July 12th, 2004

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

My First Time Was In Wisconsin
By Allan Corbin, Sweet Home, Alabama

Back in Louisiana many boys learn to fish at about the time they learn to walk. At 43, I have been walking for a while now, but I only started fishing about three months ago. Why I chose fly fishing I'm not sure. If I knew the answer to that, I would have much greater insight into myself regarding a whole host of unanswered questions. In short, I don't know what took me so long to discover my life's passion.

I live in Alabama now, and I'm fortunate to travel just enough on business to enjoy it. My goal when traveling is to fly fish everywhere I go. When I found out my next destination was to be Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I was very pleased. Wisconsin holds a special place for me because my mother attended the University of Wisconsin. At a time when African-Americans could not attend graduate schools in the South, Wisconsin provided a wonderful window of opportunity. She always spoke with great fondness of the beauty of Wisconsin and its people. I was probably the only kid in Louisiana who was a diehard Badger fan.

After a bit of searching, I found the Milwaukee Lakes and Stream Fly Fishers (http://www.speakeasy.org/~mlsff). The Milwaukee Lake and Stream Fly Fishers, also known as MLSFF, is a group of fly fishing enthusiast located in and around the Milwaukee area. Through their web site I came upon a phone number and the name, "Ken." So one evening sitting in my Birmingham home I decided to give this Ken guy a call. When I called, a man answered the phone and I said, "Hello may I speak to Ken?" He responded by saying, "Who is this?" I began to give him my name and the nature of my call when he suddenly barked, "Why the hell are you calling me Ken anyway? I don't know you!" Fearing he was about to give me the old telemarketer hang up, I shot out the phrase, "I called about fishing." It was those four words that saved me! The proceeding tenor and tone of the conversation completely changed. It was obvious that Ken loved to fish, and that I had struck the cord that soothed the savage beast that all telemarketers bring out.

After making that core connection, we subsequently exchanged several phone calls and emails. He sent me pictures of the clubs fly fishing outings as well as two of his favorite flies. He even sent fly recipes and an actual fly he tied himself. I took the recipes to "mission control." Mission control is the Riverside Fly Shop located on the only tail water trout stream in Alabama, the Sipsey Fork of Warrior River. The owners, John and Elizabeth are always happy to assist and never try and pressure you with a lot of sales talk. John gave me a few pointers on northern trout because he has fished in probably every element known to mankind, and Elizabeth tied my flies for the trip based on Ken's photos and recipes. Elizabeth even tried to replicate one of Ken's now famed flies, "The Zeilinski." It was given the sir name of its creator, Ken Zeilinski. The Zeilinski is now a key element of my arsenal. After a week or two and a bit of hand ringing, Ken called me and told me that he had finally found someone to take me fly fishing.

He paired me with Michael Dearry. Michael was perfect for the task. Incredibly, Michael is a graduate of Auburn University, a major university here in the state Alabama. He had spent many years in Alabama, and his roots are very deep. He had to be the most northern "Southern Boy" I had ever met. He was an incredible combination of North, South, urban, and country. From his Birkenstock clad feet all the way up to the pinch of Copenhagen in his lip, he was the perfect fusion of two extreme elements. The ease and comfort with which he blended and presented these contrasting styles was to be envied.

Now it was the morning of our fishing trip and my last day in Milwaukee. Michael and I had a great breakfast at some extremely Milwaukeean diner located on Kinickinic Street. After I was nearly too stuffed to move, Michael and I headed for the appropriately named trout waters of Paradise Springs. With me in tow we met Ken at a park and ride and he led the way. After a pictorial display of the Wisconsin's country side, we arrived at truly a paradise. The water was crystal clear. I know this is often a very over used phrase, but not in this case. The whole area was amazingly clean. I did however notice one sheet of paper. It was in about six feet of water so clear you could actually read the writing. I am ashamed to say, but this was quite a contrast from most public places in Alabama. Although my home state of Alabama is quite beautiful, far too many of its residents fail in protecting that beauty.

With our waders on and rods ready, Michael and I following Ken's lead as the three of us waded in. This was my first time ever in a pair of waders. The water seemed freezing cold especially to a boy from the Deep South, but I was warmed with excitement. There was what also seamed like a lot of trout in the water, but Ken told me he had seen many, many more on other trips. It still looked like a lot of fish to me! The Browns and Rainbows looked as though they averaged mostly around a foot or so. The fish could be clearly seen throughout the water thanks to the polarized glasses that Michael loaned me. It became very evident after a couple of fruitless hours however that catching them was a lot harder than seeing them.

I soon learned that trout are very cautious fish by nature, and these had obviously been exposed to quite a bit of fishing pressure. In Ken's words, they were very educated. For me they might as well have been Rhode Scholars on leave from Oxford. Nonetheless, it was still time well spent. Because of the tree lined overhang, I was forced to work on my roll cast. I can't adequately tell you how much I need that. After several tries, I finally acquired some consistent degree of proficiency, and was very pleased. However, near the end of the day I admittedly began to resign myself to the thought of not catching my first trout. The other guys were not on fire either, but at least had caught a few. It was also getting late and I had a plane to catch.

I found myself lazily fiddling with my rod while rationalizing why this had still been a good trip. Sinking like quicksand into this rational, my rod suddenly jerked hard and bent downward. I had a bite! It was a beautiful foot long rainbow. I'm not sure who was the most excited, Michael, Ken, or me! Michael was shouting, "Keep you rod high!" Ken was yelling, "Easy! Easy," although there was nothing easy in his tone. Between the fighting trout and the shotgun like commands from Ken and Michael, I found myself standing in an almost Kung Fu like position trying to heed each instruction! Between the three of us the trout didn't have a chance. At last, I had caught my first trout!

Now that I am back in Sweet Home, Alabama, reflecting on all of it, I know I will never forget that first trout I ever caught, or the guys who made that happen for me in beautiful Wisconsin. ~ acorbin


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