By and by, time went along, and I found that practicing casting the fly rod did make casting easier. I was better than when Jim first taught me, though I knew that I needed more improvement. So, I was always on the look out for literature to improve my casting technique, or people to teach me. It wasn’t long before I found that bit of advise all fishermen are looking for; namely- The Hot Spot.
There was a professor at the university I attended who was known to be a fly-fisherman, and even went so far as to build his own rods. That act alone certified him, in my eyes, as someone who could offer some insight as to where a person could go fishing in the immediate Southeastern Michigan area. His advise to me was our own, Huron river. He specifically noted a part of the river near a town called,
Dexter, and said he found the Small-Mouth Bass population there to be quite entertaining, and suggested I give it a shot. He gave me directions to where an old steel girder bridge used to allow traffic to cross the river, but was since rendered unsafe and set for demolition in the near future, but made for a good reference point when it came to finding the place. The professor gave me some Woolly Bugger streamers, bid me good luck, and to give a report when I came back to class.
Well, this part of the story starts with some heartbreak, but finishes strong, because once I walked down the trail to where the bridge was I could see a nice sized fish not to far from shore. Trying hard to be slow, and quiet, so I didn’t spook him, I gently peeled off about twelve feet of line and did a little roll cast to about where I thought this fellas feed lane ran. I was in the shadows a bit, and because of this I would lose sight of the Wooly Bugger as it undulated invitingly in the slow current, and as it neared the point where I judged the fish to be I lost sight of the streamer, again. Thinking that the streamer had caught up on a rock I lifted my rod tip and stripped the line just a smidge to see if I could loosen it, and catch sight of the Bugger. Instead, what I saw was the big fish spit out the Wooly Bugger from his cavernous mouth. He took it, when I thought I had just lost it in the shadows again! It was a bass I judged to be about 18 inches long, but I can’t be certain, because a missed-fish will automatically gain 3-7 inches in the story telling, due to the trauma of the loss.
After several minutes of kicking the bridge, I composed myself enough to head upstream and see what else lay ahead. I found a nice patch of water with a floating weed-bed maybe 30 feet from where I entered the water on the opposite side. I stripped off plenty of line and began to work the weed-bed by casting upstream of it and letting the Woolly Bugger drift free, and work itself under the bed hoping to entice an unsuspecting fish. Dog-gone if a 17 inch Small-Mouth Bass lit out from under the weed-bed and followed the streamer, swimming broad-side to the current just a watching it to make sure it was food. His ambush sent my heart to racing, but I quickly grew concerned because the slack line was about to run out, which would cease the drift, and break the big fishes trance. But just before that could occur, the fish became convinced that my offering was the real McCoy, and snatched the Woolly Bugger like dog snatching a peanut butter sandwich, and took off for
I set the hook hard, and the fish and I became locked into battle. He immediately went for the bottom of the river like the Small-Mouths tend to do which is very similar to how a Brown-Trout makes a run. I tried every trick I had recently learned, and eventually got him to move off of the bottom a little, but he quickly went back. It was a bit worrisome at times, because he was such a strong, big fish that I thought he was going to find a stump on the bottom of the river, or perhaps a clump of weeds to tangle the line in, and free himself. But by and by, with some coaxing, I was able to get him off of the stream bottom, and eventually work him to shore where I unhooked him, took his picture laying up against the fly rod on the shore line, and then turn him loose to wonder what on earth just happened.
I knew what happened. I had a great report to give my professor on Monday. I titled it, “I Just Figured Out Why Catching Big Fish On A Fly Rod Is So Much Fun.” There wasn’t much more to the report other than the title, and a big smile, oh and a thank you for the tip.
That was the first big fish that had caught on a fly rod, and the joy I found in those moments were ones I wanted to repeat as often as I could.
P.S. Thank you for that first lesson, Jim.