Turning back the clock to 2007 – when I was 12 years old – our family was on a holiday in Tasmania. My dad had planned to take myself and my brother on a trip to a trout farm where you could fly fish for stocked trout. Leading up to the day we were planning to fish, I was very intrigued by this style of fishing but knew nothing about it. I decided that I’d get some practice in. All I remember is getting a huge stick, tying about 10 foot of nylon line on the end and tying some leaves to the end of my line. I waved this thing back and forth for hours and loved every moment. As it turns out, the man who ran the fly fishing farm passed away about three days earlier. The gentleman who was running the farm at the time suggested that the best chance of catching a fish would be with a Tassie Devil. So, that’s what we did. My brother and I caught fish that were nearly bigger then us at the time, and it was incredible! Probably my favourite memories of fishing in my childhood. Thanks Dad!
Fast forward to 2011 when I truly took up fly fishing. My family had been planning a holiday to the Cook Islands. This was a huge deal for us! We weren’t by any means a wealthy family but I wouldn’t have changed anything about my upbringing. Side note, money has way to much pull in changing a persons character, normally not for the better either. Anyway, back to the story. I began to research the area and I stumbled across what was called flats fishing for bonefish. It seemed to be a massive attraction on one of the Cook Islands – Aitutaki. For the months leading up to our trip to the Cook Islands, I researched like a madman. Where do I fish, what do I fish with, what line do I use, what flies do I use, what weight rod do I use, what gear should I buy? I ended up picking up a #7-9 rod from ebay in an auction – I got a bargain just in case you were wondering – an #7-9 Okuma reel, some cheap tropical fly line, as well as a selection of flats flies and some accessories. I was all set and super excited! For the next 3 or 4 months, I would get home from school each night, get out my rod and practice casting a bit of wool back and forth until I got the rhythm. Once I got that down pat, I started going for distance, and then I began casting to targets. I was ready… or so I thought.
It was about mid April of 2011 and my folks thought we should go away for a few nights of camping near the Goulburn river in Victoria for my first practice on the water. The river was flowing a bit higher then usual but it didn’t deter me from giving it my best. I won’t lie, it was a challenging and frustrating trip. My dad and I spotted numerous fish but came up empty handed at the end of the trip. Looking back on it, the reason no fish were landed was mostly due to inexperience on rivers. Rigs that weren’t 100% right (depth wise), sloppy casting, and probably not getting my fly in the right spot a lot of the time. It was a great time nonetheless. I still have a vivid memory, of waking up in my tent on my birthday – which happened to be whilst we were away – unzipping my tent to be greeted by the banks of the Goulburn river with the sun rising and fog slowly dissipating up from the river into the sky. It was incredible and one of my favourite birthdays!
As we were getting closer to our trip to Cook Islands, I continued to practice out in the fields but it turned out that we didn’t get to Add to dictionary. It was going to complicate things to much and blow out our budget. I wasn’t really disappointed despite wanting to hook into one of these ‘ghosts of the flats’. I was just super grateful to be able spend time on the tiny little tropical island of Rarotonga. The elusive bonefish remains on my ‘to catch species list’ but I’m hoping to tick this one off in the next couple of years. We did do some fishing whilst we were on Rarotonga and caught a few fish, most of them being needle fish which seem to be regarded as a pest over there! My brother did get busted off by something that was huge whilst fishing into one of the channels that split through the reef surrounding the island. He was spin fishing and we suspect that it was one of the Blue Trevally that cruise around and can just about be patted whilst snorkelling.
So, this is my story of how I came to be a Fly Fisherman. Since that time, I’ve fished in many other places and I’m always looking for the next opportunity to wet a line. It’s safe to say that I’ve improved out of sight since from my first few trips. However, I love to see where I began, and be reminded that good things take time. What would be the fun in being the best at something as soon as you began it?! We all want instant gratification in this era, and if I get real deep here, fly fishing teaches us patience, persistence, and humility. Basically, all the things that build character for the better and is slowly fading out of everyday life in the 21st century.