First On the Fly by Mark Usyk

Firsts. Firsts are something special. First steps. First words. First day of school. First love. First kiss. First job. First car. First house. First baby. Firsts are something you normally don’t forget. And even if you do, it only takes the slightest of hints in any normal day’s event to bring the memories back at you from out of nowhere. Firsts are always of some importance. And then there’s fly fishing firsts.

Your first rod and reel. Your first time trying to cast. Your first snagged tree. Your first wind knot. Your first lost fly because of a poor knot. The first Trout to rise to your dry fly, and then your first miss at a rising Trout on the fly. Your first thoughts that maybe you should just stick to your spinning rod.

But there is something to this fly fishing thing. You can’t figure it out, but when you decide you’re going to go fishing, even though you’ve got the spinning rod back in your hand, your first thought is that you should be trying the fly rod more, that you shouldn’t give up on your first attempt. You have to learn first before you can decide if it’s for you. The first time you pick up the spinning rod after getting frustrated with the fly rod, then lay the spinning rod back down in the bed of your truck and walk back to the water with the fly rod…

Then it begins to happen. Your first fish on the fly. You stand on the edge of a small pond, cast your first little foam popper. You let it sit for ten seconds, and on your first strip, pop, and pause…Your first Pan fish on the fly. And now, for the first time, it all seems much more reachable. Like the first pan fish on a worm below a bobber when you were knee high to a grasshopper, this little pan fish, like so many other pan fish you’ve caught through your lifetime, this one suddenly feels like your first all over again. And in a way, it is.

It only rolls on from there. Until one day, not far off, you stand in a river. Your rod flexes, loads, unloads, and loads again as you gain distance and finally let the line shoot forward. The line stretches out straight before you and seems to pause and hover in midair before gently dropping, the dry fly falling and landing with hardly a disturbance to the surface. The drift is right. The placement where it needs to be, drifting directly over the rising Trout you have been watching for a couple minutes. There’s a subtle take, not a splash, but merely a sip from below and your fly is gone. Your first perfect cast. Your first good drift. And your first Trout on a dry fly.

Since picking up fly fishing, every new fish caught on the fly rod, no matter how many I had caught before on the spinning rod, it feels like a first all over again. My first fish on the fly rod was a 6 inch…ok, 4 inch Fall Fish. A minnow. I watched them taking little brown bugs off the surface in the creek out back one day, tied on a little brown thing, and finally made the good cast and caught my first fish on a dry fly, and then I gained some confidence. First pan fish on a popper. First Bass on a streamer. There were countless misses at Trout on dry flies, until one day it finally happened. First Trout on a dry fly. An 8 inch Brook Trout at a spot everyone said it shouldn’t have been. Five minutes later in the same spot, first Brown Trout on a dry fly, a nice 12 incher that felt like a fifteen incher because I had yet to feel a decent fish on the fly rod.

This year, I’m going after my first Northern Pike on the fly. I’ve caught plenty of them on spin gear. But on the fly rod, it will be the first one all over again. If you know someone who wants to know why you think they should try out fly fishing, tell them it’s their second chance at the firsts all over again. And firsts are something special.