August 10, 2001
By Debi Prather
Check out more photos from this outing in our Photo Gallery!
Since I began fishing again three to four years ago, I’ve avoided fly fishing under the assumption that, as an anti-perfectionist, I’m temperamentally unsuited to it, it’s too frustrating, and I don’t need yet another gear-intensive hobby. My girlhood fishing memories include one memorable day when I accompanied my dad and some of his friends to a brushy trout stream in upstate New York—a great place but not the place to take a kid. Then there were a couple of times fishing out of a canoe or rowboat when I inevitably caught Dad with my lure. I began my grownup fishing with a trusty $25 Zebco rod and reel. My husband, Steve, a patient man, convinced me to try a bait-casting reel during a wade-fishing expedition and eventually also presented me with a great ultra light spinning reel last Valentine’s Day. I enjoy them immensely and had no intention of entering the world of fly fishing until it occurred to me one day, as I was picking the umpteenth wind-induced snarl from the bait-casting reel and deriving an odd pleasure that I was getting pretty good at getting those messes out without cutting the line or handing it to my husband, that perhaps fly fishing might not be that much more difficult. So, when I got Constance’s e-mail about the TWFF event at Crockett Family Resort, I impulsively ordered the $60 Scientific Angler combo package from Cabela’s and drove up to Crockett to see just how bad it could be.
I expected to be the worst, the biggest klutz, and that everyone there would have impeccable casting skills. It was so great to join a class with other beginners at varying skill levels, and to encounter such great teachers. The intro class was so large that all the available instructors pitched in, and thus I had my very first casting instruction from Bill Gammel. The very first thing he had us do was stand sideways and cast so that we could see the line unfurl on the back cast so that we did not begin the forward cast until the line had completed its backward arc. After doing that a number of times and seeing the behavior of the line, it was much easier to pace myself and not rush the process. As he helped get the snarls out of our leaders, he mentioned that one difference between a beginner and an experienced fly fisher was how long it took you to get the knots out of the line: language I understood! He was very encouraging, focusing on what I was doing right and generously overlooking my mistakes. I finished the class feeling like not only was I not hopelessly bad, but that this might actually be something I could eventually do well and really enjoy. Bill’s advanced-level casting presentation showed us skills we could aspire to and left me with the thought that by gradually increasing the amount of line as I practice casting, I could increase my range and accuracy. Later in the day, I worked one on one with Ronnie Ray, who also was very encouraging as I tried to put together the various things I’d learned earlier in the day and already forgotten. I don’t think I could have had a better introduction.
While I did not attempt any fly tying (I’d had enough tying that week just getting the backing, line, leader and tippet on my rod), it was very interesting to see skilled tiers at work and the variety of some of the “flies,” some of which were actually fish. I indulged fully in the silent auction and raffle and was impressed by the number and variety of prizes—the volunteers who put the raffle and auction together obviously did a lot of work. After a relaxing dinner hour on the water attempting to cast from my kayak (that is going to take some work), I was awed by Kathy Sparrow’s gorgeous slides of fishing in Lower Laguna Madre. I can’t wait to see my first tailing redfish. I really haven’t any thought of catching one, it will be awhile before I possess the skilled presentation needed for that; I just want to SEE one.
I’m really glad I followed that impulse to attend the TWFF outing, although I felt a little guilty for not bringing Steve along. Houston County Lake is a very fishy little lake, the presence of lots of stumps both provides cover for fish and slows down the power boats—it’s perfect for kayak fishing. I will definitely return to Crockett Family Resort for family get-togethers as well as for the fishing. Finally, I’ve just never before been around that many women who like to fish. That was awesome.