When many people think about fly fishing they automatically think of snow capped mountains and cold water streams meandering down between the boulders. It’s the stuff of our day dreams, those locations tend to fill our bucket lists, and they should. Those places are among the most stunning locales within the whole of God’s creation. While those are beautiful places to fly fish, they aren’t the only places where one can experience the vast beauty of nature while pursuing fish on the fly. I have been fortunate enough to have fished some of the best fly water on the planet, in some absolutely fantastic landscapes, but there is still something about the magic of a farm pond.
My fly fishing addiction was born in just such a place, my Grandpa’s pond in Laclede County, Missouri. I had been to the grandaddy of all outdoor stores, Bass Pro in Springfield, MO and my eyes feasted on something I had never seen before, a deer hair bass bug. I was fascinated by the ingenuity, art, and unique nature of those amazing flies. The thought that I could catch a fish large enough to engulf one of those things immediately took root in my mind, and while I didn’t own a fly rod or reel yet, it was only a matter of time. I saved my money up to buy the cheapest rod they had and eventually talked someone into driving me back to Springfield to make that dream come true.
In the mean time I was busy trying to figure out how to make my own mind-blowing masterpiece to tempt a bruiser to bend my newly acquired rod. I had no tools, no clue, and no idea how I was going to make something like I had seen in the store. As the gears in my mind started to turn though, a plan began to form. I didn’t know how to spin deer hair, but we had plenty of foam from cardboard boxes in the garage. Mom had a feather duster and I was sure that she would be willing to donate a few feathers for the cause. So I tied the feathers to an old hook with some sewing thread and glued the foam to the shank of the hook, only to discover that my glue would dissolve the foam. Not to be deterred, after it dried, I finally found another type of glue that would make it stick. No, it didn’t look like those works of art at Bass Pro, but it was the best I could do and armed with an old reel that I found in the garage I marched through the field to see what kind of damage I could do.
The pond was small, so I knew I wouldn’t have to cast very far, which was good because I had never tried to cast a fly rod before. I stood on the bank on the deeper side of the pond, and began to assault the air with a graphite stick. I felt like Indiana Jones out there whipping the weeds with my rod until I finally decided enough was enough and attempted to finally complete my cast. It was not a thing of beauty. That cast was one of excitement, anxiety, and a ridiculous amount of hope all blended into one. The fly I tied was uglier than homemade sin, and it landed on the surface of that pond like a scud missile tearing through Iraq, right next to one of the many lily pads that dotted the surface of the pond. The line, which landed about 5 feet away from the fly was a mess, all tied and tangled in chaos on the water’s edge. I was frustrated because the whole scene didn’t play out the way I thought it would. So I started to reel the line in to give it another go when time froze.
It wasn’t quite an out of body experience but I can remember that moment just like it was yesterday. There just under that lily pad, a dark shape emerged with two eyes that locked in on the monstrosity that I called a fly. I’m not sure how I got the line reeled in because I don’t remember reeling any more in, but I do remember the water exploding like a cherrie bomb on the 4th of July. The fly line immediately shot through the eyelets as the bass thrashed the water like Micheal Phelps after the last turn of the 200 meter butterfly. At one point the fish jumped out of the water, and at some other point I decided to get in. Then finally I found myself, fly rod in hand, surrounded by light green colored fly line, with the largest bass I had ever seen up close, and there in it’s mouth was what was left of that disaster of a bass fly.
My grandpa had been standing on his porch watching the whole thing, and his “Hey, good job!” is what finally made reality and time come back together. There I was, standing mid-thigh deep in a farm pond, holding up the biggest bass of my life, but in truth I was hooked far more than he was. It was my first fish, on my first cast, with the first fly I ever tied, I had discovered the greatest natural high of my life, and I was literally within site of the house.
That moment has led to countless other fishing trips, each with new discoveries of their own, and I found the two passions of my life outside of my faith and family, fly fishing and fly tying. I didn’t have to cast to cutthroats in Colorado, or strip muddler’s through the Madison’s mighty waters. I just had to climb the fence and brave the chiggers. The exotic lure of fly fishing didn’t require a destination vacation, just a dream that wouldn’t quit and a little ingenuity.
I still fish that pond today, and I usually take my kids with me. It has changed quite a bit, but some things remain the same. The explosion of a top water take by a big shouldered largemouth bass still hasn’t lost it’s thrill, and the pugnacious tenacity of the mighty bluegill is enough to keep one entertained for hours on end. Never discount the power of the adventure waiting in your back yard, you never know what kind of hold it might take. If you are waiting to get out to one of the beautiful places to start your journey in fly fishing you are missing out on the time of your life right there at home. Go ahead, get out there! The time of your life is calling!
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