Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Prepping for the Seasonal Transition - Fly Fishing Edition

I have two weeks left in the teaching part of my skiing season.  After that, I hope to be skiing on the weekends for at least another month, but our ski season ended fairly early last year and our snowpack isn't much better this season.

Until 4 years ago, the end of ski season usually meant that April and May saw me greatly increasing my running mileage, and I'd usually run my first ultra of the year in mid-April in the Blue Hills south of Boston.  But, my post-skiing transition has really changed the past few years.

My wife and I look forward to the local Saturday morning farmers' markets, and we usually go out for a nice brunch afterward.  Then, I'll sneak in a short run or bike ride or hike in the afternoon.  Then, go fly fishing with my son in the evening.  On Sunday, I might sneak out for more fly fishing.

In high school, I pretty much lived to fish.  In April and May, I was dunking worms for stocked trout.  Even though I was in my school's Fly Tying Club (chess club too - what a geek!), I rarely fished with flies.  My first trout on a fly happened in Penn's Creek in the spring of 1983.  In the summers in high school, I fished a local lake for bass all summer.

In college, I continued to fish when I could get to the creek.  I didn't have a car, but a few guys on the football team fished, and I'd grab a ride with them.  My best friend also fished, although he and I spent more time at lakes, drinking beer and passively pursuing the fish.

When I got out of college and moved to Boston, I still fished a little bit.  Mostly, I would fish for trout in Vermont while my wife still lived there.  Once she moved to Boston with me, my fishing really tailed off.  I started running.  I started doing triathlons as well.  Fishing fell by the wayside.  My wife and I got married in 1986 and in 1987, we moved to CA.  I was still running a lot and doing some triathlons, but I tried to do some fly fishing in the mountains as well.  Typically, I'd fish one or two weekends a year, plus during a week-long backpacking trip.  I even bought a couple new fly rods and reels and started tying flies again.

And then I found ultramarathons and fly fishing came to a screaming halt.  When you are running 6 hours on most Saturdays, another 4 hours on most Sundays and you work and train all week, there isn't time for much else.  Especially if you have kids.

I still fished on occasion.  We spent two years in Alaska and I certainly fished there when I could.  We moved to Vermont 14 years ago.  I fished a bit at first, and then I suddenly seemed to stop.  I think I went 3 or 4 seasons without buying a fishing license.  I still had the gear, but I didn't have the time or desire, it seemed.

Then, three summers ago, one little thing changed and I've pretty much become obsessed with fly fishing again.  My little company was moving from essentially a research mode to becoming a commercial enterprise.  This required that most of our software be re-written quickly, in a much more flexible manner, to cater to a variety of incoming data formats and customer-requested reporting formats.  I spent an entire summer working a huge number of hours, doing most of this work by myself.  At the end of that summer, we had a company party, and our company's founder and his wife gave me a $200 Orvis gift certificate to thank me for the work I'd done that summer.

I bought some new waders.  And I started fly fishing again.

By two years ago, I'd roped my son into fly fishing with me.  Last year, we fished a lot and even took a week-long road trip to PA to chase big browns in famous rivers.  I think we caught more fish in PA in a week than we caught the rest of the year in VT.  But, we learned a lot about some new Vermont rivers last year, and by the end of the season, our outings were more and more successful.

Normally, I use my paychecks from skiing to buy more skiing equipment.  This winter, I've been buying fishing stuff.  I got new waders.  The old pair of hand-me-down waders that my son has been using are about the same age as him and they started to leak late last season.  I got new waders for me and handed-down a nice pair that is only a couple years old.  I bought a new net.  My son doesn't currently have a net, so I was able to give him my old net.  I ordered a custom set of flies from a local company here in VT - fishermen and tyers who know the VT rivers.  And then, I decided I wanted to start tying on my own again, but everything I use to tie flies seems to be gone - the tools, feathers, fur - everything.

I think my father-in-law borrowed it, but he and my mother-in-law insist they don't have it.  We have turned our house upside-down looking for the fly tying equipment with no luck.  I started to research what it would cost to start from scratch and the costs were intimidating.  I also discovered that there are people who are giving up tying for one reason or another, and they are selling complete tying set-ups on eBay on a regular basis.  Yesterday, I bought a somewhat small collection of very high quality tools and tying materials.  By this coming weekend, I'll be on the vise again, tying for the first time in many years.

I'm still hoping to buy a new rod for my son for this season.  And, I'm hoping to buy a new rod and reel for me as well.  Whether or not I do that will depend a bit on the kindness of my ski customers.

But somehow, about 35 years after I purchased my first fly rod (rod, reel and line cost me $20 then - today, I don't think you can buy a decent line for that price), and 30 years after catching my first trout on a fly, I have somehow become obsessed with chasing trout around rivers here in Vermont and elsewhere.

I'm not in a hurry for ski season to end, but I am certainly looking ahead, dreaming of the first time my son or I yell "fish on" to the other.

For readers of this blog (there aren't many of you), be prepared for pictures of trout and never-ending fishing ramblings starting next month and lasting the entire way until the next ski season.


Fat Charlie the Archangel said...

Fishing is One More Thing I'm Not Good At (tm).

And I live (here in CO) about a quarter mile from Cascade Creek, which the locals say is a great fly-fishing spot.

I keep thinking that I should try to learn how to do that, as it seems so cool. And it's a reason to be in Cascade Canyon, which by itself is so cool : )

Damon said...

One thing to know before you go down that rabbit hole - fly fishing is at least as expensive and skill intensive as skiing. Often just as frustrating. But, the nice thing about it is the opportunity to be outside in beautiful places, even if you aren't catching fish. And there is something meditative about the rhythm of fly casting.