A Man, A Boy And The Art Of Fly-fishing

October 17, 1993|By Randy Bishop

DURANGO, COLO. — DURANGO, Colo.--"I see it," my 7-year-old calls out across a valley punctuated by small ponds brimming with trout.

"OK, cast to it," says Bud Collins, our guide and Drew's first mentor in this rite of passage called fly-fishing.

A few seconds later a trout hits the fly and erupts out of the water. After a few --es, the 13-inch rainbow is being photographed and released.

My son Drew's first venture into this sport I so love had to be the correct one. I wanted him to like it, and first impressions, good or bad, can last a long time.

I ruled out wading because rivers sometimes can be strong and intimidating, even at low levels. I've experienced fear crossing some waters during my fishing, and I did not want that to be his first emotional response to fly-fishing.

A raft or boat trip also was ruled out because a guide can't do much hands-on instruction while maneuvering a Mackenzie boat. Fishing out of a boat or raft is for people who already know how to fish. The summer before last Bud had suggested some small '' mountain streams when I brought up the idea of Drew trying to fly-fish the next time we came to Durango.

But the high snow level last winter had brought the inevitable fast, over-the-bank runoff that does not lend itself to good fishing.

When I called Bud this spring, he suggested some small ponds outside town called Twin Buttes, where a kid could get some action and begin to learn the skills of casting, hooking, playing and landing a trout.

Bud, an old hand at this, with two kids of his own he initiated this way, was the perfect person for this instruction.

Slowly and logically he taught Drew the fundamentals. Nothing too refined, but enough for right now. He helped explain how you cast a line, not throw it, and let the rod do the work, not your arm. Bud held the rod along with Drew to make the initial casts, but slowly withdrew.

Soon he was casting and stripping in line with his free hand. Of course, there was the obligatory "hooking" of a bush on the backstroke.

And Drew was taught the folly of jerking a trout onto the bank. Bud told Drew a trout has a protective film on it that keeps away bacteria. If the fish is dragged on shore, some of that protective coating is wiped off. That's the same reason Drew was instructed to wash his hands in the pond before handling a fish for release -- so the oils from his hands wouldn't destroy this film.

In an hour, Drew landed approximately 30 trout as he got a good, basic lesson in fly-casting, botany and fish biology. Plus, he had a great time catching 9- to 12-inch rainbows using a slender stick, a reel, some line and some newly acquired skills.

All this was done among some of the prettiest scenery and weather anyone could hope for. Maybe there will be future fishing trips, with father and son standing side by side in mountain rivers casting to waiting trout.

But for now, the picture of a smiling Drew holding his fish is more than enough.

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