My First Fly Rod Catch

chub, eagle lake, Maine, fly fishing, green wooly bugger, first fly rod catchI started fly fishing three summers ago. For the most part I’ve had to figure it out on my own. I spent a couple of hours with a guide the first time I fished in Grand Lake Stream, and Steve gives me pointers from his limited knowledge. Steve has more fly fishing experience than I do thanks to fishing with guides on the Restigouche River in New Brunswick, Canada. I’ve been eager to make my first fly rod catch. Eager. Working hard. Staying in the water until I realize I probably got cold an hour earlier and didn’t notice. I’ve been putting in my time in hopes of landing a landlocked salmon in Grand Lake Stream or a brookie or salmon in several lakes and small streams.

Confession time. I had my first fly rod catch the first year I fly fished. The first year, and if I remember right it was the second or third time I fished. I thought it was a brook trout until I landed the fish and found a small chub on my fly. I dismissed the experience because it wasn’t a “worthy” fish, and I told few people. When I did tell someone I was sheepish, shrugged my shoulders, and practically apologized.

Fast forward two years. Two years of maturity and growth as an outdoorswoman. Two years of depth as an outdoorswoman. Steve and I have been on vacation at Fish River Lodge in Eagle Lake. We fly fished in Fish River Saturday morning and Steve caught fish. I brought three salmon into sight as they followed my lure but I could not for the life of me figure out how to make them bite. Wrong fly? Wrong movement? Why can I not catch a “real” fish on my fly rod when I can land a lure on a bass’s nose and bring it to the boat over and over and over and over again? I’m frustrated.

first fly rod catch, seasonal stream, eagle lakeWhile trolling for salmon on Saturday I heard a temporary stream rushing into the lake. That’s typically a great place to catch brookies if they’re in a lake. Steve circled back so I could make a couple of casts with my fly rod. tug tug I tugged back to set the hook and reeled in my catch. Another chub. first fly rod catch

Another chub. “Attitude, Rob. Check your attitude,” I told myself.

“It’s a chub,” Steve said.  “Just a chub,” I thought.

chub, fly fishing, green wooly buggerSee that chub? That fish there on the left? That’s my Wooly Bugger in its mouth. I caught that chub!

I caught my first fish on my fly rod two years ago. It wasn’t good enough so I dismissed it. Maturity, depth, understanding, education, knowledge – and you know what? A chub IS good enough. It’s not just a chub. I used the same skills to catch those chub that I used when I didn’t catch a “good” fish.

I’m learning to cast with a bit of accuracy. I seldom land the fly where I want it but I can probably get close. I can bring the fly to a salmon but I can’t make it rise to accept my offering. I’m developing muscle memory, and it’s pretty cool when I realize I’ve stopped thinking about every single action and am doing it naturally. I know mid-cast when I’ve made a mistake that’s going to cause the fly line to pile up on itself at the water’s surface. Everything I’ve learned so far applies to landlocked salmon, brookies and chubs. I’ve learned enough to know I have a lot to learn, and I probably don’t know enough to know how much I have to learn.

My first fish caught on my first fly rod should have been a trophy  regardless of its small size. It was a lesson. I don’t have to catch the “right” fish to be proud of my accomplishment. My second fish caught while fly fishing was a whopping 10 inches long. You can see how small it is by comparing the fish to the fly in its mouth. I didn’t take it off the hooks and hold it at arms length to fool you into thinking I’d caught something bigger than I did. This is my reality. If my fish are small or not “right” I will own it, just like I owned my small trophy bear and big trophy buck.