FLY FISHING: Valuable lessons learnt aged 11

David Johnson, of Peaks Fly Fishing
David Johnson, of Peaks Fly Fishing

I will always remember the first fish I caught on a fly. At around age 11, I had been thrashing the river to foam over a period of probably a year without so much as a sniff from a fish.

On the advice of a friend I removed the monstrosity from the end of my line and tied on a small black gnat, with my poor casting the fly didn’t have a hope of floating and it tumbled down with the current, my snaking and swirling line dragging the fly under the surface.

I lifted my rod to cast again and to my surprise a small buttery yellow brown trout no more than eight inches long was miraculously attached to the end of my line.

Astonished with my success, what happened next was even more perplexing. A large red faced man came huffing and puffing his way down the river.

On reaching me he gave me a bit of a telling off for ‘doing it all wrong’ and then strangely informed me he was just here to practise his casting. Then he left. Only after time had passed did I start to make sense of it all.

The chap had been fishing upstream without any success, no doubt he had seen my terrible casting, clearly he was of the opinion that I did not deserve a fish! When he saw me land my prize he had to make his displeasure felt and make it clear he wasn’t trying to catch anything, he was just practising his casting! I was only 11. I didn’t care!

This incident taught me a few valuable lessons from an early age. Firstly that fly fishing is about enjoying yourself and enjoyment can come in many different ways. For some, reading a good fly fishing book by the fireside in winter is as enjoyable as casting that first line in early spring. For many tying flies through the winter months or trying to identify the nymphs and larvae of the underwater world is a great source of 

Secondly, the process of learning can be as enjoyable. For those who are just starting, learning to cast and present a fly can be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

For me those magical years as a child in the pulsating days of summer, wondering what mystery the weed beds held whilst I picked my fly out of a tree were the best fishing days of my life. It wasn’t about technique, the latest tippet material or expensive rods, it was about discovery, exploring and most importantly, enjoyment.

Next time you see someone flailing about hopelessly flinging flies in to the trees just remember, they may be having the time of their lives.

By David Johnson