Meet strangers and pass along your tribal knowledge

This past winter I thought to myself, “How can I make deer season arrive faster?” And I figured out the answer: fly fishing.

For Christmas, I asked for all the small items like forceps and nippers. From there, I bought a beginner Orvis fly rod and reel and any other bare essentials to catch a mountain trout. Shortly after, my family took a trip to Banner Elk, NC and I got my first shot at chasing trout in the mountains without a guide. 

On the first day of the trip, my wife granted me an hour to fish while the kids napped. I jumped in some public water nearby and was confident I’d find success. Within 30 seconds, I caught my first tree. I literally spent 45 minutes of my hour hung up in an overhanging branch. Had I had waders or even a replacement leader it would have saved me a lot of time, but I had only the bare essentials to work with and couldn’t spare a cut leader. All in all, I got in about eight casts and caught two trees in that hour. I went home defeated and thinking this fly fishing nonsense wasn’t for me.

What are you fishing with?” I showed him the worm and the previous bug. He took a quick look and said, “Do you know how to match the hatch?” “Sure don’t,” I replied.

The next afternoon during the kids’ nap I gave it another attempt. This time I was at least putting my casts into the water. An hour went by and I had zero luck. While I was in the process of changing my fly to a pink worm, a gentleman walked up and said, “It looks like you are having issues. What are you fishing with?” I showed him the worm and the previous bug. He took a quick look and said, “Do you know how to match the hatch?”

“Sure don’t,” I replied.

“Come on into the water with me,” he said as he stepped off the bank. He began picking up rocks until he found one with the craziest looking water bug I had ever seen. He then asked for my fly case and said, “This is how you match the hatch.”

He found the six tungsten pheasant tail nymphs that matched up, and told me to pick the one that matched the size of the real bug. Once that was selected, he told me to add a dry dropper to my setup, explained the reasons, and I obliged. He then introduced himself as Adrian and went on to give me 30 more minutes of fly fishing gold. Before leaving, he told me the exact hole to fish the next morning and said it held a lot of small trout. He left me his number and said don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.

That next morning, I was at that hole come sunrise. Five casts in, I caught a tiny brown trout, which made me think this Adrian guy might know what he’s talking about. I was ecstatic! Five casts later, I caught my first 12” rainbow and that convinced me Adrian was a genius.

At Adrian’s hole, I kept trying to hit this one spot on the water that reminded me of something I’d seen on a YouTube video about “water that holds trout.” Twenty minutes later, I finally hit that exact spot. The very moment my fly hit the water, I saw a big trout emerge from the dark hole and grab my fly. That fish instantly broke the surface fighting for his life. He did that two more times as I tried to get him to the bank. I was certain he would get off since I’d already hooked two others that got off before making it to the net. And yet, seconds later, I was amazed that I’d actually landed a 17” rainbow. 

I went to that hole with high hopes, but I was sure I’d leave it feeling like fly fishing was something I’d do once or twice a year. That day, I left that hole on Elk River with a new found obsession and the hunger to get back on the river ASAP. Adrian and I had exchanged numbers the day before. He said to let him know if I had any other questions. Instead, I sent him a pic of that 17” trout to which he replied back, “Wow, I still got it!” 

I owe it all to Adrian. What he did served as a reminder to me, that we all should make an effort to invest in others, ask how can we help, and then pass along what we know to people who need the help. After all, our hunting, fishing, and conservation heritage is dependent on more people buying licenses, buying gear, and spending days afield and in the water. 

Aaron Towns is a member of the North Carolina Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

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