April 9th, 2001

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Kindling the Fire's of the Future
By: T.G. Grayhackle

Back in the middle of the Winter I acquired a new "fishin' buddy."

I have a sixteen-year-old daughter who, back when she was ten - maybe eleven - was all fired up to go fishing with Dad. Things do change. Last Summer, when I finally "coaxed" her to go along with me to chase some trout, she "carried" her waders and vest from the truck to the stream, to don them in the safety of the woods.

"Dad! Get Real! What if one of my friends would see me dressed like this?"

Oh, well. . . She'll come around, when the peer thing wears off. You can't win 'em all, but I did get the next-best thing. I've inherited a surrogate son with a passion for fur, feathers, and the long-stick.

This past Saturday was our third expedition together, and thankfully the weather gave us a bit of a break. On our second trip a few weeks ago, the water temperature was a cadaver-awakening thirty-nine degrees, half our time was spent picking ice out of our tip-tops, and the boy's hands and nose were blue before he'd call it quits.

I thought you might enjoy our Saturday together as much as I did.

We hadn't had any rain locally, for a week or two, and I was shocked when I got to the stream fifty miles away. There was at least four times more water than I've seen in the three years I've been fishing it. The Conowago runs mostly through forests, from its source, to the fly-fishing-only project. It wasn't much affected by muddy run-off, but it was somewhat milky. It definitely wasn't the ideal water to be introducing to a novice angler hoping to catch his first trout. It was wicked-bad to wade, and places where you can normally walk across without giving it second thought, were raging rapids, above mid-thigh. Even though the day was in the high fifties, and the State had put 6,200 trout in a little under six miles of the stream just a week ago, I knew we had our work cut out for us.

I started off by searching with double-rigs of big stuff with some flash. We tried big Gold Ribbed Hare's Ears and pheasant-tails; wooly buggers and Montana nymphs, and a half-dozen or so streamer patterns, to no avail. We came to a favorite bend in the creek with it's mandatory picturesque old tree leaning into the water from the outside of the bend, and the obligatory fast water tailing out into a long pool of about a hundred yards length. After working-over the current-swing into the trench by the tree with no luck, I stationed Dyland at the tail of the fast water, and showed him how to upstream-quarter a big marabou Mickey Finn, with short, quick, strips toward his downstream side, as it started to swing across the current. It took three large split-shot to get the big streamer down, and I expected him to whack himself in the back of the head with all that lead, but he surprised me, and figured out the oddities of throwing so much weight very quickly. I moved back up across from the tree so I could keep an eye on him and coach a little. He got the hang of the act right away so I told him to sector the stream out into lanes and work them all the way to the opposite bank, then move downstream a few steps, and repeat the action. I watched him for awhile, and began pondering what might entice these fish into venturing out of their nice safe holding zones into the raging flow. I was looking through my streamer box, and came across some Clouser minnows I had tied this winter. I had never tied nor fished a Clouser before, but I thought this looked like just as good a time as any to give one a go, so I tied on a #6 - with natural deer hair on top and a white bottom, with two strands of blue-green Krystal-Flash on each side. Even with the big heavy dumbbell eyes I left the three pieces of shot on, just above the tippet-knot, and I chucked the thing into the far-side seam between the current and the opposite bank, just below the tree trunk. I high-sticked it until it was across from me, then threw a hefty mend upstream, and started stripping line out fast, to keep up with the current at the edge of the fast water. As it started to swing into the current and I was pulling my first strip, the Clouser was clobbered - HARD. The fish was on the reel immediately, and he headed straight at Dyland who was totally engrossed in what "he" was doing, with not a clue as to what had just happened. I put the brakes on the fish just enough to head him across above Dyland, and it made a classic leap out of the water with a resounding splash just a few feet behind him. The kid straightened bolt-upright from his already perfected "anglers-crouch," looked at me like someone had snapped him with a wet towel, and yelled, "What was that?!"

I said, "It's a pretty nice trout that's going to be wrapped around your legs if I can't turn him toward the slower water."

Dyland said, "Are you serious?" just as the fish again became airborne, not three feet away - this time in front of the boy. He thrilled out, "I guess you are serious," immediately forgot all about what he was doing, and started upstream toward me.

I shouted, "Stay there Dyland, or he's going to wrap around you."

Now - having seen Dyland - the fish decided a better route of escape would be upstream, and the deep water by the tree, so I called for Dyland to come on up. When he was beside me I grabbed his rod, handed him mine, and said, "Here land this fish - I'm tired."

With a priceless expression on his face, he said, "Who, me?"

