Each year I have the opportunity to take a lot of people fishing and often times get to share with them the experience of a first Steelhead on the fly. That is always a great experience no matter how long you may have known the angler standing alongside you. However, there is one "first time" experience that trumps all others, whether you are a guide or not, and that is when you get to experience it with your own family.
Going back a few years ago to 2009, I had a brief window of opportunity and an 8 year old son who was chomping at the bit to do what Dad does. It just happened to be March 22nd which is my birthday and I thought, "No better way to spend the day than teaching my son to fly fish!" We only had three hours to get done what I hoped to accomplish, so we hit the road. One hour of casting instruction and one hour of fishing is all that we had with travel time, so we crossed our fingers, said a prayer, and hit the water. With numerous hook-ups, many lost fish, and yes, even some tears from a disappointed 8 year old, the final fish came to the net with the splendor and majesty that only a father can understand. The moment the fish hit the net you could hear the shouts and jubilation from a mile away I'm sure, but I didn't care. It was my son, on my birthday, and I had never had a better one!
Patrick's son with his first fish on a fly rod...
and a Steelhead to boot!
He was as proud as they come and so was Dad!
Fast forward a year, and I had a good shot at getting my oldest daughter out. We hit the stream and conditions were right, but our good fortune wasn't as good this time around. With seven hook-ups came seven lessons in what not to do while fighting a Steelhead...we've all been there. Yes, we left the stream that day a bit disappointed, but this was a good day by any definition, because I had my daughter on the stream.
Fast forward one more year to the fall of 2011 and it was back on the stream this time with my oldest son and daughter. It was amazing how well my daughter did this day given the fact that it had been a full year since her last trip. We stepped into the hole and I put her in the sweet spot. It didn't take any time and she was making beautiful casts and picture perfect drifts...then it happened. The indicator stopped, she set the hook up stream (yes I said up stream), the fish surfaced, the head flopped side to side, the hook pulled, and she looked at me. I smiled and said, "what did you do wrong?" And to my amazement she said, I set the hook up stream. I was amazed and excited all at once. My soon to be teenager DOES LISTEN....woohooo....LOL....Oh, back to the story. I couldn't believe she had retained that small piece of information and analyzed her mistake so quickly.
With a bit of pride in my heart, I said, "OK, then just don't do that again!" Two drifts later, she had made a perfect cast, a great mend, and the indicator dropped again. This time she came up with a great hook set in the downstream motion and stuck that fish hard. Immediately the fish raced upstream and I was afraid to look at what she may do with the rod and the line and, and, and, I WAS AMAZED. I don't know what happened, but she acted as if she had caught 1,000 fish, because none of her previous years mistakes ever showed themselves this time around. She set right, cleared the line like a pro, kept her hand off the reel unless she was actually gaining line, and then that second "proud Papa" moment happened. I exclaimed, "raise the rod to turn that head up," and she followed the order with precision. I waited for that head to rise so that I could make a good stick, and stick him I did.
I wondered how enthusiastic her response would be. Would it be like my sons had been? Probably not I thought....she's a girl (reasoning in my mind that she's probably here more for me than her) and....well, I was wrong and extremely happy to be. When I came up with the fish, she let out a hoot that put a smile on everyone's face that day. In fact I'm smiling now just thinking about it!
What a beauty...and the fish isn't half bad either!
Dad thought he would push the envelope to see just
how much of a flygal she would be and said, "You have
to kiss your first fish." I was amazed when she put this
lip-lock on the fish. That's alright with me...but I'll shoot
any guy who tries for the same...LOL
Once again, fast forward about 4 months...it's now March of 2012. I am laying in bed one night when my wife comes straggling to bed extremely late. She was out with friends that night and came rolling in about 3am just as I awoke, needing to make a last minute call to clients before they left Columbus because of some overnight storms. As my wife crawled in bed, she said, "I have spring break next week, what do you think the chances are of you taking me fly fishing?" WHAT? I had to roll over and check to make sure my wife was actually the one in bed with me! "Seriously," I asked. I stumbled in my words totally taken back by the question and quickly realized that the following Thursday was, you bet, my birthday. Good old March 22nd. It had been golden three years earlier with my son...could it happen twice? I didn't know, but was very willing to give it a shot.
The big day came and I got the lunches packed for a picnic with the wife on the river and we headed out the door. My wife enjoys fishing (but had never fly fished), LOVES the sun, and proclaims the same for me. This was definitely a day of Steelheading that appealed to her because it was sunny and 75-80 degrees. I didn't care what the conditions were...it could have been any condition as far as I was concerned! I was just elated to have my wife on the river with me!
It didn't take long to get the rod in her hand and teach her some basics on casting. She was a bit reluctant at times, but I gave her some space to let her work out the kinks and build her confidence and would then come in with some pointers which she took very well. Not long into the day she hooked her first fish and made the common one handed grab of the rod and line together and as always I watched the rod drop sharply and "Ping"....bye, bye fish!
She was really amazed at the power of that fish and immediately questioned her ability to get the job done. I quickly affirmed her ability and told her she didn't need to be anxious, but to just keep the rod up at all times and the line simply "under control"...no need for death grips here. She settled in and within a half hour that glory moment came. The fish ran her around, up and down if went as I shouted out instruction on what to do and what not to do. Soon I was moving in, net in hand, to see if my birthday blessing would happen twice. Within seconds, it was sealed....I may now have one of the best sets of birthday memories a fly fisher could ever ask for!
My wife and the catch of my life, holds her
first Steelhead and her first fish on a fly rod!
I think I could get used to having this one as my
partner on the stream more often!
Needless to say, I am a blessed man. We now number 4 steelheaders in the family and my two youngest are begging every day for their shot at it. Soon, I hope, we will be a steelheading family and my dream collage of pictures for the wall will be complete. I look forward to the day I can hang that frame on the wall. It will most certainly be a trophy of a lifetime!
Patrick "Flybum" Robinson
Steelhead Alley Outfitters