July 26th, 2004
The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .
Feels Like the First Time
By Mike Saunders, Alabama
The line and leader fell gracefully to the
water, laid out in a semi smooth line towards
the overgrown bank. In most places the true
bank could not be seen for the flora that
adorned it so thickly for stretches of a
hundred yards or so at a time. Clinch-knotted
onto the tippet was a Betts chartreuse popper
sized for Bluegill. Falling a foot or so in
front of the branches, it lay there in stillness
as I held my rod still. From somewhere beneath
the bush came a willing participant and the sound
of a small mouth opening the water around the bug
hit my ears almost as fast as I saw the offering
I did as I had been instructed by all the articles
I had read online in the past few weeks, and
resisted the urge to haul back on the rod as
if I were setting the hook on a bass with a
spinning rig. I lifted the 9' 5WT virgin rod
at a moderate rate of speed and began the
tussle with the first fish I had ever caught
with a fly rod. A cut to the left, followed
quickly by another back towards the bushes,
then yet another back to the left as I reeled
in carefully, using the length of the rod to
turn him. No hauling in with the heft of a
spinning rig. No crane lift of a bamboo "pole"
here. This was an all-out scrap between a 2
pound tippet and an 8" bluegill who was doing
his best to break the link between him and the
larger line above that sung through the water.
Too quickly, the battle was over and the colorful
beauty was in my left hand as I removed the hook
from his lower jaw. My best fishing buddy – my
wife – told me to pose and snapped a quick picture
of the fish and I. One more look at the little
fighter and I placed him in the live well of the
jonboat, and stripped out some line for another
The day had progressed nicely. A typical springtime
deep south Saturday in Alabama, it was clear skied
with a hint of a cool front passing through. We had
participated in the neighborhood yard sale that
morning and had gotten onto the water at about 3
PM. The water on the reservoir had been dropped
a foot or so overnight and mixed with the cool
front passing through, the bass fishermen were
pretty much skunked. They would blaze by, scorching
the water in pursuit of a "honeyhole" somewhere
that they had not tried yet. Vicki and I had put
the jonboat in and not traveled more than a few
hundred yards from the landing and were peacefully
working the drop off looking for some pre-spawn
crappie. They were there, but not cooperating,
so I had put down my ultra light spinning rig
and seized the moment to give my new outfit
it's first try at a fish.
I didn't say a word to her, but I was kind of
glad that the crappie were not obliging us. That
was the perfect excuse to change over to fly
fishing. I had been practicing my casting in the
backyard for a few weeks and was anxious to try
my hand at a bluegill on a popper. Vicki turned
and cast her jig towards the bank and the foliage
and picked up a small spotted bass as I readied
everything for the first cast. I felt fairly
confident of my casting abilities. I knew I might
not be ready to place a nymph in front of a finicky
stream trout yet, but lobbing the popper up to the
bushes might be good enough for my first time.
After that first gill, I caught a 10" one and then
another one at about 7". Some bass fishermen were
working the bank behind us and had kicked their
trolling motor into high gear to come around us.
As they passed by they asked how we were doing,
and I gladly told them that we had caught 4 fish.
They had been out all morning and had caught one.
We had only been there on that bank for a short
while. I wish I could say that we "loaded the boat,"
but the afternoon was cut short by a home fire down
the slough from us. Traffic from all over the lake
was coming to watch and some to help keep the fire
from spreading to other homes on either side. The
fishing in that area died down. Having "passed the test,"
and a feeling as if I had conquered a small part
of the world, we loaded the trusty old boat back
on the trailer and released the "keepers" from the
I can honestly say that catching that first bluegill
on my new rod was as good as the first fish I ever
caught as a boy on a cane pole and bobber. It truly
felt like the first time. Fifty-plus years
transformed back in time to a four year old as
his mom helped him hold the pole and bring in
his first fish. I imagine that the grin on my
face today was no less bright, just somewhat
more wrinkled. It felt like the first time.
I had discovered fly fishing. It felt like the first time.
~ Mike Saunders
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