Here at Steelhead Alley Outfitters, we often here the question, "Do you allow beginners?" We always chuckle at that question because of the sheer fact that such a large number of our clients are new or have only fished on the fly a few times.
So, do we allow beginners....of course we do! And often times they are very cool days for us because we have very anglers with an insatiable hunger to learn. There will always be the mishaps of teaching a new angler, but there is something about sharing your passion with another that overshadows the lost flies and bird nest tangles that at times can seem overwhelming.
In the past couple of weeks, I've had a chance to fish with some guys that are as new to the sport as you can be. For Tim and Johnny, that was just the case. Tim had attempted to fish on the fly two or three times out west if I remember correctly, but ironically never caught anything. Johnny was fresh off the shelf. He had never fished on the fly and today would be his first introduction. Tim and Johnny have been friends since their college days and like many other guys were just looking for some more memories for their friendship. On this day, I think it was safe to say that they were excited about the possibilities! In fact, when I told them how big the average fish was, they kind of looked at each other and grinned....almost like two young, mischievous boys getting ready to do something they really wanted to do, but perhaps would feel guilty doing. Well, if guilt is what they would feel for catching such nice fish, then today was going to be loaded with guilty pleasure!
As the sun broke, I started into the basics and covered as much as I could as quickly as they could absorb it and off to fishing we went. The skills were crude to start, but I always tell my clients that ugly casts still catch fish. Pretty can come in time I told them...and time is what we had. The casts continued with little problems and then the first shot at a fish came.
Tim gets the day started with a nice chrome hen.
It was a great start to a day with rookies! One fish turned, one fish hooked, and one fish in the bag. I told them that if they kept that kind of hit percentage they would do what many only wish they could have done.
Regardless of whether they would land the next fish or not, these guys were excited! Never had they caught a fish on the fly and to have such a beautiful fish as a first, was exhilarating! No time to waste, so they jumped right back in and Johnny was ready for his shot at a fish. With the skunk off for Tim, I slid over to help refine Johnny's skills a bit and within minutes, he was putting the drifts right in the zone. A couple of drifts later.....BLAAAAMMM!
Johnny sticks his first fish on a fly and a nice hen steelhead
is a fine way to get started if I don't say so myself.
Johnny watches as his first fish on the fly rips
back into the stream from which it came. Way
to get it started Johnny...job well done!
So, Johnny got his fly fishing career started with one of the country's most popular fish. How could he ever go elsewhere without feeling duped? We now had fish in the bag for both guys, so the pressure was off. Now it was time to refine things, reset expectations so that they could fish on any day in any place and enjoy it...or not be totally disappointed. I mean really, these guys were new to the sport and inside the first thirty minutes had 2 Steelhead in the bag. Anybody who fishes Steelhead with regularity knows that there are many days when they don't come so easy. Beginners luck? Perhaps. However, the day was ours and we were going to do the very best we could with the time we had been given.
Back to refining things...a tip here, a demonstration there, a bit of praise, and things really started to shape up. Soon another hook up took place and it was onto the school of how to properly fight a fish. It was a good lesson, and this time the fish joined in by teaching a lesson of its own.
Not long after that quick lesson, Tim was back in the game with another fish on and this time, he retained the previous lesson learned.
Tim holds another nice fish early in the day.
So, it seems that these guys were anything but beginners, but who was complaining. We landed the fish, snapped a few photos and these guys were jazzed. In fact, they were so pumped about catching fish that they were ready for the next lesson that I don't normally teach...how to net a fish. Tim was more than pleased with his two fish and was now ready to try his hand at netting a fish and Johnny was cool with it. Going fish on, I handed Tim the net and gave him some directions on what to do and not do. While doing so, I got this cool shot of friends working together.
Johnny fights another fish while good friend Tim
gets ready to put the fish in the bag.
The day was going well, and just kept going well. The guys were catching their fish and were now enjoying netting each others fish. These guys were sponges when it came to learning and absorbing the lessons. The only thing they hadn't covered yet were some fine cigars. Well, these guys came ultra prepared, and within minutes had some nice dominicans fired up to celebrate the days success thus far.
Well, don't think that they were done just yet....really, for these guys, the day had just begun...
Tim with a bullet shaped chromed out buck.
Tim sticks another nice chrome fish.
This time a stout hen full of eggs.
Johnny wasn't going to be left behind, so he hooked up too. Now, Johnny's percentage of fish landed wasn't as good as Tim's, but some days that happens and you just can't do much about it. Regardless of his hit percentage, he still had a great day with many hookups and fish in the net.
Johnny watches as the fish breeches the water.
A bit later in the day, my path crossed another one of our guides. Tim Hess was on the move with his clients, and while we were close, we started a bit of teamwork. While I was working with Tim's client downstream, I looked up and saw Tim with another fish on.
SAO guide Tim Hess pulls the assist as Tim looks
into the bag as a very impressive buck.
Tim holds the nice buck from the net above
Toward the end of the day, Johnny decided it was time for a rally, and rally he did. There was no better way to conclude the day than to grab a photo with friends and a fish. That is the best kind of day you can have if you ask me.
So, fish after fish all day long...these guys had an amazing first day of fishing for Steelhead! Not to mention a stellar first day of fly fishing!
Beginners luck or just plain good? I don't know, and I don't really care! All I know is that it was a stellar day, full of fish, and amazing memories for two great friends. For a guide, this was the day you want to be on the water!
Until next time,
Patrick "Flybum" Robinson
Steelhead Alley Outfitters