Getting Started

The first time I ever went fly fishing, there were three of us. And it was this same trio that continued for a good while once I caught the bug, but different from the trio that started GFW. A dear, old friend of mine, Gavin, and I learned at the same time. I’m not sure where the idea came from exactly, just that the two of us were really happy to give this “new kind” of fishing a try. We were pumped at the idea of hiking a creek or stream, getting away from people and being in the hills. We lived in Boulder, Colorado at the time, and if you’ve never been there it is a beautiful little town nestled right up to the Flatirons in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The place is full of entitled college students running amok on their parents dime, but at that time it also had a strong hippie vibe. Much more authentic hippie than it does now. So, hiking and being outdoors held value in the culture of the town.

Gavin and I had no idea what to do, where to go, or how anything in the fly fishing world worked. We were just talking about it a bunch at our jobs, working in a bar. Enter Todd…

Todd was a southern Oregon transplant and one of the most popular bartenders at the Dark Horse, a Boulder staple known for their Burger Madness deals and cheap booze. He was an energetic, gregarious ball of energy, and he knew how to fly fish. He was a good dude and offered to teach us how.

He took us up on a creek, to its headwaters above a reservoir. Being in the restaurant business has its benefits, especially for fisherman, because most of your working hours are at night. That’s when the good money flows. So your days could be filled with your hobbies — for us, learning to fly fish. Gavin and I had both inherited poles from someone in our family. My uncle was a huge fisherman and I somehow ended up with an old pole of his via my dad. It was clunky, but with its old Pflueger reel, it was functional.

Todd was incredibly gracious with his time, and his patience was helpful. Gavin and I managed to snap flies, regularly tangle our lines, and scare fish for most of the days we went out. But, Todd showed us how to retie tippet and a fly, how to tie different knots, how to untangle the rats nest and how to sneak up on fish. And once we understood the basics, he stopped showing us and let us figure it out on our own, while he caught all the fish. There were several instances where Gavin and I were standing on the bank or sitting on a rock fixing our messes when we would hear Todd’s voice, “This one’s a Rainbow,” as he held up a fish. “How many have you guys caught?” The sound of his laughter filled the little canyon.

Todd knew how it worked. You didn’t just show up and catch fish. That’s not how you learned. Fly fishing demands more. It’s a respectful demand. There’s so much to it, and it takes time and attention. Attention to little details. You have to learn how the gear works, how the water moves, how the trout feed, where they hold, what they eat, how much room you have behind you, and where exactly you need to drop a fly. And that’s just a fraction of the knowledge. Yea, you don’t just show up and catch fish. You gotta learn how to catch fish.

Maybe that’s why an old teacher like me loves it so much. I lost touch with Todd and was able to reconnect with my buddy Gavin recently. But those guys will come with me to my grave because they gave me a life of fishing and spiritual joy by helping me get started in the sport that continues to teach.

You gotta start someplace!!

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