For love of the game

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wild Rainbow Trout

Wild Rainbow Trout

Other than stickers all over my truck, I try to be low key about fishing when I’m out and about. That might sound strange coming from a fishing guide, but over the years I have learned if you are dressed for the part, it’s a magnet for conversation.

I usually get asked for all the information on where and what to fish. I get to hear about all the fantastic fishing everywhere else. The phone quickly comes out and I get to see the big fish that’s been caught over the years, and a lot of, well, manure about fishing.

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad, and even enjoy when someone is a beginner, especially kids, and they ask about fishing tips, because I know there are times I need a hint.

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But most folks want to impress with the big fish they have caught, the vast numbers they catch every time they go, and how good they are at fishing. It even becomes an “elitist” mentality for some based on what they fish for or the gear they use.

But every once in a while I get to meet someone who has a true love for the game. They enjoy fishing if they catch big fish, small fish, a lot of fish, or no fish. While some of that is probably connected to a person’s personality, most of it is something attained.

It is refreshing to talk to someone who tells me about a trip they didn’t do so good on, that shows me a picture of the average size fish they catch, that is as eager to share information as they are to get it.

This morning I was reminded of this as me and my brother-in-law (that’s good English, ain’t it?) struck out to fly fish for wild trout. Wild trout in this area are typically very small. You may catch fish up to 12 to 14 inches on a rare occasion, but most are three to seven inches long.

Most fish are found in small higher elevation clean creeks. The fish can be very spooky and require stealth to catch. Most WNC streams are loaded with these fish, and you can have some days with very good numbers of fish, totaling over 50.

Today was not one of those days. We fished a lower elevation stream and only caught eight. Most were a very nice average size, seven to ten inches though. But the true joy we experienced catching these fish was what I remember the most, the shout across the stream when we would hook up, and the pause for both of us to admire the colors on the fish. It was one of my more enjoyable trips in a while.

Not many folks are going to say “That was awesome!” after catching a seven inch fish, but when you take into account the special moment of catching something so pure, something skillfully created, something so delicate in an environment that is increasingly changing not for their good, you can’t help but appreciate what just took place.

I hope my daughter will be able to teach her children how to fish for wild trout. I hope they still thrive in our mountains when she is older. I hope they can experience it and not just read about them in a book. I hope I always appreciate every fish I catch, big or small, few or many. I hope the same for you.