was not in mortal peril, the idea of yelling “Help! Help!” seemed rude and stupid. But Help! Help! indeed; I had caught a fish. Now what?
I’m happy to report that I got it off the hook eventually and that it swam away, so it wasn’t dead when it left my hands. But oh, picking it up and trying to get the hook out of those spongy red gills was — uck. I know how girly that sounds but it was just uck. I had to stick my fingers down into its fishy mouth and fool around to get the hook out. It was well and truly stuck. But I did it. I caught a fish and set it free and since it wasn’t mine to begin with, it didn’t come back.
Now my big dream added to my list of Big Dreams is to some day combine fly fishing with horseback riding for a splendid vacation.