When it comes to my passions, I'm nearly 100% self taught. Youtube videos, tutorials, tips and tricks articles, you name it. The same goes for fly fishing. I've had 3 hours of classical training from an Orvis guide but thats it. The difference with fly fishing is the learning curve has been more steep and you're the one who sets your level of success. For me, as long as my rod's bent at least once on the river, I'm succeeding. I'll leave the photography portion of the equation out of this for now 'cause that's another measurement of success all together.
I've watched more videos and read more articles on improving my cast, mending correctly, how to read water, best practices for nymphing, the list goes on. Putting that knowledge into action and watching it produce successful results is what drives me to stand in the water almost every single weekend. The days when I come up empty only push me further into my obsession to learn all I can about fly fishing and ride the wave to where it takes me.
Fast forward a year from those first casting lessons in the parking lot of the Orvis store in Austin Texas. I've been trout fishing all over New Mexico since I moved here in August of 2015. I fished through the winter, snapped my rod tip cleaning frozen guides, tied my first fly and took my first drift trip. But I have yet to reach a point where I feel like I've become a successful angler. I don't have anyone telling me if what I'm doing is correct or incorrect and that can make it difficult to gauge success.
All that changed last weekend on the Chama. Our day started out with a 2 hour drive and the disheartening local fishing report upon arrival. "The fishing's been crap lately". Great. I've already been skunked up here twice, I don't think I can handle a third time. The Chama is notoriously a fickle maiden that doesn't give up her bounty with frequency or ease. I knew that coming in but my hopes were still high. The flow was gentle and the skies brimming with a mix of sun and cloud. I tied on the nymphs I thought would do well and we pushed up river.
Earlier that week I had read a Hatch Magazine article about the importance of constantly adjusting depth to get your flies in front of fish. That practice is trout fishing 101 for most. Prior to that day, I hadn't put much thought into it but after a few drifts through a good looking riffle, some snags and sludge covered flies, I adjust my cork, pinched off some of my deep soft weight and cast back up river.
Those of you that fish will understand the feeling of the grip vibrating in your hand and the visual as your line zig zags across the river in front of you. For those that don't its hard to explain. There's seemingly nothing special about it, but thats what makes passions unique. "Oh, YES! FISH ON!" Keep the vertical pressure on, let 'er tire herself out. Then you get that first flash of color just below the surface of the water. The first glimpse of size and species. One clutch net job from your fishing buddy later and you're holding a gorgeous trout in your hand, on cloud nine because you did everything right. All those videos, articles and advice from seasoned fisherman got put into action and when the line tugged, you didn't screw it up. I've never smiled as much as I have when there's a fish in my net. But the eats didn't stop there.
Reading water is another aspect of fishing that I've been actively trying to improve upon. We all know that pools hold fish, but fishing eddies and softer pockets at the tail end of a riffle can be equally as promising. Again, trout 101. (I've only been fly fishing for a year and only trout fishing since last August so go easy on me.) My eye caught a promising section of the river on the opposite bank and I inched my way across the slime covered rock bed, hoping I wasn't spooking off the fish I was after. I don't know if that day was just my day or what but after my first few initial drifts, I re-adjusted my depth, cast my way through every edge of the pillow and then it happened. The tangible culmination of patience, practice, persistence and all the good vibes I could muster. This pull was different. Now, I realize this is no state record, but its a record to me. My biggest trout to date. One fish takes luck, two fish takes skill.
I very intentionally tried to hold onto that feeling. I felt like I could finally call myself an angler. I realize it might seem like I'm judging my success from the size of the fish, but I'm not. And I hope that's not what comes across. I've struggled my whole life with feeling like a jack of all trades and a master of none. The last 2 years I've tried to change that in a major way. My feeling of success was realized through tangible progress and served as one step closer to mastery. It was a progress that I hope continues to be made on and off the river. //