March 28th, 2005

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

Trout and the Angler
By Michael Hanvey, Texas

It wasn't long ago that I wanted to learn the skillful art of the fly fisherman; the graceful form of casting artificial bait and bewitching wary trout into eating something inedible. I imagined peaceful river waters as they flowed around my waders while I secretly crept closer to the unsuspecting comforts of their lair. So enticing was this vision, I had stepped into the arena with my own tied fly, which would surely bring even more excitement when I led the river dwelling Pisces into my net while hooked to the end of a 2X tippet. This was the romantic picture I had seen in my dreams.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I took my adult son Matthew fly fishing to a local river where it meanders along parts of South Hulen Street in Fort Worth, Texas. We were parked near part of the city's Trinity Bike Trails near a portion of river where trout are stocked several times each winter.

The day was nice; well... as nice as cold days get anyway; I suppose the term "cold" is relative in this story. We were at about 40-degrees Fahrenheit with gusty winds putting the wind chill near 30, and water temperature on the river was in the upper 50-degree range. Neither of us had ever fly-fished a river before, much less for trout, so we were in the novice range on this day to say the least. Since the Trinity Bike Trails run so close to the river, I did not want to look like a ninny walking on the bike trail to the river in my brand spanking new chest-waders, so I wore knee boots and found a nice shallow spot where I could wade into water about 6-inches deep. The wading was nice and I was moving slowly from eddy to eddy carefully picking safe footing as I moved through the water.

About 70-yards west of me I noticed that Matthew had made his way upstream to a small pool area that was being fed by a low water dam about 4-feet higher in elevation from the portion of the river that I was working. This pool was bordered by hand laid rock and cement, which angled down from the actual river bank at about 30 degrees, similar to the angle that we all see under bridges where hoboes sit when escaping inclement weather. The pool was about 40-yards square, and looked like it was probably about 4-feet deep in places. After about fifteen minutes or so, Matthew was approaching me with a large smile on his face carrying a 1-pound rainbow trout, 13 or so inches in length. I felt the excitement swell up inside as I savored this moment with him, his first trout! I'm sure we would've sported a few high fives if we wouldn't have been risking the loss of his fish while doing so.

It didn't take long for me to decide that I was fishing in the wrong water, so I followed him up to his portion of the river, on the opposite bank. After all, no matter how proud I was of his catch, I wouldn't let the boy out fish me without a little extra effort on my part. I wasn't able to wade at this location because I could see moss growing underwater on the cement slab and knew any step placed on that would send me into the water. Matthew let me hold his trout in my back vest pocket while he went back to the truck to get his stringer, and was soon back fishing his side of the river. (We hadn't wanted to jinx the trip by carrying the stringer with us.)

After several casts, I decided that I wouldn't be able to see a strike because of the heavy current and the poor eyesight age has dealt me, so I placed a strike indicator on my line making this a much easier task. About 30-minutes passed without either of us having any action, so I started inching away casting from the cement slab and watching my strike indicator with true diligence. Suddenly, I was no longer standing, but was sitting on the river bottom, chest high in water that felt much colder than it was, gasping for air from the shock, and struggling to stand on the slick bottom. After what seemed like 10-minutes or more (maybe 5-seconds) I was standing in knee deep water, panting, dripping from chest to toe. Actually, I wasn't "dripping" from my toes, because my rubber boots with my feet still in them were on the river bottom full of ice cold water, but if they could have dripped they certainly would have. I was flabbergasted to say the least.

Did I mention that it was cold and the wind was gusty?

In an effort to hide my embarrassment and determined not to be out-done, I made a quick cast then stood there in my wet everythings and peeked over at my son to see if he'd seen the disaster. Once I saw that he was eagerly watching his line, I made another cast just like nothing had happened, and as I waited for the olive wooly bugger to descend I glanced at the recently unoccupied river bank and spotted a water seep through three cracks in the cement slant complete with green algae growth about two feet above the water line. I continued my act of fishing like I'd moved into the water on purpose, casting again while ignoring the biker's laughter as they went by slowly on the bike trail taking in the comic scene. I thought, "Obviously they know absolutely nothing about river fishing or they would know that from time to time fly fishermen wade wet on purpose. After all, a predator must adapt to the conditions of the prey if he wants to eat!"

"Yeah... right," I said under my breath feeling childish for the thought.

I had unconsciously ignored another fact; they were traveling slow because they were laughing too hard to pedal! I suppose the humor was warranted; I too would have laughed at such a sight. After ignoring another 15-minutes of unadulterated abuse by the bikers, (in truth they were imagined, but too real in my mind) I decided it wasn't a real good day for wade fishing under my present condition unless I wanted a big dose of pneumonia, so I reeled in my line, and began the climb to dry land; at least it was dry before I got there.

After a short walk, I realized the comedy was just beginning. I had to make a half mile walk on the bike trail to my truck, dripping wet, and sloshing in my knee boots with every shivering step. I was soon laughing to myself enjoying the whole miserable experience, knowing that this would be one fishing excursion I would never forget. Especially since I had shared it with my son. ~ MH

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