Fly Fishing Is A Journey

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Photo by Andrew Bennett

Photo by Andrew Bennett

By Louis Cahill

I’ll never forget my first trout on the fly.

It was tiny. A rainbow. Probably wild, but I wouldn’t have known the difference or even cared at the time. It was memorable primarily because it was a long time coming. I’ll always remember my first steelhead, my first tarpon and many others, but none of them were as hard won as that little rainbow.

DSC_7034Although I started fly fishing when I was very young, I spent years fishing warm water for panfish and bass. There was no trout water accessible to me. It was all a good drive away and there was no one interested in driving me. My grandfather took me trout fishing once when I was eight years old. He dumped me on a small overgrown stream and went about his business. I’m not sure my fly even hit the water that day but the trees got plenty of attention. If I did wet a fly, I had no idea what to do with it. The idea of fishing moving water was as foreign as sculpting a fish from stone. I decided that trout fishing was too hard for me and I didn’t go back to it for many years.

Once the code was cracked and that little rainbow landed, trout became a singular obsession.

I found myself on a trout stream well over a hundred days a year and many firsts followed. My first brown trout, my first brooke, my first trout over twenty inches, then over thirty. I tied my first fly, built my first bamboo rod, rowed my first drift boat, cast my first spey rod. Each new step requiring me to learn new skills and take new risks. With each new challenge, renewed excitement and focus.

On a family beach trip many years ago, I carried an old seven-weight fiberglass fly rod. I had no idea what to do with it but I’d heard people talk about fly fishing in saltwater so I took it, and a few Clouser Minnows. I wasted a day casting blindly and wondering how the hell I was supposed to find a fish until I saw bait busting the surface. I cast my fly into the disturbance and pulled out a lady fish. I was on fire.

I didn’t even know what it was and the guys at the fly shop we’re kind enough to not laugh at me for being so excited about it. It was like catching that little rainbow all over again and it started me down another long road. Eventually I would find new friends who could teach me how to catch real fish in the salt. It would require, not only new skills, but relearning the ones I had. It was the most challenging thing I’d ever done and the rewards were in proportion.

Last week I was in the Bahamas, leading a group of anglers on that same path.

DSCF6655Standing on the bow of a flats boat, sometimes with guides who have become old friends, staring into the water, wondering what would happen next. My heart pounding with excitement. Wading chest deep, waves breaking over my head, casting for all I’m worth into a thirty-mile per hour wind, at a huge permit who remained just out of reach. My guide throwing rocks at sharks.

I teach, and I learn, and I push myself farther. I feel the next new thing calling to me, though I don’t know yet what it is. I don’t know where this journey ends but I doubt it will be the end of the road. I expect this trip will outlive the traveler, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Like any journey, it isn’t the destination that matters. It isn’t really the journey either. It’s what you learn about yourself along the way.

As it turns out, trout fishing was not too hard for me.

Neither was saltwater fly fishing. To achieve each goal I have had to learn new skills, and along the way, I have learned to learn. Fy fishing has taught me that nothing I set my mind to is out of my reach. There is no goal that focus, hard work and patience will not see me attain. That goes for anything, but most often it goes for fishing. That’s a good lesson and I’ve caught some very good fish learning it.

Join me for the G&G Bonefish School on South Andros!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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One thought on “Fly Fishing Is A Journey

  1. Nice article, Louis. I started fly fishing 34 years ago when I first started college in northern Utah. And, it has blessed my life and taught me many things along the way, too.

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