This is a special time of year. A time of giving, celebration and reflection. Finding a meaningful gift is tough but did get me reminiscing about two gifts that heavily influenced who I am today as a fly fisherman. And with that in mind, I started building a fly rod to help the next generation of fly fishers.
As long as I can remember, I have always loved fishing and was fortunate to frequently spin, bait or float fish with my dad and friends for bass, bluegill, carp and tilapia.
One gift completely replaced this pap-, plastic- & metalgooing approach with something even less logical, fly fishing. A family friend was gifted a beautiful Orvis Silver Label by his dad, and he in turn kindly gifted me his old fly rod. A Royal, graphite 9ft 7-8 wt fly rod, in regal black. Not even Google can find this rod today. As an 8-year-old I was delighted and it became the centre piece of my room. Undeterred that I was without a fly reel or line, I rigged it with my spinning reel and some home tied flies.
My flies were a thing of beauty and Shrek would have been proud. Springbok fur and guinea fowl feathers wrapped onto a hand-held #10 hook with sewing thread. The little smallmouth bass in the Breede certainly found them attractive and drifting the fly down the little riffles or dipping the pools worked well enough.
On our next holiday, while pumping prawns, my dad kicked something in the mud and lifted up a small old rusty centre pin reel. Viola, – my first fly reel. And my first fly line followed soon thereafter, a spool of 1 mm mono handline that I found whilst exploring the rock pools and gully’s for urchins, peri-winkles, anemones, crabs and octopi.
The mono line coiled, tangled and was not easy to cast, but I was happy as it gave me a bit more range and by taking a stealthy approach I was able to fool even more bass and bluegill.
Then another family friend visited us to do some fly fishing in the area. He showed me how to set up my gear, cast better and, on his departure, left me his 7wt Cortland sinking fly line in a rich dark brown colour and a set of flies. I could not thank him enough.
Armed with this gift of line and knowledge, I terrorised those bass in the Breede on a daily basis and during the next Spring, I spotted IT. A brown trout. A really big brown trout.
It spotted me the first day. It spotted me the second day. The third day I did not see it. The fourth day I managed to cast on its head and send it bolting for cover. Daily I returned with a single-minded focus, slowly improved and refined my strategy. On the 7th or 8th trip, my routine was well drilled and on an early Saturday morning under glorious blue skies I crossed the river 500 m downstream, creeped quietly behind the bushes and then crawled to the water’s edge to watch and wait. The noisy slurp gave away its location.
Today it was in the tail of the very large pool, a bit further back than usual and holding in a crystal-clear run rather than patrolling. Shaking and nervous, I crawled onto a rock and cast the little woolly worm out, very far off the mark. Disappointed and expecting another failed attempt, I gave a strip, and was surprised to see a streaking bow wave racing towards the fly. No strike was necessary as I held on tightly through the ensuing frenzy and several enormous leaps clean out of the water.
I walked proudly home, the measured 20” fish mounted on a twig for all to see. It was delicious, at least I thought so, and for me the clincher – I would always be a fly fisherman.
The journey started with a simple gift and now it is my turn to try help the next generation. Seeing my young nephew and niece’s eyes light up and having the patience all day despite not catching anything as a friend took them fishing for trout in a little stream took me back to my start.
And so, to help them on their fly-fishing journey I started a fly rod build. An 8’6, 4wt with a slim handle for little hands, a fighting butt to protect the reel as it is dropped and bumped about and tied together on a solid and tough Bloke blank.
Time will tell, but with a helping hand here and there we can all inspire the next generation of fly fishers. Who are you going to inspire?
Now I should get back to finishing this rod, as the eyes take me ages and Christmas is around the corner