Sunday Classic / Who’s Your Buddy?

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Dan Flynn in an Undisclosed Location Photo by Louis Cahill

What makes a good angler a great angler?

Fly fishing is a life long pursuit. That may be what I love the most about it. No matter how good you become, there is always a next level. Around every bend some new revelation. A lifetime of learning. For me, that’s the secret to happiness. Learn something new every day.

I always consider my fishing a work in progress. I never think of it in terms of what I have achieved, rather what’s next. This is in no way false modesty. Life has taught me that I have plenty to learn, whatever the subject. I clearly remember being, what I call, an adolescent angler. Knowing enough to be dangerous and too little to be content. Desperately seeking the next level. But how do you get there? I did it by getting lost.

I was excited about my new Toyota 4 Runner. It had been a while since I’d had four wheel drive and I knew it was going to open up some new water for me. On a crisp winter morning my wife and I hit the road to do some exploring. We followed one Forest Service road after another farther and farther into the North Georgia mountains, snow covering our tire tracks.

In my enthusiasm, I failed to keep up with a few of our turns and at some point had to stop and give the map a good study. Just as I was thinking it would have been smart to have brought food, a green pickup pulled up along side. A friendly fellow in a ball cap bearing the Fish Hawk logo asked if he could help. Dan Flynn would become one of my best friends and we fished together almost every week for years.

Dan is a fly fishing machine. His knowledge of Georgia and North Carolina trout water is endless. Especially the native brook trout streams. I learned more that first year crawling through mountain laurel with Dan than I’d learned in a lifetime of fishing on my own. It was with Dan I caught my first real trophy trout. Twenty-five inches. A great fish for a small Georgia stream. I remember him saying, “fish of a lifetime.”

I owe Dan a great many debts. Not only for what I learned from him and for his friendship but for so many great friends who would follow. It was through him that I met Kent, who continues to school me on a regular basis. And through Kent I met Joel Dickey and Bruce Chard, the guys that taught me the salt. And through Bruce I have met, well, just about everyone in the business. I wouldn’t be where I am without these guys.

So here’s my point.

We spend a lot of time selecting our gear, choosing the water, tying the flies, setting up the boat. There’s endless talk about waders and boots and reels and lines. Don’t forget that the most important piece of the puzzle is the guy standing next to you. Choose your fishing buddies wisely. Wives and girlfriends come and go but a fishing buddy is a serious commitment.

I’ve been truly fortunate to always fish with guys who are not only sincere and generous people but better fisherman than me. That has been the secret. I’ve always fished with guys who are better than me and my life is so much richer for it. So many guys want to be the hot rod, the big shot. Not me. I want to be the Gomer in the group. I’m not too proud to admit what I don’t know or to let you teach it to me.

My advice is this: find that friend whom you can learn from. If you’ve found them already, have the sense to know it. Be that friend for someone else and remember that they will have lessons for you as well. Always remember that you bear a responsibility. When you teach someone to be a better angler you must teach them to be a responsible angler. Share a commitment to leaving the water better than you found it. Share a love of the fish and their home.

Remember, a rising tide floats all boats.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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7 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / Who’s Your Buddy?

  1. Louis something always seems to spur people to take up fly fishing. For me it was watching Flip Pallot and the Walkers Cay Chronicles on TV in the early 90s, and the challenge of landing a large tarpon on a fly. At the time I was a big game offshore Captain operating a boat out of Ocean City Md. After buying my first 10 wt fly rod and reel, I went to the Fl Keys and hired a guide. Although we didn’t catch a tarpon on that day, my daughter caught a 25 pound permit on a crab and I was hooked. That day progressed into me taking out offshore fly trips for large pelagic species, meeting many of the nation’s top fly fishing gurus, and eventually writing for several national saltwater fly fishing publications. I also started freshwater fly fishing and found out that I really loved smallmouth and largemouth bass fishing. There seems to be something that gravitates people into fly fishing, maybe it’s the challenge, or perhaps it’s the natural order of things. I will say this though, after you get into it, you will become more in tune with nature, as well as the surrounding environment, and that’s a good thing.

  2. I realized I had a bunch of friends I fished with, who didn’t know each other. I got a couple of the guys in the group together for an day on the Middle Fork of the S. Platte and we all hit it off and had a great time. Since then we have had a monthly outing together now we have 10 of us in the group. We dont always get 10 guys on the water, but at least 2-3 every trip. We vary in experience from a professional guide to a couple newbies, from people who were born here to those who are just learning local waters. The best part is, the brotherhood and that we all help and learn from each other. I have learned more and have been able to pass that knowledge along to others. It has changed everything for me and my persuit of the art of fly fishing. I hope others come together.

  3. “Wives and girlfriends come and go but a fishing buddy is a serious commitment.”
    Wow! This belongs on a bumper sticker or tee shirt. (But don’t tell my wife I said so.)

  4. Couldn’t agree more, Louis. I also know Dan Flynn and fully understand and agree with your praise.

    I am fortunate to have a fishing buddy (Jay) who is a terrific fisherman… who raises his level and my level of skill year after year… and who is as fun on the drive to and from the water as he is on the river. You need someone who matches your enthusiasm and intensity. I was lucky to find such a buddy.

  5. Pingback: “Who’s Your Buddy?” These are my Buddies. |

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