Never Too Late to Try Something New
March of 2020 was a month where involvement in the outdoors started climbing to unprecedented levels. With social distancing mandates and cabin fever setting in, it became incredibly difficult to buy bikes, kayaks, hiking boots, and fishing poles by early June. Some people found themselves with extra time to spend in the turkey woods, a chance to take a hike while looking for morel mushrooms, or just time to enjoy extra bike rides around the neighborhood.
For me, it was an opportunity to learn to fly fish. I was set to be married on April 25th in Memphis. With the developments in COVID-19, we had to postpone the reception (fate was on our side and we were able to “elope” on 4/25 and be married) for a later date. I had also scheduled, in late March, a pretty fun bachelor trip in Blue Ridge, Georgia to go fly fishing with the guide service: Appalachian Anglers. With frustrations set in due to rescheduling a wedding, fishing trip, and essentially being shut out of any other activities, I decided to not let COVID win and teach myself to fly fish on the Little Red River in Arkansas. I already owned an old yellow Eagle Claw rod and a Martin reel I received on my 12th birthday so I went to Sportsman’s Warehouse down the road from my house to get a couple of flies, a few essential tools, and go try my hand at catching trout.
I quickly learned just how difficult trout can be without the aid of someone who knows the sport to be by your side, but I couldn’t give up. I made the 2.5-hour drive from my house in Mississippi to the Little Red 4 times before I put the first rainbow in a net. What was awesome about that first fish wasn’t so much the fish, but the help I received to get it in there. That day I decided to try a little closer to the Greer’s Ferry dam in the John F. Kennedy park. While there, I ended up setting up just about 20 yards from 3 guys fishing together, a father, son, and a brother to the father. I fished for about 45 minutes, with trout jumping all around me, and those three guys seemingly catching fish after fish, yet never hooked a single one myself. Then finally, the father hollered over to me to ask,
“What pattern are you using?”
“A red Saun Juan worm.”
“Weird. That’s what he's using too using too (as he pointed to his son that was reeling in another). What kind of leader do you have?”
“I’m not sure. Just a tapered leader from Sportsman’s Warehouse. 5x I believe.”
“Is it monofilament, or fluorocarbon?”
“Ohh. Well that’s your problem! These fish are smart and can see the line. Come over here. I’ve got some for you.”
From there, they tied on a new fluorocarbon tippet, gave me a “Squirmy Wormy” Saun Juan worm, and told me to come out to the water between he and his son. I fished there for another hour and a half before the alarm sounded indicating that generation was starting at the dam and water would rapidly rise. In that time, I managed to put 25 fish total in the net. As we climbed the river bank together and said our goodbyes in the parking lot, I felt like I had finally beat the river, and COVID-19.
That father had no idea, and likely never will, the joy he was able to create in me. He solidified a new passion and hobby amidst a global pandemic. I didn’t feel like a 29-year-old man driving home. I was 12 again, with my first “true” fly experience under my belt. So, the next time you see someone struggling in the field, lend a hand. You’ll likely never know for sure, but your actions could have a profound effect on someone.