On a family outing to North Carolina, I found myself in the lucky position of teaching my son to cast a fly rod from the middle of the Nantahala River. Over the last couple of years, on summer trips, we would criss-cross the wonderful Appalachian trout streams on to the way to visit family, but never stop to fish. But this year, we were actually fly fishing together. And I was going to teach my son the art of catching a wild rainbow on a dry fly. But, I would be the one RE-learning the real reason that fly fishing is so much fun.
Previously my fly fishing trips have been done with my business contacts. Family trips and outings have not been fishing trips. And the result is my son has not learned to fly fish. But this trip to western North Carolina was different thanks to Cousin Kay. I was concerned about TJ not catching a fish. After all, 12 year olds get bored if there isn’t explosive action, right?
We put on the waders, and I explained how the gear worked. And we worked our way onto the river. We went over the basics: how to cross the stream and pick your way across. Of course this took a lot longer than it normally would, but we got into a good place with room to roll cast. I showed TJ how to do a roll cast and to my surprise, after only a couple of corrections he was rolling more accurately than myself, and with a big grin on his face, but we had no bites.
We moved upstream. Next in the lesson was where to cast the dry fly, strategy of a drift, and how to mend on a drift. Unfortunately, I hooked a small trout as I placed a cast behind a rock, showing TJ a good place to cast, and the fish quickly shook off. Little did I know that would be the last strike of the day. I wish TJ had hooked the trout. But, he learned very quickly, placing casts perfectly, mending perfectly, roll casting right on target. But some days the fish just don’t cooperate.
TJ had become more confident in his wading and was now moving around the stream easily. He was casting beautifully and in general working the delayed harvest section on the Nantahala like he had been doing it for years, not hours. But still, he had not caught a fish with his fly rod.
We had to leave the river, according to our plan for the day. And as I helped him out of his waders, he helped me break down the fly rod that we had shared. I was thinking that it was great while it lasted. I wish that TJ had caught a dozen trout so that he want to go again. I wished the day had been successful. But we were off the river now and we were heading to a bluegrass concert that evening. At least the music would be good.
That evening, as we were getting ready for bed, TJ suddenly said, “Dad, this is our best vacation we’ve ever had. And this was the best day ever. I really liked walking around the river in the waders.” And I realized it wasn’t the lack of fish caught. It was about the beautiful river. It was about the joy of walking in a place that seemed impossible. It was learning about currents. It was about mastering the fly rod. And it was about all the things that make fly fishing so much fun. And it was time together, conquering the river together. And it is nice to learn these lessons again, especially from my son.
Originally published on Father's Day, 2011 Photos and article by Allen Wyatt
For more information on fishing the Nantahala River near Bryson City, NC follow this link -> Nantahala Info