First Trout

By: Marshall Estes

The Magic of My First Trout

I grew up in Iowa fishing for catfish, bass, crappie and bullheads using some of
the worst smelling baits you could imagine. But my father loved to hunt and fish so
I went along. On one summer vacation to Oklahoma, Dad stopped at the fish hatchery
in Bennett Springs, MO.

I can still remember standing on the bridge watching a fly fisherman gracefully cast
a dry fly upstream to the base of the little dam feeding a pool by the hatchery. On
the third cast, he hooked up with a nice fat 12 to 14 inch rainbow that leapt out
the water 3 or 4 times trying to throw the hook.

The fisherman prevailed and slipped the rainbow into his classic wicker creel with
the slot in the lid. (Back in those days we ate a fish once in a while) Turning to
my father, I asked what the fisherman was using for bait. Dad said, "He is
using an artificial fly and not bait." "Does it stink?", I asked.
Dad laughed and said "No." Right then I knew one day I would become a fly fisherman. I was about 14 at the time. I never touched stinky bait after that.

I would not take up fly fishing until 1969 some 15 years after first seeing it in the
Ozarks of Missouri. I had moved to Colorado to learn to ski and fly fish. Never did
learn to ski but I did learn to fly fish.

When I was starting out, there weren't a lot of classes, guides or instructors to
teach fly fishing. I purchased a cheap rod, reel, line and some flies from a local
sporting goods store.

Then I read a lot of books and practiced casting until I could
do a reasonable overhand cast.

My first fish was a 2 lb. brookie caught on a brassie out of the famed South Platte
river. That was my only fish on a fly rod for that whole season. For the next two
seasons, I caught exactly one fish a season on a fly rod. I had upgraded my
equipment so the casting was a lot more enjoyable.

In 1972, I was back to drifting salmon eggs on the bottom with light spinning gear
and was catching fish. But releasing them was killing a lot of them I knew. As
destiny would have it. A friend and I ended up on Bear Creek at O'Fallon Park one
Saturday. Jerry parked the car and said, "Hey, there's Frank Aubon. Frank is
one of the best fly fishermen I know. He can teach you how to catch fish on a fly
rod." (Frank was from Maine and had been fly fishing some 40 years when I first
met him.)

Jerry introduced me to Frank and explained the problem I was having with a fly rod.
Frank said, "Come here and show me what you know about casting." So I
dropped a couple of reasonable overhand casts out onto the Creek. Frank looked at
me, "You know enough about basic casting, what do you do with the fly when it
is in the water?" "Frank, if I knew what the H--- to do with the fly in
the water, I would be catching fish!", I said.

"Come on and watch what I do." said Frank. Frank shook out a little line
and let it drift downstream. Then he flipped a "Tension" cast back
upstream. On the 3rd drift, Frank hooked a nice bow right along the bank. He looked
at me and said, "Now you do it!" I tried to imitate Frank but no fish.

Finally Frank asked me what I had been fishing. "Eggs on the bottom." I
replied. "Fishing eggs on the bottom is the same as fishing nymphs on the
bottom", said Frank. "You make a little J in the line just at the water
line and watch it as you bounce the nymph on the bottom. If the J twitches left or
right or hesitates, raise the rod tip to set the hook. And don't rip the rod tip up.
Remember that hook is only a quarter inch or less long to the bend. A gentle tipup
is all that is needed." Then Frank proceeded to demonstrate with two more fish.

I watched Frank and tried to imitate him with some success. As I remember I caught
and released about 6 trout that Saturday. For me that was the best I had ever done
with a fly rod. Frank and I fished together for some 5 years before loosing touch
with each other.

But I will never forget the gift of a lifetime fly fishing enjoyment you gave me
Frank. You were a good teacher and fine friend to wade the waters with.

Whatever big river you are fishing in Heaven, I hope the fish are huge and you are
having a ball.

Tight Lines and Good Fishing,

MarshallScience Articles, Editor

has been a fly fishing and fly tying

enthusiast for over 30 years.

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