Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fly Fishing Lessons in New Hampshire: The Union, Part 1

Our family E.I. Fly class is designed for all ages and it's a whole lot of fun.  At a suggested donation rate of $5.00 per person, how can you go wrong?

I enjoy teaching small classes.  A smaller class size offers a better opportunity for me to share my knowledge with each student.  Equally important, the small class allows students to ask more questions, both about fly fishing, and sometimes, my personal life.  For example, it's a sure bet that most students will ask me how I got started in fly fishing.  The answer, or story, is not all the interesting, but I'll share it with you.

My dad tells me that my first fish on a conventional rod was a 12" Rainbow Trout. I don't remember catching the fish and I vaguely remember the stream (I was about five years old).  About three years later, around the time I was in the fourth grade, I discovered two Fenwick Fiberglass Fly Rods in my dad's garage.  By now I was a 'seasoned angler' (worm-n-bobber), so I knew enough that these long noodle-y things were meant to catch fish.  The mere fact that I could catch fish with these things was enough to pique my interest. So began the beginnings of my fly fishing.  Specifically, I would take the rods out on the front lawn, and wave them back and forth like a crazed man, trying to swat black flies away from his head (you New Hampshirians know exactly what I am talking about). This form of self-entertainment went on for several years.  In fact, while waiving the rod like a mad man, I found the whip/cracking sound particularly cool. Finally, one day, I took a fly rod fishing with me.  Actually, an older boy in the neighborhood agreed to babysit me, only on the condition that my mother would drive us to a trout stream where he could use my father's fly rods.  At the time, I had no idea he was babysitting me; I thought we were two buddies out on a fishing adventure (silly me).  I also had no idea how this particular sunny NH day would leaving a lasting mark on my soul, and be the beginnings of what you see today (First Cast Fly Fishing).

The Union: the place where your mind and heart connect with nature.

At age 46, it is harder to remember the exact details of my first day fly fishing with my babysitter/neighbor, Mike Vinsel.  I could not tell you where the stream was located, or how long we fished. But, I do remember walking through the woods and arriving at small stream. The sight and sounds of the stream immediately touched me in a way that I had never felt before.  I am not sure I had seen anything more beautiful in my life. I thought I was in heaven, a place of pure peace, comfort and beauty.  I can close my eyes and picture the first pool we fished.  It was deep and clear.  I could see the bottom and found the detail of rocks, logs, and other watery things to be stunning.  In all my days of worm-n-bobber fishing, I had never seen anything like this. I was so amazed at what I saw, I found myself wishing to be part of this world; more importantly, to never leave this enchanting, surreal place. Even at a young age, there was something about that stream that felt so right to me.  In hindsight, I now know this ethereal experience had put me on a spiritual path; a journey if you will, to find a more rhythmic pattern of my life, focused on being in mother nature.

Mike and I finished the day by catching a handful of Brook Trout.  Actually, from what I can remember, Mike did most of the catching, if not all of it.  I don't remember anything about his/our fly fishing technique.  All I remember was watching fish come from the depth of the pool, and strike the fly with lightning speed.  I had never seen a fish do this; it was another jaw-dropping, amazing moment for this young boy.  In fact, now that I think of it, in a phrase, it was 100% AWESOME!  Other than the pool itself and watching the fish strike the fly, what I do remember the most, was seeing my first Brook Trout.  The beauty of this fish overwhelmed me. From my head to my feet, I was numb.  The feelings that welled from my heart can only be described as gift from the universe that has lasted my entire life. Other than the need to meet my mom back at the road by a certain time, there was not an ounce of tragedy in this moment; it was the best day of my life. However, this specific moment would not repeat itself for many years to come.    

Salvelinus Fontinalis = Eastern Brook Trout

Shortly after this day, my family moved to Connecticut.  Any opportunity to fish for Brook Trout, with my babysitter (now, a god-like image) was highly doubtful.  In Connecticut, life was different and I did very little worm-n-bobber fishing.  On occasion, I continued to whip the front lawn with my father's fiberglass fly rod. This whipping (not casting) amused me and fed my ego, but my heart yearned to be back in New Hampshire, on a Brook Trout stream.  Maybe the fish gods answered my prayers, or maybe it was due to a promotion that my father had received at work, but our stay in Connecticut was short; less than three years. Within a blink, I found myself back in New Hampshire. By now, I had grown accustom to a lifestyle with less fishing and more sports.  I was entering junior high school and sadly, fishing was not the coolest thing to do.  Time passed; I continued whipping the grass and eventually I started fishing again.  For years, I would bring both fly rod and spinning rod to the river. As on overly confident teen, my front lawn practice routine proved to be disastrous, on the water. To spare you the humiliating details, let's say I lacked the patience and technical knowledge to effectively fly fish.  These are kind words to describe what went like this: whip (cast), fly stuck in tree; whip (cast) fly stuck in tree again!  With this fruitless routine, I soon found myself in need of gratification; i.e., using my spinning rod (lures, worm-n-bobbers).  Fish-On! My spinning rod never failed me, but I continued to fail at fly fishing for many year, or at least I thought so.

Adding up the years of this self-taught, sadistic learning approach to fly fishing, I spent two decades fly fishing, without catching a fish!  When I finally caught my first fish on a fly rod, in an instant, I realized that I had not failed.  How so?  I did not fail for the following reasons:

  • Being self-taught for over twenty years, I had learned every mistake in the book.  Believe it or not, this has helped me be a better casting and fly fishing instructor.   
  • I had finally conquered my foe (I bagged my first fish).  More importantly, I reconnected my mind and heart, creating an emotional union with the little boy who went fishing with his babysitter. 

Whether you know it or not, fly fishing is not about ripping lips, catching the biggest fish, catching more fish than your fellow angler, or casting 100ft tight loops.  The very essence of fly fishing is about creating an emotional union between the mind, heart and nature; not the mind conquering the heart and nature. This union is the one and true reason why we fly fish; yet at times, we seem to forget that.  The union is the unquestionable desire to connect your soul with a life force that is greater than you, and leaves you numb with ecstasy and bliss. The union is what I teach my students at First Cast Fly Fishing, and we call it, Emotional Intelligence Fly Fishing, or E.I. Fly.

Thank you for reading part one.  To learn more about our E.I. Fly philosophy and services, please following the link to part two: http://firstcastflyfishing.blogspot.com/2014/08/fly-fishing-lessons-in-new-hampshire_12.html

Gone Fishing (to the union... the pool of my youth),