Our Man In Canada
November 16th, 1998
My Confirmation
Did divine intervention play a roll in my fly fishing career?

By Clive Schaupmeyer

I was never confirmed in a regular church, but have the sense that divine intervention played a role in my confirmation as a fly angler.

My first fly-fishing rod and reel are now nearly 30 years old. The reel spool is bent and I think it is attached to an ice-fishing rig in the garage, but I no longer ice fish so am not certain about this. The 7-weight rod is stiff fiber glass, and a chore to cast. It is hanging on the hallway wall directly behind my computer where I am sitting right now. It was retired for many years but was called up for active duty a few years ago the first few times I fly-fished for pike. (It was later replaced with a graphite 8-weight G. Loomis.)

I caught my first fish on a fly rod about ten years after I bought the rig. They were two 8-inch mountain whitefish caught in the Blue River at its confluence with the Thompsom in British Columbia. Hardly a promising start to a fly fishing career. I intended to begin fly-fishing sooner, but it appeared difficult. Although I knew a few guys who were avid fly anglers and could teach me, we lived in a prairie town and getting away to fish pristine mountain streams was not very convenient. Our children arrived and somewhere around then I went to grad school. Kids. Mortgage. Work. You know how it goes. These are not complaints. Life just happens that way. In her book. Passages, Gail Sheehy called the stages of our lives, 'passages.'

The early 'passages' of my adult life weren't conducive to learning the art of fly-fishing. I needed time and a boost. The boost came when my brother, Gary, a veteran fly-angler, gave me some lessons in about 1982. I learned that I was making the standard mistakes of any veteran spin fisherman learning how to cast a fly rig. He taught me that fly casting really wasn't difficult. On the contrary I found it to be rather easy and the cadence relaxing. I half-heartedly messed with fly fishing on various family vacations after that, and actually caught a few small trout.

But my confirmation as a real fly-fisherman had to wait until 1988. Gary and I agreed to go stream fishing so we made a few calls and were told that we could catch trout in this or that creek in the Caroline (Alberta) area. We didn't fish exactly where we had planned, but we caught brown trout in a side channel of the Clearwater River. I had never caught brown trout before, but on the first day caught six in three hours. On the second day, I landed seven more browns including what was then described as an 18-incher. (The picture below, still hangs in my office, and suggests that the trout was more likely only 16 or perhaps 17 inches.)

Clearwater 1988

I suspect that divine intervention played a role in my confirmation as a stream and river fly- fisherman on that trip. There's something about that fly-fishing outing that is mysterious. In the years that followed I returned to the same stretch of river five times and the fishing was never the same. The fish were almost nonexistent. I went back looking for the same runs, holes, and deadfalls that harbored trout on those two wonderful days in June, 1988, but things had changed.

Later in 1988, and the next summer, the stream was muddy when I arrived to fish. In 1990 the gentle side stream was changed forever by the unusually heavy spring rains that scoured the once-small side channel. Never again will my brother and I fish the hole of my first big brown. Or the spruce-fall hole where a huge golden brown twice turned away from my fly. I went back in 1995 to check it out, and the channel had changed yet again. (The old saying, "You can't go home again," is so very applicable to some experiences.)

Perhaps one day this river will allow me to relive what I experienced there. But if I never catch another fish in the channel of my first brown trout I don't care. That river gave me my first special memories of real stream fly-fishing. It owes me nothing, and I owe all of my subsequent fly- fishing experiences to those two days. (I just realized that our oldest son now lives less than an hour from this stream and wants to learn to fly-fish. Perhaps I should take this as a omen. Maybe you can go home again.)

Why was the fishing so good the first time, and then changed forever? Would my brother and I have found another place, another time for my confirmation? Perhaps the stars and planets were just aligned right and it was meant to be.

This week's closing though is (if I recall correctly) from Groucho Marx: If you see a fork in the road. Take it. ~ Clive Schaupmeyer

Our Man In Canada Archives

Bio on Our Man In Canada

Clive Schaupmeyer is an outdoor writer and photographer. He is the author of The Essential Guide to Fly-Fishing, a 288-page book for novice and intermediate fly anglers. His photo of a boy fishing was judged the best outdoor picture of 1996 published by a member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada. He fly-fishes for trout in Alberta's foothill and mountain streams and for pike near his home in Brooks, Alberta. For information on where to find, or how to get a copy of Clive's book, Click here!

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