I Bought Fancy Clothes And An Expensive Fly Rod …And Still Can’t Catch Any Trout!!
Trout Fishing! To an elite group of individuals the art of catching these little fish is a passion superseded only by the need to breathe. It is a combination of tippets, line mending, hatch-matching, 1-ounce fly rods and all of those other variables that go into successfully tricking these denizens of the stream. It’s the magic moment when a trout rises to the dry fly or when a hand-tied streamer is engulfed as it seductively passes near a quiet eddy. There is a certain mystique involved in the entire process. So what in the world could possibly be so difficult in catching these little fish? I was determined to find the answer! Webster’s defines a neophyte as someone that is a beginner or a novice. Alas the trail I follow today is one of a neophyte trout fisherman, however, in due time I will be a master of the art and known far and wide as ‘The Royal Coachman’ of New Mexico. With a bit of luck I am sure to be a legend in my own time. The first thing noticeable about trout fishermen featured in books and on television is the simple fact that all are impeccably dressed. I guess the assumption is that if you don’t dress properly no self-respecting trout will rise to the fly or make a pass at your wooly booger. With this thought in mind I ventured into what I now classify as my first depth of despair. While scanning through one of the many fly fishing catalogs, my eyes glazed over and I was totally amazed at the vast assortment of clothing, fishing tackle and lures that were available. Money can certainly be no object if you want to be a legend. I went straight for the jugular so to speak and max’d out my American Express card on an assortment of clothing and gear that would make me the envy of all I would encounter. My collection of ‘goodies’ started out with a pair of $600 waders that were guaranteed to keep water out and heat in (or was it the other way around?). The waders had boots that were tested by Himalayan mountain climbers in their quest to the top of Everest, quick release suspenders that also served as a portable winch line, a built in depth finder, a soft ice chest in the rear and 14 layers of front-side protection. The salesman told me that the marines only get 12 layers of protection during wartime. I was impressed! Next came a 56 pocket fishing vest with expanding pockets ($140), four fly boxes ($180), a collapsible landing net that also folded out to serve as a portable mini-tent ($300), a 9′ IM26 fly rod that had been discounted to $600 and a matching graphite fly reel with weight-forward floating line, backing and a tapered leader ($400). I topped the fishing gear off with $450 worth of hand-made (and guaranteed to catch trout) flies and a ‘Fly Fishing For Dummies’ video ($60) produced by B. A. Nutz, who at one time just happened to be the barber of Santa Fe fly fishing great Gray Spentwing Wolff. I was like a kid in a candy store! Next came the clothing that would transform me from the average Joe-blow angler to elite “legend” status. (I know now how lowly Clark Kent must feel when he makes his transformation to Superman). A folding Cardigium Swedish hat with three flashy peacock feathers on the side ($210), two Triple Haul twill and silk shirts, each having fly fishing patterns ($380), Bottom’s Up long-johns – guaranteed to keep you warm in minus 100-degree weather, two pair of DeLanzs utility pants with 13 pockets ($220), a Big Brookie gray and silver wind breaker ($110), two Fly-Mart light-weight dress sweaters ($160) and a pair of Muddy Water moccasins for those leisure times around the campfire ($200). I even tossed in a hand-carved rainbow trout pipe (The salesman tried to sell me a custom Big Brownie lighter but I told him that I didn’t smoke) with the thought that it would add a certain ‘atmosphere’ as I discussed my legendary fishing with other anglers ($120). I Was Ready! For about three weeks (under the cover of darkness) I watch the video and imagined how long it would take before I too would be producing my own “Fishing With The Royal Coachman” video series. I fine-tuned my casting, knot tying and looked like an elegant ambassador in my new clothing. My favorite food of all time is fish, especially fresh fried trout, so I also ordered four new cookbooks that specialized in ways to prepare trout. How sweet it is!! At the last moment I suddenly realized that it would be hard to be a legend in the eyes of my peers while driving an old 1989 Sunbeam. Times like this require extreme measures. Enter my second depth of despair .. a new SUV ($98,800). The sleek off-road vehicle had it all. Leather seats with embossed fly fishing symbols, 489 cubic inch V-16 engine, 24-hp winch on the front and back, GPS, digital TV, a fold out bar and a stainless steel rainbow trout hood ornament. This was definitely a vehicle fit for a legend! I remember the day well … June 29, 2002. As I left home and headed to the river I thought, ‘This is the day a legend is born’. Unfortunately my arrival at the river was somewhat uneventful since the only fishermen in sight were two anglers ducking garden worms. Not wanting to make to big a deal out of them being able to fish the same part of the river with an upcoming legend, I politely asked, ‘Catching any fish’? ‘Been pretty slow today’, replied the older of the two ill-dressed ‘gentlemen’ as he wrestled another nightcrawler onto his hook. “Caught about twelve rainbows but only kept two of the bigger ones for supper”. With that he reached into the beat-up wicker-fishing basket and pulled out the larger of the two trout for me to see. He must have had the trout folded three times in the basket! I had never seen a trout that big in my life. It had to be an offspring of Moby Dick. I was momentarily caught off-guard, but quickly regained my composure. ‘Pretty good little trout’, I stated. ‘Guess the bigger ones will start biting later this afternoon’. As I walked away I overheard one of the guys comment that he had only seen a person dressed like me once in his life, and that was when he went to the