Teaching your friends to fish

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I had always wanted to fly fish. My aunt growing up was a fly fisherwoman and I have hazy memories of a lake in California and a trout grilled up fresh in butter. I really wanted to, but as with many hobbies I dream of taking up, I never wanted to enough to go alone into a fly fishing store to get started. That is what friends are for.

At the end of my first outing with the Trouts and Stouts fishing club I said to Eben “That was really fun, but I don’t think I’m ready to buy all of this stuff and go out to the rivers of BC alone.” After all, at the end of that lesson-filled but untroutful day on the Guadalupe river, I had yet to even see a fish caught. Eben’s response- “I don’t want fishing buddies, I want my friends to fish. I realize it will take many years to get you all fishing, but that’s my goal.” Pressure off I returned to my busy architecture and rowing filled life in Vancouver.

Only two months later I was in the Bay Area for school and planned to spend a day in Oakland with David and Amynta. I arrived in early in the evening to the news “We’re going to dinner, Eben and Sarah are coming up, and we are going fishing tomorrow in Carmel. You don’t have to come, but…” California in January is not the dark and cloudy Vancouver I had escaped and I jumped at the opportunity to stand in the sun in a river all day. Again ,David and Eben lent me gear and as many flies as I could loose. Again, I didn’t catch anything and I’ll admit to spending an hour of the day napping on a log, but I nearly leaped across the river when I saw Eben catch a lovely little steelhead.

Before I left back to B.C. Eben handed me John Gierach’s Trout Bums. I didn’t start reading until summer, almost right before our trip to Yosemite and more fishing. Reading one the road ,I found some elements I was  extremely attracted to and some, mostly the need to fetishize a massive collection of equipment and flies I still couldn’t imagine relating to. Is this for me?

The first fish I caught… well the first was one of those accidental catches. I was in-eloquently climbing out of the river when a little tiny brown trout took the fly and did all the work for me. Well… Eben took the fly out of the fish’s mouth… the fish didn’t do that on it’s own. Both Eben and David reassured me that in fact, that fish counted as did the few I’d hooked but hadn’t managed to hold in my hand before they slipped away.

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The second fish though, the second fish was all mine. I identified a probable fish location, cast caught photographed and released. I ran over to David and Eben in a flurry of excitement all the time thinking, that’s a good end of the day, time to quit on a high note. But I didn’t. I kept fishing until the fates had me cast three times in a row into a tree and I knew quitting time had really come.

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So here I am. I still haven’t bought any gear, but I’m really thinking about it. More than anything though I’m thinking about fishing. On our cross country trip I leaned out over small rivers looking for fly fishermen the same way I lean out over large rivers looking for rowers.

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So you want to know the secret to teaching your friends to fish. Patience. Be there to guide,  answer questions- even if they are the same questions over and over. Be generous with you time and knowledge. You probably won’t get everyone and you won’t get most of them very fast, but be persistent and they’ll come around. I mean who can really resist the rush of a stream, sun glinting off the water and a chance for a bit of a battle.

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