I said, "Dyland, this is no time to be asking silly questions - get on that fish, or you're going to lose it!"

He was now holding an eight-foot-six-inch, 3-wt. rod, and as we found out a few minutes later, the fish was an amazingly husky fifteen-inch brown trout. It was a hatchery trout from the stocking seven days before, but fighting heavy water for a week had already packed some muscle onto him. I casually backed off, sat down on the bank, lit my pipe, and coached Dyland for several minutes. The fish showed no signs of tiring for a good five minutes, so I just let him play with it until I saw it was slowing down, and then I helped him release it. He may not have hooked the fish, but he surely was having a ball with that hefty trout, in that heavy water, on that light-weight stick. When I again switched rods with him his hands were shaking, his eyes were the size of silver dollars, and he said, "Wow - that was great!"

I had only tied two Clousers in that color, and I gave the other one to Dyland, put him in the same position, and explained exactly what I had done. He fished there until he got bored, and then with his adolescent fervor and certainty - that the fish had all decided to be down-stream, now - he headed for "greener pastures." I sat there on the bank , finishing my pipe for a few minutes before deciding to move down closer to where he was, and thought I'd make a couple of casts first. I chose the far seam again, and repeated my previous act.

At the exact spot, and again, on the first strip, I picked up an eleven inch brown with nearly the same spunk as the first fish. Dyland had noticed the action this time, and as I was releasing the little brownie, he was back beside me, figuring the fish hadn't all gone downstream as he had thought. He worked that section of stream for awhile longer, with no luck, and since I had mentioned earlier that we would give another stream a try - one which I didn't think would be so swollen - he was ready to move on, to new water where - I'm sure he was positive - his "first trout" was waiting.

I took him to Falling Spring Branch, a small limestone spring stream near Chambersburg, PA. Being a limey, and not far from the source-springs, the delayed-harvest area doesn't gather as much surface water as the Conowago. Although the day had been quite pleasant, with the water temperature just above forty-five degrees, the sky was heavily overcast, and there was practically no activity when we got there around 4:30. Light was nearly gone and I was "worm-fishing" a San Juan, downstream into a deep stretch below some light riffles, when I nailed a nice dancing rainbow. I was paying more attention to trying to get Dyland's attention so he could come fish the hole, when on the second jump - just as he noticed the action, and began sloshing upstream toward me - I gave the 'bow too much slack, and lost it.

We fished until we could no longer see, and although Dyland hadn't caught anything, his spirit was anything but dampened. While we were walking back to the truck in the dark, he kept saying, "Next time. - Next time I'll catch trout myself. - I think I'm getting the hang of it."

And he is. He's casting beautifully for only having fished a few times, with a little tutelage. He has a decent rod and line, and his Dad told me he's been doing his darnedest - on his own - on a small-mouth-bass stream near his home, but just before I took him trout fishing for the first time, about a month-and-a-half-ago, he told me that he was about fed up with fly fishing - that all of his casts just ended up in a "puddle" of leader and fly. When the boy first showed me his rig, he had about four feet of what appeared to be 4x tippet material fastened to the end of his line with one of those horrible snap-together plastic things. Attached to that he had about three feet of what looked like 20 lb. mono, and to that, three feet of 3x tippet, and then the fly. I put on a seven-and-a-half foot Orvis-formula leader I had tied, and after a few casts the boy looked at me like I had given him a magic wand. Now, he's so fascinated with his ability to cast that he's got his line in the air more than on the water, and he calls me about mid-week and asks hopefully, "Mr. "D", are you going fishing this weekend?"

The boy has the passion - and a whole lot of natural talent. He reads everything he can get his hands on about fly-fishing, (His favorite resource is now FAOL) and since I gave him a big box of fly tying materials and a half dozen necks from my older, but "good-enough-to-hang-onto" stores, he's tying some very respectable flies. Before that, he'd been tying flies for a couple of years with one red Indian neck, his Mom's sewing thread, no bobbin, and no whip-finisher.

Tomorrow is his 16th birthday. I gave him a brand new whip-finisher, some fly fishing magazines, and a promise that if the weather is decent we'll go fishing again next Saturday. He immediately rejoined with a line he's heard me use on several occasions.

"Now, I don't mind rain - if it's not too cold."

I guess I've taken him to raise into the Brotherhood of the Long Rod. Now, if I can just get him to slow down a bit, and keep his line in the water, the kid is going to catch that first trout, and he's going to be a fly angling force to reckon with.

Hey - he's sixteen, tomorrow. You don't slow down a sixteen-year-old fly-angler, with a fire in his casting arm.

Happy Birthday, Dyland. ~ T.G. Grayhackle

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