Sunday Classic / How Louis Got His Groove Back

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Good Bye Darlin’ Photo by Joel Dickey

It’s hard to overstate the importance of confidence in fly fishing. It’s often the special sauce on success.


I squint into the sun. My eyes burn from sweat and sun screen. I take a few deep breaths and puff them back out. I stretch my neck side to side, it pops and cracks. I close my eyes for a second, though I know I shouldn’t, I squeeze the cork in my hand and try to slow my heart rate. I open my eyes and I see an army of tarpon. I am loosing my cool.

There must be fifty or sixty fish in this school and plenty of them are a hundred pounds or better. I’ve seen it before but it’s a sight you never get used to. You can easily spend a whole day on a flats boat staring at the water without seeing a fish. I’ve done that too. Moments like this have to be savored and at first I was doing a pretty good job of it but now things are getting weird.

Normally in salt water fly fishing the presentation is what matters. That’s not to say that you don’t need the right fly but it’s not generally like fishing to a educated brown trout who’s only eating the females among the emerging mayflies. Not generally, but this afternoon is different. These fish are being really picky. Normally, you get a shot at a fish and it’s either interested, or it’s not and you are left to wonder why or just assume that fish isn’t eating and move on looking for the next fish. You don’t get the luxury of sitting there and sorting it out. This afternoon we are sitting in the midst of a huge school of tarpon, who are clearly eating all around us, and I have made a dozen good presentations, each to be met with a follow and a refusal. It feels oddly like trout fishing. My buddy Joel Dickey is working thru every fly in his box trying to put me on a fish while we watch tarpon busting the surface all around us. These fish are keyed in on something and we are trying to match the hatch.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of confidence in fly fishing. It’s often the special sauce on success. The thing that gives one angler the hot rod while his buddy fishes the same fly and goes fish-less. I felt real confident when we rolled up on these fish. How could you not? A school of fifty feeding fish, surely you’re going to get one, right? But with each nerve-racking follow and heart breaking refusal my confidence is eroding. My presentations are getting rushed, my casts becoming less and less accurate, my timing starting to slip. I’m getting rattled, I’m getting sloppy.

Kent sees what’s happening and is working hard to help. He refuses my repeated offers to yield the bow. “No”, he says, “you’re going to get a fish”. Like a coach making a pitcher work through a bad inning, he knows I need to get a fish to keep my confidence. As I present my fly I hear his voice softly behind me, “slow that strip down, drop your rod tip”. That’s when you know you have a real friend on the boat with you. I’m lucky.

Finally Joel cracks the code. “They’re eating pilchards” he says. “I’ve got something they haven’t seen”. He takes a fly from a new box and shows it to me. “I just tied this and you can’t take a picture of it, you hear me”! He ties it on and the next fish I cast to does not hesitate. She pounces on it. Joel has matched the hatch. The fly was so subtle it didn’t even look like a tarpon fly. I’ve never seen a tarpon fly like it anyway, but it was the ticket.

That first fish unbuttoned but I landed the next one. It wasn’t nearly as big, but it didn’t matter. I’d pitched my way out of the inning. I’d seen one of the coolest salt water scenarios I could imagine and with the help of two good friends, I had my cool back and that’s what matters.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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5 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / How Louis Got His Groove Back

  1. Favorite line “you can’t take pictures of this”…made me laugh…thanks for sharing yet another quality piece

  2. Very inspiring. I don’t fish salt (not that I don’t want to, actually, it’s at the top of my list) but the reference to it feeling like fishing for Trout hits home. Once your confidence is gone, you have got to get it back, even feeling a bump is the beginning of it building back up, but nothing works as well as a take and a fish in hand! Great read.

  3. So….any chance they WEREN’T eating pilchards, and that fly he handed you was something he came up to catch Crappies? Anything to get a guy’s confidence back! Another great story, thanks for sharing.

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