"What other sport lets you spend so much money, claim to have caught so many fish, and yet come back with nothing but tall tales, a smile, and a desire to do it again tomorrow?"
It only took one trip and my hubby, Chuck was hooked. He had always been a bait angler, but after one excursion with a few avid fly fishing friends he was ready to change sports.
The first trip, three spring days on the Green River, was a fisherman's paradise. That flowing siren would call him back again and again over the years.
At first, Chuck pressed into use his father's old equipment, but he quickly realized the heirloom value of Dad's old bamboo rod and the practical merit of replacing it with the latest technologya custom built graphite rod.
That was only the beginning. Jeans, sweatshirt, and Nike's didn't cut it at fly fishing camp. One must acquire the proper uniform to be successful and protect against the elements: neoprene waders, boots, vest, Indiana Jones hat, and fly-fishing sweatshirt.
Before the second trip out, Chuck visited every local fishing shop just to pick up those "bare essentials." I vividly remember the day he meekly arrived home toting boxes and bags of fishing fashions. He confessed, "I've done it now. I'm 45-years old and I've totally succumbed to peer pressure. I just can't go unless I have all the stuff the other guys have."
This was out of character for my formerly-frugal shopping-shy spouse. This took on the character of a major obsession, not to mention the significant financial investment.
He continued to acquire other accessories like an expensive reel, flippers, float tube, and all the goodies withinminiature radio, neoprene gloves, Polaroid sunglasses. . .
Fly fishing became his year round compulsion. He found a way to participate in the sport 12-months a year. In the very dead of winter, the family watched in awe as he flipped off the sitcoms and turned into a fly-fishing video junkie. We found him practicing his casting in a field of untouched snow, and we watched him wade the rivers in every kind of weather including a blizzard so cold it froze the eyes on his pole. You've never seen a happier man.
Having obtained all the hardware, the next obvious step was into the world of fly tying. Chuck persuaded life-long bait angler and friend, Ivern Pyne, to sign up for a simple fly-tying class. It quickly developed into a religion. Not only did they attend weekly devotional meetings, but they established a support group in our family room for additional nights of worship. "The Best 1000 Flies," served as the scriptures. It was amazing how quickly and thoroughly Ivern was converted.
Chuck and Ivern commence every meeting with a sharing session and testimonials. Each convert showed off his new fly creations and latest purchases of "gross" dead animal parts.
"Hey, look at this exceptional bunny face and moose mane I got at Angler's Inn," Chuck teased. "And I got the best squirrel tail."
"Well, wait till you see my pretty white duck butt," Ivern responded.
Like ghouls, they swapped body parts and pieces so each would have a full kit. They had tiny boxes of beady little eyes, and insect legs. In fact, the place is beginning to look like a laboratory. The tying tables stay up all the time now. Bits and pieces of bird and beast bodies lie about in sterile bags. The workspace is equipped with florescent lights, magnifying equipment, forceps, vices, and surgical tools.
For hours they pour through fly tying books trying this Egghead Purple Bugger, or that Pearl Skunk Kiwi Muddler, or perhaps Madam X with rubber legs. "No, we're not talking about a weak-kneed whore," they responded when I inquired about the woman.
To her horror, our 16-year-old daughter found her male friends lured into this new cult. They innocently dropped by for a visit and were drawn in by the fly fishing father missionaries who enticed young investigators to join them in building bugs all evening.
These guys can spend endless hours conversing on the subject. If you're not in the know, one can be caught off guard by grown men throwing around comments like, "Hey check out MY FLY!" and, "I've got a great little Moose Turd here," or "I really like the feel of this Ostrich Hurl."
I was relieved to know that "tying one on" has nothing to do with alcoholalthough I have seen proof that fly fishing itself is addictive.
As last year's Green River trip approached, Ivern's spouse, Janice, and I tagged along. Before dawn, the guys were up and into the ritual of assembling the fishing armor. They spent more time than most females spend prepping for the prom.
While you can get your waders on frontwards, your straps always need to be straightened by a buddy. And, you've got to wear a sweatshirt with fish on it. Then accessorize with a tan vest, the chest patch colorfully adorned with brilliant flies, and an assortment of hardware dangling from the pockets. Your buddy also has to tuck your net in the back pouch and secure the zipper.
Apply that sunscreen to cheeks and forehead, choose the appropriate hat, gloves, Polaroid glasses accessorized with Chums and finally, a dab of lip balm. Now, they're ready.
Ivern commented that by the time they get dressed and waddle down to the river, it's time to visit the john and start all over again. I won't mention Chuck's time-saving suggestion regarding filling your waders from the inside.
I must say, these guys are thoroughly dedicated to the task. They are on their feet all day, hiking up and down the river, working those pecs. Why waste precious time driving back to camp, or eating lunch. Never mind that the wind is blowing 50 miles per-hour. So what if it's raining, they're already standing chest deep in water.
These former bait anglers have more stamina than a toddler. Fly fishing is a challenge. "You have to think like a fish and you have to get inside them to understand what bait they're taking," Chuck explained.
"So, how do you go about that," I asked. "Have you enrolled in Fish Psych 101?"
"No! When you catch that first big one, you insert this instrument and pump his little stomach. Then you examine the contents to determine what type of fly you need to appease today's fish craving."
"Oh, are we talking about herl again here?" I asked, a little green around the gills myself. It has always astonished me that all the fish in the river are in agreement as to the day's menu. What do they do, get together and organize a daily food plan? "Ok guys, today turn your nose up at everything but cased caddie for breakfast lunch it's pupa only."
By dark, the guys are back in camp. A clothes line strung between trees tells the story. Two sets of dripping wet socks and waders hang above two sets of drenched boots. The float tubes stand nearby and happy men have come home to dine and swap stories about the day's fishing.
"You know when I walked around that bend, I caught the biggest trout you've ever seen, but you guys were too far back to see it," Ivern reported. (Isn't that the way it always goes!)
"I had one big brown so eager to take my fly that he jumped right out of the water following my back cast. He almost knocked me down," Chuck countered.
"But you have no catch to show for your days work. Why do you fellows do it?" I asked.
"What other sport lets you spend so much money, claim to have caught so many fish, and yet come back with nothing but tall tales, a smile, and a desire to do it again tomorrow?" Ivern said.
On the trip home, Janice and I agreed we are glad these guys have each other. They are totally compatible, always on the same wavelength. Neither can go more than 14 days without a fishing fix. They can spend all day fishing together with almost no conversation, and have the time of their lives. They have had 25 years of fishing together, and they're just getting started.