Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Feb 10, 2014

For most of us, fishing, let alone fly fishing is a progression. Most come to fishing in the same manner that includes a spinning or spin-cast rod and reel, a bobber and some form of bait. Not all, but most. It's the period where hooking fish is not really the paramount objective in the journey, but rather the hooking of the child to the outdoors and fishing that matters most. Many never leave this form of fishing, and happily for them so-be-it. We all attempt to get what we need as an individual from the outdoors and it's a very personal journey. Somewhere along the line many of us either merge into a specific form of fishing or a specific target fish. This, in itself, can have a major effect on our fishing progression. If your passion pulls you to warm-water fishing, more often than not that will influence a person's choices of rod and reel. The normal progression is toward bait-casting and lures, with the possibility of a niche passion for the fly rod. Likewise, if your passion draws you towards blue-water and Bluefin tuna, you're probably not going to find a short transition to the fly rod in your future, if ever. Trout seem to be the main deciding factor in a somewhat faster transition to the fly rod. It is where most of the gear is targeted, and where the vast majority of fly fishermen seem to naturally migrate. Never-the-less, the fly rod is not a final step, nor is it a guarantee to draw a person in regardless of the years spent fishing. It just tends to happen in somewhat of a progressive nature when it does.

Over this past years' holiday season I was fortunate to have all of my children in my home at some point. And it gave me time to sit back and remember their first fish, the smiles on their faces, and where they went as they grew up. My oldest daughter cut her teeth on Mt St. Helens area trout on a spinning rod. She did well and truly enjoyed it. Yet the fishing bug never really bit her hard enough to pull her through her teens. Her 2 sisters both broke into grins over stocked trout in Northern Pennsylvania. Like any child that hooks a fish, the delight and smiles were invaluable both to them and me as well. Yet, the bug that bit me as a youth did not take hold. And my son who is the youngest has been busy catching bluegills and trout with worms and a spinning rod. It appears that when he is fishing he loves it, but when not fishing it may as well not even exist. The attention span is just not there, which is normal for a 10 year old. This past year he asked for a fly rod and spent 2 days fishing with it. Who knows whether or not the bug will bite him down the road. They all have dabbled in fly tying over time, but not to the extent of their father, who by all accounts may have been bitten much too hard and by something nearly lethal. But the natural curiosity did surface, and the seeds were planted.

Where things have differed, has been during the summer vacation where family merges and the beach is a common theme. With the beach comes surf fishing, both day and night. No fly rod is employed, but a multitude of sand spikes are, stuffed with large spinning tackle and cut bait. It is here that young and old all come together as if they are all again 5 years old, catching everything from sharks, to skates and rays, bluefish, stripers, spot and fluke. This for us, is where those early planted seeds begin to blossom and the smiles return. They are all once again yelling for "Dad" to unhook the skates that nobody else will touch. They have replaced the worms of their childhood. So I do, and I run up and down the beach building memories as I go. Maybe someday they will come to me and say, "Dad, I want to learn how to fly fish." Maybe a boyfriend or co-worker who fishes will get them thinking about it, and their minds will drift back to the childhood smiles and that alone may prompt them to give it a try. Maybe after I'm gone, they will sit back with one of my books and recall sitting on a stream bank or standing in surf, and they'll smile once more in remembrance. Or quite possibly it won't hit them until they see their own child's smile, grinning ear-to-ear at a palm-sized bluegill.

I felt at one point that I would steer them towards fly fishing, and somehow they would feel what I felt when on the water, but soon decided that it had to be on their own terms. Someday I hope they all get to experience the rush of water against waders as their fly disappears in a swirl and the rod is lifted to meet the weight of a fish. You just never know. I'll still continue to nudge them either way. And regardless of the outcome they fished.

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