Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This Ain't My First Rodeo

For whatever reason my favorite saying during our trip was, “This ain’t my first rodeo.” Not sure why I started saying it. Maybe I was tired of my three teenage sons “smarter than dad” attitude. Maybe it was in response to my wife’s questions. Maybe it was just to be funny. For instance, leaving the Denver airport in our rental vehicle I stated, “This ain’t my first rodeo,” and promptly missed a turn taking us through a scenic tour of the ongoing construction at the Denver airport.

When my son and I headed out on the mountain bikes and my wife said, “be careful,” I thought, “this ain’t my first rodeo.” Maybe not, but I’m sure lots of folks at the ER were probably thinking it was. I guess even experienced cowboys get thrown off the horse or bull now and then.

A fair cast...about 60 feet, but that loop could be tighter!
However, when it comes to fly fishing, “this ain’t my first rodeo.” I’ve been fly fishing for about 30 years. At a minimum, I fly fish weekly…during peak times much more than that. When I went to the Bahamas for the first time the guide asked how far I could cast…I told him, but he didn’t believe me. “This ain’t my first rodeo.” I got up on the bow of the boat and easily cast 80 feet. “Ok…you a good caster,” he said in that Bahamian accent.

And that’s my dilemma. When I fish with guides, especially ones that don’t know me or my skill level, I’m always hesitant to speak of my abilities. You don’t want to brag, but I also don’t like having the guide do everything for me. I hope that taking me fishing is a bit of a break from the sports that fly fish only once or twice a year. That kind of cockiness puts pressure on me, and can put people off, but doggone it this ain’t my first rodeo.

Fish on...and landed!

Yet when it came to landing BIG trout on this trip, I felt at times like it was my first rodeo. I can’t tell you how many times I lasted less than 8 seconds in the saddle. Oh sure…I had no problem casting on this trip, even with my broken collar bone. My percentage of hook-ups were high...trout refusal rate low. Part of that success was the guides. They knew what flies to tie on…but I still had to deliver them.

So let’s say you are a good caster and put the fly where it needs to be. The guides have the right fly tied on your leader and so the fish eats. You still have to time your hook set just right, battle the fish, and get them to the net. There’s a lot that can wrong. And it did go wrong, with every really big fish I hooked this trip. 

Not quite 24 but certainly worth smiling about!
By my count, I had hooked at least a dozen trout that went 20-24 inches. I landed 10 of those. No kidding…this ain’t my first rodeo you know. I also hooked at least 6 or 7 trout that by the guides estimates were over 25 inches! I got a whopping zero of those to the net.

“Damn, Terry,” said my guide Shannon, “how will I get your picture with a mega-trout so that you can show it to all your fly fishing buddies, make them drool and want to come out here to fish with me? I thought you said this ain’t your first rodeo?”

But that’s the beauty of fly fishing…despite how good you are (or think you are) it still takes a lot of luck to get a fish, especially a trophy to the net. Big fish are big for a reason…they have been able to outwit their predators. They know diving deep into the aquatic weeds may free them. They know that a jump and a gill rattling head shake may loosen that fly in their mouth. They understand that rocks, sticks, logs and other obstructions spell doomsday for any leader.

A 'Bow with shoulders but still just shy of 25!

So, while you are up above applying side pressure, bowing when they jump, keeping their head up, letting them run…they are down below diving for cover, shaking their head, jumping and twisting, getting into your backing. With a little luck, one of you will be smiling when it’s over. During this trip, I wasn’t smiling as much as I had hoped.

At one point during this trip, I had what looked like a 27 incher just seconds from the net. My guide John was literally reaching to net the fish when the fish decided he had one more trick up his sleeve. The fish headed toward a stick-up…I countered and turned him. John reached, the fish swam towards me, quickly and jumped. I wasn’t expecting a jump…the fly came flying back towards my face. The fish swirled and splashed the water with his tail as he swam away as if to say, “this ain’t my first rodeo.”


  1. The one that got away? Where have I heard that before. Good pics. Enjoyed your blog.

  2. Don't worry Tbone, the big fish are still there. You just have to go back and try again. You know what they say, "practice, practice practice." Maybe I should go with you since I need some "practice" also. :-)