For a few years now, I have been lugging my fly rod with me every time I go into the mountains. Once there, I do my best impression of a fisherman, and on rare occasion, catch a few fish. Erin and I are about to do some travelling, and I’ve decided that I want to bring my fly rod with me to try my luck at fishing in South America. The southern parts of South America are famous for their trout fishing – an opportunity that’s hard to pass up. The problem is that everything I know about fly fishing could only fill a small pamphlet. So, I decided to reach out. I mentioned on my Facebook page that I needed someone who knew a lot about fishing to take me out and actually show me. As luck would have it, my friend, and former co-worker, Eric was kind enough to offer his expertise. A few days after he had responded to my desperate plea on Facebook, a plan was hatched and in motion.
I met him on the south side of Edmonton and I jumped in his car. He them promptly made me swear on the fly tiers bible that I wouldn’t tell anyone the location of his fishing spot. He then blindfolded me and we hit the road. Ok, I made that last sentence up for dramatic effect, but he was serious about me not telling anyone about his spot. We drove for quite a while and finally found ourselves parked just off the road beside a nice slow moving creek. We dawned our waders and assembled our rods I stuffed the rest of my gear into the top half of my waders and tied on a small foam beetle that was handed to me. We wandered down the slick, grassy bank and finally got our boots wet.
We started working our way up river. The first while was mostly Eric explaining what I needed to know, and gauging where I was at as a fisherman. He explained to me some of the basics of where the trout like to hide – mostly underneath overhangs that like to catch hooks, and slow moving patches of water. He was also adamant that I should never let there be too much slack in the line. Eventually we made it far enough up river that there was space for both of us to fish. The first few hours of the day passed by uneventfully, mostly just me getting some much needed casting practice, and losing hooks on the back cast.
We came around a bend in the river, with calm slow moving water, and, suddenly, there was a gulp followed by a splash. Eric had the first fish of the day. He set the hook and lifted his rod, and that fish went insane. It skidded across the surface thrashing and splashing the entire way. I had no idea these little trout had that much fight in them. Eventually the trout was in the fisherman’s hands. Eric grinned and said, “See, beetles”.
I’m not sure how it happened, but he caught another fish almost immediately after the first. And another soon after that. Somewhere in the madness we started joking that it was “beetle-mania!”. A few more minutes passed, and we wandered and casted our way a few more meters upstream. We started throwing our beetles under some overhanging spruce trees. They had grown strong and tall but the ground had been washed out underneath, leaving what Eric said is a great place for trout to sit and wait for food. He wasn’t wrong. Within a few casts I had a good hit, but couldn’t set the hook. Soon my guide had a real fight on his hands, I could hear his reel whining. I started digging out my camera and walking towards him. This was clearly going to be a fish worth taking a photo of… based on the bend of his fishing rod and the grin on his face. While wading over I let my fly drift, and POW! A trout took it and spit it right out, another close call. I had too much slack in the line it seems. Eventually Eric’s fish was in his hands, and it was a beauty. I dont know much about brown trout, but it was the biggest one I’ve ever seen up close (given that I have 1 day of brown trout experience).
We kept working our way up river, all the while laughing about those silly foam beetles working so well. Just when I was least expecting, it finally happened. I was just wading along, minding my own business, when I felt that tug on the line. That rod tip pull that that inexplicably seems to have a hard-line to your chest. Words can’t quite describe. I lifted my rod tip immediately and set the hook. This time, I had the fish. I started stripping line in, and the fish started trying to prevent that. Eventually, I overpowered the brave little trout, but I never broke his spirit. As I reached to grab the leader to pull the little fish closer for inspection, it gave a wild thrash, a white flash, and made a dash. That’s right, I pulled it right in, and never managed to get a hand on it.
Oh well, I’m still counting it as a catch.
As we wandered up river, I started to pay more attention to the scenery, since it seemed the fish lost interest in biting.
The afternoon eventually arrived, and we had reached our exit from the river. We decided that we weren’t quite ready to quit, so we went a little past our intended exit… just in case there were hungry fish up that way. Sure enough, Eric caught another trout, just to make sure he established his fishing supremacy. In all fairness, he has been fishing for a long time, and wasn’t gloating about his success. In fact, he was quite humble about it, and continually answered questions and offered advice. I was happy to be under his tutelage.
We decided that enough of the day had passed, and we had better get back home. We climbed up the slick river bank, and walked back a kilometer or two over a grasshopper infested field and down the road. I’ve gotta say, walking on dry land with waders on is kind of unpleasant, and crossing through a barbed wire fence with a nine foot long fly rod while wearing ill fitting waders can certainly cause one to use creative language. It was still worth it. We found the car right where we left it, changed out of our gear, and headed for home, Eric having put in just another day on the water, and me, having, likely quadrupled my fly fishing knowledge… and only having caught one fish, almost.
The most important lesson I learned was to never let there be slack in the line, and to be quick to set the hook. Any hesitation can cost you a fish. I also learned that beetles work really well, at least on that particular day in that particular spot. If it’s anything like the kinds of fishing I’ve done, those beetle might never work again. That’s why I have a whole tackle box full of hooks that I might use again someday, or that used to work really well. I suspect that someday I will have a fly box with a similar story, but that’s part of the fun of fishing.
By the way, in case you were curious, here’s a picture of a foam beetle like the ones we were using. This one was tied by my friend Clay, this pattern along with a great many more can be purchased through his website Frenzy Custom Flies. Hopefully it works as well for you as it did for us, but like anything fishing, no promises… other than it’ll be better than a day at work.
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