This long piece goes back to 1980, when I was secretary of the Fly Angling Club of Milan, one of the oldest flyclubs in my country. I wrote it for the official magazine of the club itself, hoping to offer some hint or suggestion or knowledge to beginners. Due to its length, I’ll spit the story into three parts to avoid boring the readers. The story is real: only the names have been modified for privacy’s sake. It is a report of a fishing trip to one of the many Alps small streams I was used to visit: very strong current, small to medium pools… an enviroment so different from the quieter water I fish now in Central Italy. The scope of the article is to show fly fishing to young or unskilled anglers as an easy matter.
“Ok, you may go… I finish my leader and will join you.”
It was but an excuse to watch, unseen, how these two new fishing fellows would face the stream after the casting tuition. They had asked me to fish together one of “my” many small streams and here we were. However, I did not want to be too much present with advices or suggestions and decided to watch them from a distance.
Let’s call them Jack and John. They are not their real names but it is not important.
Things went bad since the beginning. Both stomped the water violently in front of them and plunged their flies into the small pool without the smallest consideration of the environment.
Jack advanced with the rod pointing to the sky and casting while walking and splashing and John started to cast from a very long distance fearing that Jack would catch all the fish in the pool.
He hooked a high branch and started pulling the line to disengage the fly: leaves and rotten branches fell into the water in a chaos.
“No trout here, Osvaldo, shall we move to the next one?”
“Here I am… you frantic people…”
I moved on while they were busy reeling in their lines and I cringed in front of a very small pool, some 10 mt upstream.
“Don’t tell me you think there is a fish in there?…”
A too quick strike and I missed it: it was the first of my mistakes… and I was the one supposed to correct others’….
It was not a big fish but I didn’t expect to catch it at the next cast because I felt the hook point into its flesh. It flew away and would not bite for the next couple of hours. The two friends stared at me, in surprise
“Don’t tell me you had seen the fish…???”
“I always expect that ALL, really ALL pools contain fish. And if I don’t catch it, it’s my fault because I spooked it.”
They started to consider me crazy but since then, they started moving cautiously… The next pool was bigger and there was something swimming inside. Just small details revealed the presence of the fish: small sparkles, some small disturbance of the surface as if rice grains were falling into…
We were still at a good distance from the pool and from the big trout living there (we had seen it when, minutes earlier, it had made a big jump to catch an insect midair).
John’s cast was a disaster: the leader fell right on the nose of the trout… I bit my tongue to avoid swearing but my face said everything. I crouched near a bigger boulder and I whispered him to stay completely still and speechless.
Jack followed my example and stayed motionless like a marine for a short time.
“Are they still there?”
“Of course. They didn’t notice us. We must be patient… we’ll catch it if we stay stubborn.”
We didn’t have to wait too long. After a few minutes, John stood up and…
“I move forward, I can’t stay in the same spot too much… I am like a trout… I must move…”
“If you dare to cast the fly to that pool, I…”.
He stood up slowly, in sadness, with the flyline in one hand and the fly fixed at the rod’s ring.
Quietly and without speaking, John moved to the next pool… Jack, still with me, asked if I was so sure to catch the fish.
“You never know… not even if you hook it… let’s it rest for a while…”
Three minutes passed slowly. The fugitive was some 50-60 mt ahead of us. Suddenly I had a glimpse of something moving some 2 meters from my knee, jumping out of the water and seizing something I had not noticed.
A butterfly… a palmer… I had not idea… Once back in the water, it swam to the bottom and again mid way from it, in its hunting position.
“OK, it’s your time” I said to Jack. “No, I give up” he replied, “I want to see how you catch that fish from this position…”
Damn… I was in trouble! Hadn’t I caught the trout, I’d have been covered with shame… Success was only half…
The cast was perfect: half covered by a boulder, the trout could not see me and it rose to the fly. But I didn’t set the hook and the fish went free, under cover for the rest of the day.
My words were not sweet… but I had to confess my mistake. We both went upstream, to join John. Jack was astonished and reported the whole scene to John with great emphasis: from his words, I understood he had learnt a good lesson.