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Where's the Camera?
By Rex Walker, TX

Her smile stretched from ear to ear as my daughter held up her first fish caught with a fly rod. It was a Bluegill, and all I could think about was why didn't I bring a camera? I'm not sure if she was prouder of that fish or if I was prouder of her, but we were both smiling.

My daughter had cast a fly rod a couple of times before, but this was her first time to fish with one. She had shocked me the night before when she agreed to go fly fishing with me early the next morning. Hey, I'm not a complete fool; she is reaching the age where soon she will not want to be seen in public with her dad, so I jumped at the opportunity to fish with her.

We started fishing a point and we had not gone very far when I heard a quiet, almost reverent voice say "Wow, so close!" I looked up and a Great Blue Heron was flying by no more than 10 feet from us. Those are cool birds, especially when you get to see them that close. I thought it was great my daughter got to experience that, and I thought it is sad that most of her classmates at school will never have that opportunity.

As we continued around the point, we discussed different ways to retrieve the fly; let it sit in one place, or use short quick strips with pauses, or slow and steady, etc. Once we were on the other side of the point, it finally happened, a feisty Bluegill took her fly. She landed it like a champ and was very excited. She remembered that she had used a slow steady retrieve and on her next cast she did it again and caught her second Bluegill. At this point, I'm starting to think about switching to a white popper. As we continued down that side of the point, we both caught and missed several more Bluegills and a couple of small bass.

When we finished the point we moved to a cove where we found the mother lode of assorted perch species. The water was clearer here and she was able to see many of the strikes and the rejections. You just have to love Bluegills and their cousins. They are a great beginner's fish, since they're plentiful and you can experience a variety of reactions from them. Some will aggressively take a fly, but others will spit the fly out and require a quick hook set to catch, while others just follow the fly and never take it. If you want to see a girl get frustrated just have several fish in a row follow her fly without taking it. Of course, the aggressive ones kept the fun level very high. I had forgotten both how much you can learn about fishing from perch, and how much fun they are to catch with a light rod.

We were fishing along the bank, and we were hooting and hollering and just having fun. One of Striper fishermen that didn't look like he'd had very much luck that morning, asked if we were catching anything. When I told him yes and that we were targeting perch, you'd have thought that I had just slapped him. He looked at us like we were completely crazy for fishing Lake Texoma for perch with fly rods. As he left, I looked at my daughter and we laughed, because we didn't care what he thought, we were catching fish and having fun.

As we moved toward the back of the cove, I pointed out a snake that was swimming across the water. My daughter's first response was in a horrified voice "There are snakes in this lake?" But the fear was quickly converted to fascination once she saw how it was swimming in the water. She was amazed at how easily and fast it could swim on the surface of the water. Here was another experience you just can't get in school.

As we started working our way out of the cove, two deer came down to the water for a drink. They pretty well completely distracted my daughter from any further fishing, and I'll admit I enjoyed watching them too. Watching them was a great way wrap up the morning's trip.

It was a fun day on the water with my daughter. She was able to comfortably cast around 20 to 25 feet of fly line with a 5 ft leader, until later in the morning when she started getting tired and her casting ability suffered. We ended up catching a variety of fish including two tiny Largemouth bass, Bluegills, Pumpkinseed, Warmouth, common green sunfish, and some other species of sunfish that I don't know the names of. Two of the species that I didn't recognize were beautiful, one was covered in squiggly blue lines on their sides and the other had bright blue fins. The blue fin versions were finicky eaters; we could see them in the water but only caught a few of them. I don't know how many fish we actually caught, but we missed a whole lot more strikes than we caught. I'm looking forward to my next trip with my daughter and I hope they continue for many more years.

Have fun, ~ Rex

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