Okay, so I apologize for the lack of an update for a couple months, but you try running 70-something trips to date in your first year of guiding full time and see if your fingers want to type at the end of the day. Between rowing and tying and UNTYING knots, I’ll seriously wager a bet that after about trip 20, when the end of the day rolls around and you find yourself back at your cabin, you’ll be thinking about nothing but dinner and bed, and not necessarily in that order.
Anyway, as I wind up my first full season guiding clients for TroutHunter (I didn’t have enough at-bats to have last season qualify as my rookie year), there are a few things that have become apparent to me. Among them is that when I meet people in the shop in the morning, inevitably there are some questions from clients that seem to overlap from trip to trip. How did you get to TroutHunter from Connecticut? So, you’re a lawyer!? How long have you been doing this (which is typically asked in a tone that implies the actual thought behind the question, something more like ‘are you any good at this’)? Are the fish on the Henry’s Fork really that hard to catch? Did you have a beard when you practiced law? Are you and Brad Miller related? How long have you been fly fishing? And ultimately, how did you get started fly fishing?
That last question, ‘how did you get started fly fishing’, always sparks an interesting conversation with whomever I’m speaking. For me, it was my Uncle Tim who first took me fishing at an early age. We would fish the Salmon River in Colchester, Connecticut, mostly a put-and-take fishery for small hatchery trout, with small ultralight spinning outfits, sometimes with bait, and sometimes with small lures. To get to "our spot,” we had to drive past the area designated as fly fishing only. I saw the fishermen wading and casting fly rods and asked my Uncle if we could try that. He explained that when I learned how to read the water and present my bait the right way, I would have the right foundation to learn how to fly fish. Unfortunately, as my Uncle’s knees worsened, his time on the water lessened. But he has always encouraged the fishing/outdoor obsession he saw developing in me, and at age 11, bought me an L.L. Bean fly tying kit for Christmas (as I look back now, that was officially the event that created the fly fishing monster that I am today, but that’s an entirely different blog).
So with my ridiculously overdressed and hideous looking new flies hot off my new vice, I now needed a ride to the river. In stepped mom, ever ready with the mom-taxi. She would pick me up at school, drive me to the river for a couple hours before dinner, and sit in the car and read while I either fished or watched the old-timers fish and tried to pick up pointers. And so began my obsession with trout and all things fly fishing.
I have found that my story is a somewhat typical answer to the question ‘how did you get started fly fishing’ in that it deeply involves family. For me it was my Uncle first, and then my mom. And while my dad’s idea of fishing is more akin to diamond jigging the bottom of Long Island Sound for Bluefish, for many others, it is often their father who first took them fly fishing. Such was the case for recent TroutHunter clients, Doug and Mack Ober. Mack is about to enter his senior year in high school and is getting ready for another nationally ranked lacrosse season. Doug took the opportunity before Mack’s busy season to simply spend some quality time with his son fishing on the Henry’s Fork, and checking out a couple colleges on the way home.
On this day two of five that the Obers spent with TroutHunter, we set out to float the section of the Henry’s Fork known as Warm River to Ashton, a very picturesque, approximately seven mile float ending up at the Ashton Reservoir. Taking advantage of the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, we started the day with a quick stop to the largest waterfall on the Henry’s Fork and the natural barrier for brown trout on the Henry’s Fork by visiting Upper and Lower Mesa Falls. Then we proceeded to check on Marty’s dog-food-fed fish on the Warm River just for fun. And finally, on to the put-in just below the Stone Bridge on the Henry’s Fork.
We decided to forego the typical nymph rigs to start this day, and opted for a shot at some larger brown trout by throwing streamers. Probably due to his familiarity with throwing a lax ball to mid-field from the goalie box, Mack took to casting a streamer with relative ease, and was quick to tie into fish. And he did so often, catching a few nice rainbows, and capping the day off with a nice brown that measured out at 19.5 inches.
Meanwhile, dear old Dad was working his streamer quite well through some excellent water with a mere spattering of results. Doug had several fish chase and roll on his streamer, but at the 6-mile mark of our float, only had a couple of fish to the net, and none to the size of several of Mack’s fish. Most of the day for Doug was spent fishing vicariously through his son, and to see the enjoyment on Mack’s face was clearly enough to satisfy Doug.
However, with less than one mile to go, as Doug retrieved his streamer, the water exploded near the boat and when I looked over my shoulder, Doug was tight to the largest brown trout I’ve seen in that section of the river this season. After a solid fight from a fish that tried, but was just too fat to jump, a beautiful 23 inch brown came to my net. And with her, time-honored traditions and valuable fishing lessons continued to be taught from father to son. This time the lesson was two-fold; don’t ever give up (six miles is a LONG time to strip streamers), and of course, quality beats quantity. Congratulations Doug on a great fish and thanks for sticking with the streamer program and not quitting! Big fish really do eat big flies, as Doug’s 23 inch beauty can attest.
Thanks to the Obers also for allowing me to be a part of a father/son memory that is sure to last for quite some time.