I often preach about leaving a legacy; to my own sons, to students at school, really about any viable audience I can muster…fly fishing for me isn’t any different. It is, and always has been, such a big part of my life and thus sharing the joys with others is very important. Through my website I have made contacts from all over the world…us fly-guys are a brotherhood, a fraternity, a group of like-minded folks that love to casts to a wide variety of fish species; whether it be 150 pound tarpon on the salt or 6 inch native brook trout in clear mountain water, we are in spirit the same person.
On my recent summer trip north through Iowa, Wisconsin, Canada and Michigan I had an interesting experience that ties us all together. I was in northern Wisconsin, standing about waist deep in cold, clear and tannic water…the awesome Namekagon River to be exact. I had just fought and landed a real brute of a fish, an 18 inch smallmouth. The battle had taken me several minutes and at the moment I would have taken photos and released the fish a group of tubers came floating by…one older and frankly wiser looking gent looked at me curiously and said, “There is no way you can catch fish today with all of us ruining your water”? I just raised the dark fish I was cradling up in the air and he immediately shook his head as he knew he had just planted his very wet foot in his mouth. The next tuber saw my GoPro and asked if I downloaded my videos to a website…what happened next was quite funny for me as the third tuber in the group simply smiled and said, “Fly fishing with Jeff.com, I’ve watched your videos”! He quickly told me he was also a fly-fisherman; it hit me at that moment that our world is shrinking and there are those who are paying attention to my attempts at recruiting other fly-guys, those who might also enjoy the same pursuits.
Let me tell you about a new friend and a new fly-fisherman that I have just recently had the privilege of meeting and fishing with. John Morgan was another of the group that had contacted me with a question regarding one of my videos. I responded as I do, not knowing that John was indeed a local, as he works at our very own Crane Naval Depot just to our south. One thing led to another as they do and John asked if I could do a fly casting lesson; I agreed and we met one night whereby we spent about 90 minutes talking about…well, fly casting and its many facets. John was a very quick study and by the end of our time he was able to competently poke his line out what I felt would be sufficient enough for him to go forward and give it a go on real water.
A couple of weeks later we met and fished a small pond from our float tubes. I could see that in those two weeks John had really put in his time as his casting was very much improved. Much like golf however there is a big difference from standing on the driving range and banging golf balls to moving out on the course. John’s casting had improved but on this first night he was trying to figure out how to move about in his float tube, cast in and under various limbs, etc…and then be competent enough to actually hook and land a fish. One word to the wise, this might sound very easy but please let me assure you that it is anything but and at times can be a bit frustrating. John did land a few fish that night and even impressed the old veteran a few times…what I noticed for sure was the fact that he was really enjoying the entire process. It was easy to see that fly fishing was important, that he enjoyed it and that he was serious about getting better.
Our summers were both busy but upon return we found a day where we met and walked a stretch of creek so that once again, John could take the next step in the progression of fly fishing. Over the next three hours we walked, talked, caught and strategized our way down this section of water. John even caught a few smallmouth and by days end he had moved yet another step forward in his fly fishing journey.
Early in August we met one more time and John came along with me to one of my favorite haunts, a stretch of water that has some nice smallmouth…but more importantly has beauty that is frankly second to none. The water was New Zealand clear as we took our first steps down and into the stream. I quickly took a minute to talk to discuss how tough it might be to land a fish today with the clear water and tight casting conditions. Un-daunted we next discussed how he would have to follow me so that we wouldn’t release a plume of dirt and debris into the water we were about to fish…and we shoved off.
Over the next three hours there were many lessons learned; as Thomas Edison would say about inventing the light bulb, John learned a thousand ways NOT to catch a smallmouth! That might sound a bit harsh but it is what has to happen to grow and I am sure John will make great strides. I could see the grit and determination on his face as we weaved our way downstream to our take out point. I was and am impressed with so many things; John isn’t just a super nice guy, he is someone that will work at and go forward with his own fly fishing career and in the end, one who I believe will also pass along the legacy to others who are willing to immerse themselves into a sport by which we all learn to Enjoy the Great Outdoors.