circus. I just ignored the comment and headed downstream to a “secret” fishing spot mentioned on the B. A. Nutz video I had purchased. It’s hard to imagine 23 anglers fly fishing in one secret fishing spot, however, I was obviously not the only person that had purchased Nutz’s fishing video. I kept walking downstream. It took about 45-minutes but I finally came upon one of the most beautiful pools I had ever seen .. And not another angler in sight. I chucked to myself as I thought of the look on their faces when I would just nonchalantly happen by and show off the enormous trout I would soon be catching. I reminded myself that legends do however need to be humble. Casting a fly was not nearly as easy on the water as it was in my backyard. It was pretty obvious that the state maintenance boys needed to get in here and cut back some of the overhanging trees. The branches definitely caused problems in my false casting, and I lost 8 flies and leaders before I finally had one of the fly’s touch down on the water. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride in my ever-expanding fishing skills. A few minutes later I backed into a wasp nest and had to make a wild retreat through the trees swatting the stinging critters. Somehow during this kamikaze attack my new peacock-laced hat fell off and floated downstream. What a disastrous start for a legend, however, I would not keep these minor obstacles from achieving my goal. It was mid-afternoon and the trout were dimpling on the surface of the water. Suddenly off to my right and about 20 feet away I saw a tremendous roll of what had to be a record trout. My cast was sweet and the Rio Grande King streamer landed about a foot from where the roll had occurred. I quickly took up slack line and started retrieving the bait in a stop and go pattern that I had seen in the video. All at once the bait stopped, the rod bowed in a graceful arc and the powerful surge of what had to be a 10-pounder was felt. The fish made a strong run about fifteen feet, then changed directions and headed downstream. I applied pressure (like instructed in the video) and the fish sulked in the lower part of the pool. Suddenly the mammoth made another run toward me and I cranked in slack. Thoughts of victory flashed through my mind and I chuckled to myself as I thought of the taxidermist face when I handed him this giant to be processed for my den wall. The fish made a momentary roll at the surface and it was humongeous. Water splashed in all directions and I was now sure that I would need a bigger wall to display this monster. The townsmen would probably name this spot ‘Coachman’s Pool’. They would obviously put up one of those historical makers stating ‘This Is The Spot Where The State Record Rainbow Trout Was Taken & The Royal Coachman Legend Was Born .. ‘. I gasped in amazement as the huge trout came to the surface and displayed a slick fur coat and buckteeth. In all of my life I have never heard of anyone hooking a beaver while trout fishing. It looked like a scene from Jaws with the beaver chomping fly line as he headed my direction. I let out a shriek, stepped backwards into a hole, and promptly dropped up to the top of my head in the frigid water. By the time I recovered my senses, the beaver had chewed his way free and was heading back to his den with my favorite Grande King streamer stuck in his upper ear like a trophy. As he entered his lair the beaver stopped momentarily and gave me a very disgusted look. I crawled up the bank,
removed all of my wet clothes with the intention of putting on my raingear while my other clothes dried. This was another thing I should have checked before leaving the store. The raingear was a size X-small and I wear X-Large. Wish I had purchased a lighter when I got all of my gear …. It took quite awhile for the wind to dry my clothes, especially the long johns that were guaranteed to keep me warm in minus 100-degree weather. About an hour later a young boy happened by and on his first cast he hung a beautiful ‘bow’ that was in the five-pound range (all of the pro’s call big rainbow trout ‘bows’). The lad was a friendly type and offered that he had caught the fish on a Blue Natt Graywing Special. I went through my four boxes of flies and didn’t have a match that was even close. Before leaving the pool I had another discouraging thing happen. A New Mexico Game & Fish warden stopped by and asked to check my fishing license. Out of all of the items I had purchased.. none happened to be a fishing license. My pleas fell on deaf ears and a ticket was issued. How depressing. I finally decided to call it quits and headed for my SUV in the parking area. As I passed the two ill-dressed anglers I met earlier in the day I noticed that one on them was sporting a hat with peacock feathers very similar to mine that had floated away earlier in the day. Hummm ….. My two-hour wait for Joe’s Locksmith Service was uneventful. Once Joe unlocked the SUV and retrieved the car keys I had absent-mindedly left on the front seat he just politely smiled and handed me his bill. Another $100 down the drain! One the way home I stopped at a McDonalds to have a hamburger. In the window they had a rainbow trout fish sandwich special advertised …. but I Hate Fish! As I was leaving I gave my hand-carved rainbow trout pipe to an older gentlemen on the street corner selling newspapers. So what did I learn throughout this entire ordeal? Well for starters, trout fishing is MUCH more difficult than I first thought. Simple things such as false casting, wet and dry fly patterns, tippet size and matching the hatch are way too complex for non-technical folks such as myself. And how can you possibly have fun when you are constantly challenged by environmental issues such as rain, heat, frigid water and rabid beavers .. not to mention uncouth anglers fishing with nightcrawlers and cheese. I have given it a great deal of thought and at this stage of my life I think I will take up a less demanding and certainly less complicated sport such as bass fishing or golf. Why just yesterday I purchased a couple of videos…. JB