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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11 thoughts on “Who’s Your Buddy?

  1. Very true. My best fishing buddy is a former student of mine, and we have now come full circle…he is teaching me now, but I am still teaching him that to have a good day does not mean one must catch fish…although we seldom are skunked.

  2. Mine just stand me up. Is there a place where I can find a new fishin’ pal based on, like, 32 points of compatibility?

  3. I’m finding that multple fishing buds is ideal. Each of us bring something a little bit different to the game. More approaches, more laughs, and hopefully more fish.

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