A year ago, I decided to try fly-fishing. I’d been kayak fishing a bunch and found a renewed zeal for the bent rod religion while chasing bass in Central Virginia. After watching some baller video of big reds crushing flies in saltwater flats, I bought my first fly rod, a Redington Pursuit 6wt.
I eagerly launched into slinging the fly in my local freshwater spots. I snatched a bunch of bluegill on poppers and had a blast. But more and more, while bass fishing, the frustrations of learning to cast, and properly present, would eventually lead me to drop the fly rod and grab my spin or bait caster. You see, I make the mistake of taking all my rods when I go out. So after spooking enough fish with my bumbling fly-casting, I inevitably retreat back to the familiarity of my other rods.
A week or so back, I fished the Yak Attack Tournament benefiting Heroes On The Water, in Farmville, and a bunch of the coastal Virginia guys came into town and fished with their fly rods. The post-tournament conversation, over brews, seemed to gravitate back to this subject. It got me psyched. I resolved to get back into the game.
Over Memorial Day weekend, I spent a few days at the family lake, and took the long rod. I hit the water at dawn and again at dusk. I focused hard on not getting discouraged and at finding some kind of rhythm. I’ve been teaching myself and so rhythm is all I know, no technique. I’m a complete noob. Learning to fly fish is work. So why do I keep trying? Somewhere in the pursuit to get better, I often stumble into a moving meditation. There are moments of pure bliss, which I know are but small tokens of the sacred joy I’ll find when I can dial up my skills at will.
I had a few of those moments last weekend. A few times when the rhythm felt right, and I let fly with a popper. That popper would hit the spot and I’d start a pulse-pulse-pause strip or some variation and BAM!
The water around my popper would jump with life, my rod hand would instinctually rise up and it was on. I snatched up a little freshwater slam with a bluegill, crappie, and a bass on the fly, and it lit my face with a bright smile. Memorial Day is traditionally a tough day for me, as my father died serving our great country when I was 14, but in those moments, throwing the popper, when it all came together, I felt nothing but exhilaration.
If you’ve ever thought about trying fly-fishing, grab a long rod combo, some poppers, and head out at dusk. There is something transcendent about summertime popper slinging during the magic hour.