The moment I became a fly fisherman – thanks dad! (Opinion)

Patrick Garcia / Guest column

People say it’s difficult and time consuming to become a fly fisherman but I became one in an instant. Well, maybe not exactly. As life left my dad’s body on June 12, his prized fly-fishing gear became mine. While I can cast a rod okay and catch a fish (given enough dumb luck), my fly fishing bonafides are lacking. 

My dad had always set the rods up for me and I felt stupefied looking at the array of rods, reels, and tackle he left behind. Over the last weeks, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time inspecting his gear and trying to learn about the best use for each item. 

When my dad was alive I never got the itch to learn to fly fish quite as bad as I have now that it’s all I have left of him. Discovering in myself the same passion that he had for so many years has given me a chance to feel things that I haven’t felt since he passed, and some things I never felt while he was alive. I feel frustrated when I can’t find missing fly rod pieces, I’d like to ask him what the heck he did with them. I feel saddened for lost opportunities when I find brand new gear he never got a chance to use. That feeling is multiplied when there are two sets of something, one for him and one for me. 

My dad and I only fished together a handful of times. As a kid, I had little patience for the schlep fly fishing often requires. In recent years we’d talked more about fishing together and dreamed of making a trip to Alaska. Last fall we had a great day on the Trinity River, with a fantastic guide named Happy. I remember the relief coursing through my body as I landed my first fish of the day. I didn’t want to let him down. 

One summer in his teens my dad spent 100 nights sleeping outside. He grew up hunting pheasant and quail and developed a passion for both fly fishing and fly tying. Alongside his love for the great outdoors, I think the analytical side of fly-fishing really suited him. I imagine it brought him great satisfaction to successfully tie a fly and then use it to land a trout. 

At times it’s been difficult to process the grief. The pain of the loss can be so acute at times and yet completely numb at others. But in the act of going through his fly fishing gear, I’ve felt a togetherness with him that I have always yearned for. I feel that sensation when I grip the handle of one of his fly rods, which I know he also gripped. 

When I make a Google search to discover more about the specifications of one of the pieces of gear, I feel the same excitement in planning how to use them as I know he once did. The pride he had in his craft transferring from him to me will take a lifetime, his final gift to me.

Patrick Garcia is a Truckee resident.

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