July 16th, 2007

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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First Fish on a Fly
By Paul D. Greenwood, Salt Lake City, Utah

As a young father and avid fly fisherman I have been itching to pass on the family tradition. I have a loving wife and an over-excited four year old at home who are kind enough to let me out occasionally to rip some lips. It's hard to get away from work to go but it is nice that when I do get out I don't get too much slack from home.

I got a call from my grandmother in Montana. Grandpa had passed away a few years ago and Grandma had lost her favorite fishing partner. If you recall from my previous article, I used to spend my summers growing-up in Island Park, Idaho just a short horse ride from the Madison River and Yellowstone Park.

Grandma wanted to have a family reunion, and not having fished since grandpa passed away she wanted to get back to the Madison River area and fish like we used to. Having just come back from a rough day of fishing, I agreed to attend and we set a time to have the reunion.

June came quickly and I spent hours getting the boat, flies and rods ready for the adventure. With grandpa we fished mainly the lakes in the area and always caught fish. At times we would get into the fish so thick that everyone in the boat would have one on at the same time. This is quite an amazing trick when you have four or five fly rigs floating out of a 12' boat. Tangles and hang-ups were always involving each other and on occasion a big rainbow would do a dance all around the boat and a make a real big mess of us all.

Dreaming of the hundreds of fish we would catch we arrived at the reunion and got the boat in the water. We set course just like Grandpa always did and headed for the far west end of the lake and trolled dragging flies about 10 -15 yards off the bank. The water gets deep fast in this lake. The technique was to use a 5-8 wt fast sinking line and cast the fly almost on the bank. The trolling action of the boat would allow the fly to sink along the steep drop-off in the water and level out at 15-30 ft deep behind the boat as the slack is taken out by the passing boat. This repeated though a series of well-producing holes always gave up some nice high altitude rainbows.

This family reunion would be my wife Lindsey's and son Bryson's first time to really try to fly fish. On the first trip of the day out in the boat the fish just did not seem to be where they usually where. We practiced the usual patterns of casting to the shore and dragging the fly behind. We changed speeds and depths and still nothing. We spent two hours out trying to hook-up and got nothing. We decided to pull over to a favorite picnic area and let Bryson throw some rocks and get the wiggles out while I messed around with the motor trying to get it to ideal down a little more to see if that would help out the action on the flies.

Lindsey grabbed a rod and began to practice casting a few yards away from the boat while Grandma took Bryson the other way to throw rocks. After tinkering for a little while and making a little headway I sat back and began to scan the water looking for action on the surface and underneath. I started to see both. This is good for this lake. The wind was picking up which also helps.

I walked over to Lindsey to see if she was ready to go back out in the boat when I saw it. Several large Rainbows were in a group huddled over a large bundle of plant growth. Fresh water shrimp was on the menu and Lindsey had the right fly on a Green Crystal Bugger #12 tied thin. I coached her where the fish were. After a few failed attempts the fish were still there. The wind had put a little ripple over the water which hid her casting learning curve. Finally two turned and pursued. At the angle I was standing I could see them but she could not. I told her to hold and begin to strip in short but quick. She began to and the fish lunged. The bigger of the two got to the fly first and turned hard on the strike. With a wow and a zing of the reel we had finally hooked-up. Lindsey let out a squeal and I about fell over. Grandma and Bryson were both heading over after hearing the commotion. Taking her time and playing the fish to get him in we finally got him to the shore.

Lindseys first fish

I was thinking that maybe we ought to have this one mounted. It was a nice 20 inches and fat for early June. This was her first on a fly rod and we had to keep it. Lindsey didn't want anything to do with touching that silver bullet of a fish so I waded out a little to keep the fish in the water so I could unhook him.

I noticed some funny scaring on his back. I started to think that it must have some infection or disease. Maybe it was a good thing that we were going to kill him to save the other fish. I got hold of him and rolled him on his back when I noticed a large slash across his gills. This poor fish was in really tough shape. That was when I noticed three triangular shaped puncture wounds on the other side of the gill slash. An eagle must have taken a grab at this one but got away. I now had a new found respect for this survivor. There was just no way I could kill a fish that had survived a direct attack from one of nature's most proficient fishers. This one was tough, and needed to stay in the lake for future breading.

We released the "King of the Lake" as we had dubbed him, piled into the boat and headed back out for another round of fishing the banks. From that point on we started catching quite a few more. On multiple occasions we had three or four fish on at the same time between Lindsey, Bryson, Grandma and me. I think Grandpa must have smiled a few times looking down on us trying to land a few and laughing when they would make a run and take us out to our backing.

One for me

Best of Luck to all of you. Remember it not the "Big One" but the story that goes behind it, that we all chase. ~ Paul Greenwood


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