Casual Friday: Adventures in Fly Fishing

Last weekend I went fly fishing for the first time. Here’s a rundown on what happened versus what I expected. So.

What I Expected

Before I went, everyone, in tense, dire language, told me to be prepared for a few things:

  • The inevitability of bodily injury by hooking myself through the ear or back of the head.
  • Inhuman frustration with casting, because it is, by almost every measure, the hardest thing to do in the known universe.
  • On the off chance I could figure out casting, I should prepare for a Zen-like relaxation experience, a direct commune with nature. But don’t count on it, you oaf.
  • A friend called it, “the most difficult easy thing ever.” He had low ceiling fans in his house growing up.

What Really Happened

  • No injuries except a fairly deep cut I inflicted on myself while slicing tomoatoes for dinner. Tough guy? YOU BET.
  • Two solid days of dressing up as a space marine fighting a chemical war by donning an entire suit made of rubber and other liquidproof materials. All I needed was one of those old steampunk helmets and I would look like the dude on the cover of the BioShock games.
  • Immediately upon getting in the river (Michigan’s Ausable) the first day, I caught two small trout. I mean, like immediately. I thought I was a flyfishing superhero until someone told me they recently stocked the river, using our location as the stocking point. In other words, I could have caught one by reaching down and letting one bite my hand. Which, DID YOU KNOW, is a real style of fishing?
  • I came to the relatively quick realization that beer and cigars make flyfishing so much more interesting when you’re out there for six hours straight. Beer moreso than cigars.
  • BUT HOLD ON A SECOND, SIR: Pursuant to the beer idea, trying to use a bathroom while dressed up like a vaguely algae-covered latex soldier takes about 20 mintues and involves sweating. Calculate liquid intake volume wisely.
  • It’s very possible to have a good time even when you’re not catching anything. That bit about communing with nature and feeling relaxed? Totally true.

Here is a picture of me (left) and Dad (right) standing in northern Michigan’s Manistee river, which is the river we tackled (please take a moment to appreciate that fishing pun) on our second day. Acute observers might notice the beer and cigar theme here. They might also note my Dad is wearing a real fishing hat, whereas I’m wearing an orange baseball cap I got out of a sale bin one time. Generally, I look like a rank newbie who is borrowing 98% of his gear from another, more prepared fisherman. That’s because I am.

The beer and cigar are not mere props.

To illustrate my noobishness, here’s a tangent I didn’t know where I could fit in, so I’ll just force it on you awkwardly here: I brought my own set of waders to the trip (not shown above), which I have in the garage because I occasionally have to muck around a pond at home. I thought these were fine waders, but when one of the guys saw them, he said, without even picking them up and inspecting them: “Yeah. No.” He then went and got me a pair of loaner waders, which did not smell like decaying plants or weigh 30 lbs. Had he not done that, I probably would have died somewhere along the line.

As fishing law dictates, the best part about these weekends with a bunch of grunting, snoring guys is what happens after fishing. In our case, the apres-fish scene involved food, beer, and sitting outside in 39-degree temperatures huddled around a chimnea talking BS with whoever would listen. I remember this as much as the fishing.

So, the Takeaways

  • Would I do it again? Yes.
  • Was it a life-altering experience? Not in the Nicholas-Sparks-gonna-write-a-book way, but I think back on it more fondly than I thought I would before going.
  • Good gear pays off. And it also costs upwards of $3K for a decent full setup. Herein lies the problem. My strategy? Mooch until I figure out if this is a sport I’ll do more than once a year.
  • Don’t forget the beer.

Have a good weekend, everyone.


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