April 15th, 2002

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

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side
By Shane Lalumandier (aka pioneer)

I came across the FAOL site a few months back when I decided it was time to transform my fly-fishing career from my few feeble attempts to productive fishing trips. After finally making it to the chat room, a host asked why I decided to try fly-fishing. Later an old-timer not just to the forum but in life as well said that he envied me as I was just starting out. I replied that no matter how old you were, there was always stuff to learn. This is what prompted me to write this small article to show that the grass is always greener on the other side and maybe give some of the old-timers a chance to relive what it was like to be just starting out.

My fly-fishing career started a year ago when entering a large outdoors, fishing, and hunting store. For some reason, maybe it's my love of fishing, but with spinning reel and bait I always seem to be able to catch something worthwhile. I came back with two 19-inch specks. I have another trip planned in a few weeks to go with my wife and my parents, so I naturally I wanted to go do a little shopping for some new gear.

As I walked through this store, I happened upon a section set aside specifically for fly-fishing. I thought to myself, this would be a great way to fish, not having to lug around a chest for bait, aerators, tackle boxes with hooks, weights, corks and lures. Not only could this be a save all as far as lugging stuff, but it's compact enough to carry with me all the time, so that if a chance permits, I can grab the rod, a box of flies and be fishing in a few minutes. So I wandered in and took a look around. If my curiosity had not been so high, I might have turned around and never considered it again.

The first place I went was to the rods. Three hundred, four hundred fifty, six hundred ninety five, nine hundred ninety five dollars were the first prices I saw. I glanced over at the reels and again the prices were astounding. I continued to browse just to fulfill my curiosity. Fly line starting at twenty-five dollars and going up. After a very brief browsing on that side I went to the other. Prices dropped considerable but still seemed high, as I was use to paying thirty dollars for a rod and real combo. Rods ranged from fifty up to a hundred dollars with reels starting in the twenties. Not entirely out of my budget, but not something I wanted to buy having never been before and not knowing one iota about fly-fishing.

I was about to leave when the store clerk, a fly-fisher himself, floated the line in front of me making a perfect presentation of the fly, and like a hungry bass I attacked sending a surge or water shooting off the surface. After asking if he could help me and I replied that I knew nothing about fly fishing, he informed me that every Sunday they gave free casting lessons. I began to smile and my wife began to frown, she knew where this was headed with our checking account getting a little lighter. I signed both my wife and myself up for lessons.

Two weeks later, after casting lessons, we again entered the store and went to the fly-fishing section. After a few questions, I disappointed, was headed back out with my wife. I was having a little trouble justifying to my wife and myself spending the minimum of one hundred dollars to buy their cheapest setup of a rod, real, backing, and fly line. My wife, God bless her soul, could see how much I wanted one. She turned me around and said to go ahead and buy one. So, one hundred and twenty dollars later, I walked out with an 8'6 8wt rod , reel, line, and some flies and one fly box.

The next two weeks I spent almost every night outside practicing casting. Finally we were headed back to visit our parents and I figured I get the chance to try it out. Early that Saturday morning my dad, who only for a brief period when he was very young fly-fished, and I discussed where we might go try my rod out. We decided on a small pond that was close to a road about 20 miles away. After having to walk about fifty feet through the brush, we came to our destination. This did not look good. The last flood had filled in what used to be a deep pond. I pulled out my rod tied on a damselfly. A few cast nothing. A few more and the line snagged in the tree limbs behind me on the back cast. A few more and I tied on a little popper.

A few more casts and nothing. I was having trouble casting due to space constraints. My dad asked if he could try. Not having had a fly rod in his hands in almost 40 years, he had problems. He changed tactics. He now started casting under the limbs that were causing us problems on our back cast. Nothing more than a little 15 foot cast. I told him jokingly that I would be very upset if he caught a fish on my new rod before I did. He turned to me, and laughing, said that was exactly what he was going to do. That's when I saw it. The little popper was sucked under. "DAD" I shouted, "THE FLY IS GONE." Too late, by the time he turned back around, the popper floated back up. A few more cast produced no results and it was time to go.

Christmas came and of course on my list were flies for fishing, along with some other gear, fly jacket and another little fly box. My wife thought I was crazy, as I had not even caught a fish yet. However, she knew my passion for fishing and gave me no flack about the items.

Well, I'll be brief about my next few trips. I basically went to places that were not well suited for any fishing, as I learned later, they had dried up the previous summer. A few more places and no luck. Summer ended and I had not caught a thing on the fly rod. I still had the plastic covering on the handle as sort of a rite of passage. I wouldn't take it off till I had caught a fish. Around late September, my wife and I visited and old high school friend of mine. I happened to mention that I had bought a fly rod and never caught anything on it yet. My fiend came across with a suggestion of running to their tank on the back of their property, as he had not fished in a long time as well.

Ten minutes later, I was rigging up my rod. Like I said, I carried it with me for any opportunity I might get. He began to throw a spinner bait as I started with a woolly bugger. I was elaborating on the virtues of fly-fishing as I got to the edge of the weeds on my retrieve, I could just flip it back out without having to drag it through the weeds. He could see my point, as he had to clean his lure before every cast.

I changed my fly two more times before changing to a yellow diver. After a few more casts, nothing. I was about to give up again as it was getting dark. I cast it out, and turned to my wife to join in on the discussion she was having with my friend's wife. As I was turning my head I heard the unmistakable sound of a fish exploding through the water surface. I jerked my head back to see that my fly was no longer on top of the water. I jerked and felt the line tighten and the hook was set. A few strips of the line and I had caught my first bass. Not large by any means, only about 10 inches long, but to me it was a huge accomplishment. Of course we had no camera to record the moment, but it is one I will never forget. We returned to his house where I removed the plastic off the handle of the rod almost as if I was receiving a gold medal.

At the beginning of this year, I resolved that I would fish more. I learned that Texas Parks and Wildlife stocks some of our local lakes with trout. In going to get trout flies, I learned that the shop I bought my rod at also teach how to tie flies. I have now gotten into tying flies. It's how I found the FAOL site while searching for information on how to tie flies. I have made a few attempts at the local trout but to no avail. I can see them feeding but they are about ten feet further than I can cast. I figured that if I will ever be successful at fly-fishing I need some help even though I can catch lots of fish using other means. It is why I desperately wanted to attend the Texas Fish In. I figured I could at least get some pointers there as well as get some time to fish.

From there I have joined in the chat rooms seeking advice. I have bought waders and a new 4wt fly rod, as I knew my 8wt would be overkill. The plastic is still on the handle and waits to be taken off for when I catch a fish on it. I recently went to a fly-fishing club and what to my surprise; the guides they brought in discussed the area that I will be fishing at the Texas Fish In. My anxiety mounts. I don't know what flies to tie but have been assured that will not be a problem. I still have to acquire some kind of wading shoes. I am reading as much on the FAOL site as I can squeeze in. I sit here envious of the old timers who have caught many fish and know which flies to take that will most likely be productive and pray that I have not spent this much money on something that I may not be able to do. Even that, I will not regret it, as it's still been one of the most enjoyable things I have learned about.

So I sit here envious of the old timers knowing they will most likely catch something and they sit there envious of me knowing what I will experience as I continue to fish, and then I say to myself, yes, the grass is always greener on the other side. ~ Shane Lalumandier (aka pioneer)

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