Buggin’ a guru on the Truckee River
I remember when I was 10 or 11 years old how much of a nuisance I was to my dad when we went fishing. Learning how to fish is a difficult thing, and my dad took the brunt of my trial and error stage in fishing.My dad makes his own spinners, a tradition that was passed on to him by his father and one I will surely pass down to my children. See, I was schooled in the art of spinner fishing, and thats really all Ive ever preferred to do. I endorse spinners because you can cover large stretches of water in a fairly short amount of time, rather than stalling in a particular fishing hole for hours.Well, learning to fish with spinners was tough, mainly because they snag on everything. Luckily for me, my dad was patient enough to re-tie my spinner for me when I couldnt quite figure it out, or unsnag my line from a tree or rock.One time, (I may have been younger than 10 even), my dad, my brother and I had all woken up at 6 a.m. to get to the river nice and early, just when the big ones were biting. We hadnt been fishing for all of five minutes when stupid me fell in. I didnt just get a shoe or a shirt sleeve wet. When I went under, the only thing you could see was my hat floating on the water surface.I was cold and crying, and my dad was forced to take us back to the cabin we were staying in. Some dads would have been irate, but my dad is possibly the most patient person I know. In this way, he always made fishing fun, and that is why I continue to do it today. He taught me well.
Skip ahead 12 years. For one day, Dave Stanley had to take the place of my dad. Stanley is the owner of Truckee River Outfitters and was nice enough to guide and teach me through my first fly fishing excursion. I never thought I would revisit that vulnerable feeling fishing on a river as I had when I was 10 years old, getting snagged consistently and waiting while someone re-tied my line. But Stanley was understanding given the situation.As we rode in Stanleys truck down Glenshire Drive en route to the bridge, I asked him about fly fishing for the first time and what to expect.Once you learn how to cast, its not (hard), and learning how to cast isnt that big of a deal, he said. It looks a lot harder than it is. Its not incredibly hard to cast a fly rod at all.OK, Ill get the hang of it in no time, I thought. We chatted some more as he tied some flies before we walked down to the river. I already had that nervous feeling in my stomach that lingers when you do something the first time. I told Stanley I would take my spinner pole with me just in case I couldnt figure out fly fishing.No, he said firmly. After all, I was here to fly fish. So we Stanley, the Sierra Sun photographer Josh Miller and I headed down to the river for another first in my life.Stanley decided to tie flies on two poles one leader consisting of two subsurface flies, or nymphs, a Green Drake nymph and a pheasant tail nymph. On the other pole was a dry fly, what Stanley called a Double Humpy.The biggest disadvantage I had in learning the art of fly fishing was shedding my tendency to fling the pole with force like you do while spinner fishing. In contrast, fly fishing is dependent on finesse and rhythm. Everything about fly fishing was different from what I was used to, besides the obvious hope to catch a fish. The line is different, the weight is lighter, hooking and catching a fish is harder, and the length of the pole is longer.
Using the dry fly was the most difficult because it involved casting the fly back and forth to dry it off before setting it in the river to float downstream. Using the nymph was a little easier because it only involved one cast, then waiting (praying) for the strike indicator to show a sign of a fish on the line.Two things that echoed in my head were the words Cast forward, cast back and Mend it. The same motion and power must be afforded to the forward cast as the backward cast. Mending the line is something you do to keep slack out of the line as the fly and indicator float downstream.Stanley lost a beautiful brown trout about halfway through the day, but it was partly because he was trying to teach rather than catch. For six years, Stanley has offered his expertise and patience to customers through Truckee River Outfitters, and Miller and I thanked him for doing so with us. Back at the shop, Josh Bigelsen, one of Stanleys employees, sat behind the counter and labeled Stanley a fly fishing guru. I would have to say that Bigelsen isnt far off with his assessment, especially if Stanley has the fatherly patience to teach an ignorant spinner fisherman like me.Oh yeah, fishermen always have to have an excuse, and Bigelsen gave us a good one (we had a handful of strikes, but we only landed a five-inch trout).(The Truckee River) has been fishing really brutal for about two days now, Bigelsen said, since they released all the water from Tahoe. They released a lot of warm water and the fishing really went down.Matt Brown is sports editor for the Sierra Sun.