Chances are fairly good that there is a meal from last week you can no longer remember. Or maybe this morning you spent an extra minute or two looking for the car keys you just put down. But if I asked you where you learned to fish or first cast a fly there would undoubtedly be a small smile in your heart as the image came screaming to the front of your memory. Follow with me as I bid farewell to the water that has taught me so much, but like an old friend will happily cross my path many more times during this life.
My journey into fly fishing began with a camera. I was hired by a guide, DB, who owned a fly shop and built bamboo rods to take some photos of him fishing and his bamboo in action. I’d grown up a gear fisherman and had zero exposure to fly fishing. When we got to the Arizona stream to fish, my 600mm lens could almost reach the other bank. While I was still laughing and switching cameras, DB points to a small rock 20 feet upstream and says “I’m gonna catch one right there” and in one false cast tosses what to me looks like nothing at the end of more nothing to produce a small brown trout exactly in the spot he had said. My camera body and jaw were both still wide open as he released the fish and said, “Did ya catch that?”. My life was never going to be the same.
At the end of two photo sessions we had more photos than we needed. But without either one of us ever voicing it there was no question that we’d be on the stream again in a week’s time. The camera came along, but it was only sparsely used as I began to fumble with casting a fly and mending/tangling a fly line. Many fish were missed, but each one solidified an ever growing fascination. The fourth week we hit the stream with no cameras. And then the fly kit gets ordered. And books, materials, the urge to fish new water and all the normal progressions of a new addiction.
But one thing remained constant. We’d always find ourselves eventually going back to that little stretch of water that had become endearingly termed The Secret Spot and eventually shortened to The Spot. After years of visiting the familiar pools and bends you feel at ease simply for proximity as much as for the fishing. The place where the ghosts of laughter wait at the barbed wire crossing to remind you ALL waders will eventually leak. Or the lightning scarred Ponderosa Pine that houses the overzealous osprey who keep you honest in your ability to raise a timid fish. A new fly could work in 50 different destinations, but if it didn’t work at The Spot it wasn’t really worth tying.
As things typically look clearer in hindsight, it’s easier now to recognize the transition from home water to home waters. What had begun as a stretch of the river became learning the entire river to the lakes and other streams. You begin to realize The Spot includes old Lyle’s tackle shop and his selection of marabou a unique shade of sun-fade mixed with old nicotine stains. Or the new to fishing souls you encounter who can benefit from a few local flies that actually work. It includes mingling with what to me and many others were legends of tying and fishing, but outside the mountains might never be recognized.
Advance the clock and now there have been many different waters plied. Miles and states crossed off maps. There have been multiple species encountered in fresh and salt water. In what seems a whirlwind of life, Spawn Fly Fish began and years later it’s time for me to leave Arizona for the opportunity to work with Josh in our store in WA. The experience upcoming is more exciting than anything I’ve done. Not to mention the fishing! That will be a story for another time.
But as I’m trying to pack and arrange moving plans my mind and heart are pulled back to The Spot. Some of that pull is the fact I won’t be able to see it before moving. But I think the greatest thing fly fishing has shared with me is the realization that everything I now do and will learn going forward with fishing, tying or living is going to carry the foundation shaped on those home waters. That includes the understanding that as long as I’m still applying the knowledge gleaned from The Spot, then it can always travel with me. It must. That’s a comfort that allows you to look and move forward. There is no way for me to undo what was instilled from that little stretch of water. It will forever be a fishing buddy that sits in the truck. If your fishing buddy was always in the truck you wouldn’t tell them goodbye, so... See you all soon in WA and thanks for helping me say Tight Lines to all my fishy friends in Arizona. A special thank you to DB. Cheers!