McKinney Diaries III: First Solo Fish

[Editor’s Note: A few weeks ago, we introduced a series by Orvis’s Mike Mckinney, who has been learning to fly-fish after avoiding the sport for as long as an Orvis employee can, with a post called “Resistance is Futile.” Episode II described Mike’s first fish. We’ll follow Mike’s journal entries, which describe his successes (and failures) along the way to become a true fly fisherman.]

July 26th 

Fly Fishing lesson number 2: Steve gave me a shopping list of basics. I stopped by the store but forgot the list. I remembered all the basics, but could not remember the names of the half dozen flies he had recommended. All I could remember was the size (14). I picked anything that had white. That’s all I remember about the flies we used the last time we’d gone out.

Then off to revisit the Roaring Branch at Kelly Stand, but this time I was solo. When I arrived, I was sure I was in the right place, but this water did not look anything like the gentle flowing stream with quiet pools full of hungry brook trout that Steve had taken me to. These were now class 4 rapids of dark orange colored water. A good night to practice wading and casting.

No fish on this trip, but I did catch four oak trees, three maples, and a couple of conifer species I did not recognize. On the bright side, I only lost one fly.

July 28th

Can’t sleep…obsessing…

Thumb down the grip
Stripped line in left hand
Snap rod to shoulder
cast crisply forward, but not too hard
get fly from tree and repeat

It’s 5:30 a.m., and I can’t sleep.

The Fishless Bridge

The bridge over the Roaring Branch is lovely, but the fishing leaves a little to be desired.

photo by Mike McKinney

Hey, let’s go fishing on the way to work. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to fish under the covered bridge on the way to work. Nice photo op.

What did I learn today?
Just because it’s pretty, doesn’t mean it’s good fishing.
Getting a fly out of a low hanging tree is sometimes easier than untangling your line.
You should calculate how long it will take to untangle your line vs cutting and retying.
If you decide to cut, remember you’re almost 50 and need magnifiers to thread a fly. Get magnifiers.

Two hits, no catches, only two trees.

July 30th

Score! I caught my first fish solo–a bass about 8 inches long.

Mckinney bass

A bass caught from the Orvis pond, one of the author’s
very first solo-caught fish.

photo by Mike McKinney

The picture is actually of the second fish I caught. While I was getting my camera out to take a picture of the first catch, the tippet broke right at the popper (poor knot tying I’m sure). There is now a bass swimming in the Orvis pond with a bright orange popper in its mouth.

Things I learned:
Bass aren’t very smart. You can make all kinds of mistakes and they still bite.
Bass really aren’t very smart. Even a bass with a bright orange popper in its mouth will hit on another bright orange popper. I wish I had hooked it. It would have made a great picture, plus, I could have gotten my popper back.

Caught eight (8!) fish, lost one popper.

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