Fishing - 35Fly fishing in Calgary. We’ve done it! And we plan to do a lot more! The “more” will likely have to wait now until May or June, but we will be back on the river. Oh, we will be back!

Tom and I took a day-long fly-fishing float trip down the Bow River with our guide from Out Fly Fishing (OFF) Outfitters, Jaime. The trip was entirely within the city limits, though it seemed we were in the deep wilderness most of the time. Truly a spectacular part of the river!

Fishing - 54Jaime was an enthusiastic, and patient, guide who eventually praised us for our improvement at the end of the day. Needless to say, we had been the typical rank beginners.

Before we hit the water, Jaime carefully explained and demonstrated how to cast, using a gentle flowing motion of the arm, never breaking the wrist, allowing the rod to do the work of whipping the line. He made it look so easy.

Fishing - 15Fishing - 20I was the first to try. I immediately whipped that dang rod backward as hard as I could, then swung my arm at the river, snapping my wrist to launch the line forward. EXACTLY wrong.

Jaime explained what I was doing wrong (oh, the litany, which I heard repeated throughout the day!), and I tried again. Still wrong. I finally switched to casting with my left hand, since I am used to serving in tennis with my right hand and have over several decades built in muscle memory of snapping when I do an overhead serve (or cast). It helped, and I was finally able to “guide” the line and not try to throw it. Ah, the beauty when done correctly! The magic. The elusive Zen.

Throughout the day, I cast with both left and right hands, which came in  handy, given that I was at the back of the boat and having to cast to the right or left of the boat and not snag Tom or Jaime. Tom was in the bow, a much easier spot. (No judgment, just fact.)

Fishing - 56Tom was much more natural when it came his turn, quickly learning how not to snap his wrist.

Fishing - 23Jaime said those who listen to their bodies do better than those who listen to their minds. I’d say he was right. Tom just blithely began casting, while I was madly calculating where to stop the rod, counting out timing, etc. Once I finally turned off my brain and just let my body feel the rhythm, I did much better.

We were in a small metal boat, just large enough for the three of us, with Tom standing in the front (leaning against a leg support), Jaime rowing in the middle, and me standing in the back (kind of leaning against a leg support that refused to turn, necessitating my balancing with one leg all day…talk about a core workout!).

Jaime got us into the river and taught us about seams in the river, where faster water met slower water, creating a seam. It is there that the fish lurk, he said, darting from the calm water into the faster-moving water to catch their meal. This we had to remember: the least calories expended for the most calories ingested. (That is, the fish will hang out in calm water and dart in for food, thus using less energy than if they swam against the current in the fast water.)

There are three kinds of fly fishing: dry fly (where you stand in the river and drop the fly on top of the water, to be darted at on the surface); nymph (which we were doing, using lures that look like insect nymphs swimming to the surface to sprout wings); and streaming (where your lure drags behind the boat in the water, like a bait fish).

I’m glad we did the nymph fishing first time out, but I also look forward to dry fly fishing, which will be a little calmer, I think.

Our outing wasn’t exactly calm. In fact, it was downright frantic and wearying, as we tried to remember Jaime’s instructions, keep our balance, and cast consistently. Hundreds of times, Jaime would tell Tom where to put his line. Then, where I was to put my line. Hundreds of times we cast, and tens of times we hit our targets.

About an hour after we started, Tom was getting lots of bites (visible by the indicator ball being briefly tugged under the water), though he had trouble setting the hook in the fishes’ mouth. But he was getting bites!

Finally, I got a bite and I whipped that hook into the fish’s mouth good and tight. There followed about a four-minute battle as I tried to get the fish in, “hold the rod tip up,” “don’t let it straighten,” “you’re gonna lose him!” “keep the bend,” “feed the line,” “take in the slack,” hold the rod tip up,” “don’t let the rod straighten,” “you’re gonna lose him!” Argh! Too much to think about! and as luck would have it, the rod was in my right hand, which isn’t as nimble as my left hand.

At last, I landed him! A big rainbow trout. Jaime said he was huge for the river, about 18 inches and “fat in girth; a big turkey.” We took our photos quickly and then tossed him back, to battle another day.

Fishing - 51 Fishing - 49Tom caught three fish, but we weren’t able to land them before they either slipped the hook or severed the line on the hull. We were so close with one, but he got away.

Fishing - 43I also hooked a couple more, but they were too cunning to be caught. Jaime said the fishing gods had given me a gift with the first one. I should have lost him five times.

As Tom says, we were just barely in control most of the day, so we never achieved the Zen you are supposed to get with fly fishing. But oh, what a rush! And what better way to spend a day than floating down a gorgeous river, sunlight dappling the surface, under a blue sky? It was heaven.

Fishing - 38And we will return.