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!
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.
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.)
Jaime 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.
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.