As a guide I am spending as much time as possible outside, so it is only natural to try and include those that are close to me as often as I can. When they are family members these trips can be much different than those with clients or friends. My in-laws are a prime example. If something were to happen to them while they are out on the water I don’t have to just deal with them I have to explain to my wife what happened. The flip side to these trips is that I feel much more pressure to be successful. Waiting for that first fish to come to net sometimes feels like an eternity.
After I first became a guide my mother-in-law, Cindy, expressed interest in learning how to fly-fish. I was flattered, but nervous. I could either make or break this whole endeavor through her first experience on the water. No pressure there at all! It could become a great conversation piece at family gatherings and not in a positive way.
Before we ventured out onto the water we planned on some fly casting lessons. This is a very important step that many people skip. When I was first learning how to cast I would go out onto the front lawn during the winter and cast to targets. The main reason to do this during the winter is that your fly line does not pick up as much debris as if you were casting on gravel or a lawn. It is also very critical to get in as much practice when you can so that the casting motion becomes second nature. The most difficult concept to master is the quick acceleration and quick stop for the casting stroke. Common mistakes are not paying attention or controlling the tip of the rod which in turn affects the momentum of the line and the line usually ends up in a pile not even close to where you wanted it.
After a couple hours practicing casting on a soccer field Cindy was ready to hit the water. I had already chosen a small stream with easy wading and there was also a healthy population of fish that would give her ample opportunities. I wanted to make sure that this first experience would be positive. The main tactic that I use with new fly fishers is to tie on a streamer and use floating line. I personally prefer to use a full sinking line with my streamers, but this requires constant retrieval of the line and is not a good idea for a novice. The other benefit to using floating line is that you can use the current to your advantage, which gives the streamer movement without much work on the anglers part. Just a simple down and across cast and let it swing. Through this method the fish usually hook themselves and the current will maintain enough tension to keep them on the line.
Next was the moment of truth. Cindy was in position and was making her casts into the current that I pointed out to her. Much of the conversation centered on what to do when a fish takes her fly and how will she know. I just smiled and said “trust me you will know.” When the first trout hit her streamer Cindy just looked at me and had a shocked look on her face. The trout came off, but I think from that point she was hooked. The highlight of the day was Cindy landing her first salmon, but I think it was that first trout that created a lasting memory.