As a kid I learned to fish by casting a line with a worm on a hook to small rainbow trout swimming in the crystal clear waters of Chase Creek.
That was a long time ago. Over the years since those early days I have fished many a river and stream for everything from salmon and steelhead to sea-run cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden, to sturgeon and northern pike. I like fishing rivers and streams.
I guess I just like standing on the banks of a stream listening to the sound of water rolling and tumbling over the rocks, looking out at an early morning mist rising up from the surface of the water. Standing there, casting a line from the bank, allows me to reach potential fish holding spots such as runs, riffles, seams and pools. Now having said that, I will admit that I have not always been able to effectively present my line and lure or fly line without snagging it on a nearby branch. If the truth be told, over the years I have managed to make snagging my line an art form.
I should also mention that my casting stroke also leaves something to be desired. I mention this because the other day I found myself casting just down stream from a couple of well-heeled anglers who were sporting some pretty fancy fishing gear. Both appeared to have high-end graphite rods with reels that I’m sure would have set them back at least $400 or $500 dollars apiece. One was casting with long, smooth, graceful loops, his flies landing on the water with a subtleness and ease that could only be described as impressive. The other was casting as if being pestered by an angry wasp. The odd thing though was the angler with the less- than-perfect casting technique seemed to be catching more fish. He just seemed to know where to cast.
From my vantage point I could see the runs and riffles, as well as the several deeper pools that looked to have fish-holding potential. The angler making the graceful casts seemed to be casting and presenting his fly just short of the feeding zone, while the other fellow was placing his fly, albeit in a somewhat less than dignified manner, right in line and just ahead of where the fish were cruising in search of food.
As I stood there watching both anglers, I made a number of mental notes as to where the fish were most actively feeding, what insect hatches were coming off and what patterns I had with me in my fly boxes that most closely matched the hatch. I also made a mental note of which waters I figured to move into once the pair had moved on.
And, it was while I was standing there, watching and waiting, that I began to realize just how bad my own casting habits have become.
From tailing loops to back casts that touch the leaves on the branches of trees behind me, I’m almost as bad at casting now as when I first started fly fishing some 50 years ago. Do I worry about my lees-than-perfect casting? No, not really. Do I catch fish? Yes. Maybe not as many as I could if I paid more attention to doing things the right way. But the way I see it, I’m happy just to be standing there, casting a line and enjoying being out there on the water – and that’s got to count for something.
Stream fishing for me has always been a form of relaxation. It is an unencumbered process to say the least. All I need to bring along can be carried in the pockets of my fishing vest. I am free to concentrate on my cast and breathe in all the sights and sounds and smells around me.
I have caught trout in small streams as well a giant sturgeon in the Fraser River. I have fought wild steelhead and salmon in rivers that are a part of sport fishing history. And I have enjoyed countless hours casting my line in nothing more than the hope of catching a fish.
Often as not, I have returned home at the end of the day with little more to show for my effort than the satisfaction of having spent a good day on the water and when it comes right down it, that’s what stream fishing is all about.