A recent fishing trip to a nearby pond was the culmination of a seven-week course in fly fishing for the young women of the Wyoming Girls School. They had learned how to tie several effective flies, including the Woolly Bugger, Pheasant Tail Nymph, and the Hornberg, but they needed to learn how to cast those flies so that they could fish with them.
With expert help from Paul Dubas, June Rose, Gordon Rose, Sandy Baird, and Tina Krueger, the young women in Nikki Collins' class were able to learn a simple four part cast or the pick up/put down cast and then advance to false casting and being able to cast 30 feet or so.
Needless to say, the girls were eager to try fishing after having practiced casting for three or more hours. When we arrived at the pond, we rigged the fly lines with new leaders and helped them to tie on a promising fly. I did a quick demonstration on casting the fly and fishing it. Then we walked to the north end of the pond where an inflow pipe was located and the dike was fairly low and there was an absence of trees and cattails.
It wasn't too long before the action started. An excited angler screamed, “I got one.” The fish splashed and jumped around for a bit, but the angler had a death grip on the line and the fish wasn't big enough to break the leader or bend the hook. Soon a 12-inch rainbow trout was flopping in the net.
Of course, like any angler, the young lady bragged about catching the first fish and biggest one, too.
Her moment of glory was short-lived. Within 10 minutes three other anglers had landed fish: two more rainbows and a yellow perch. Within a half hour the 10 anglers had all hooked a fish, but not everyone had landed a fish.
I told the unfortunate anglers what my favorite fly fishing poet, Elizabeth Barrett Brown Trout, had written. “It is far better to have hooked and lost, than to have never hooked at all.”
A diversion occurred when one of the anglers borrowed a long-handled landing net and managed to bag a painted turtle. The turtle amused some of the girls for 10 minutes before being released back to the pond.
As the morning wore on, one young woman found a hotspot that was loaded with 10- to 12-inch yellow perch. She had mastered the pick up and put down cast and was able to cast 30 feet or so. She was using a fly that I had learned to tie the previous year. It was a modified damsel fly nymph that had bead chain eyes. The lightly weighted fly sank slowly into the 6-foot deep water. After a four second wait, the angler started a slow retrieve where she would strip in about 6 inches of line, wait, strip in some more line. If a fish took the fly, the floating fly line would move a bit and she would raise the rod to set the hook.
Ten- to 12-inch perch can put up a fairly good tussle on a five weight fly rod. They don't roll over and come in docilely. So the young lady had quite a thrilling morning since she managed to land six of the feisty fish.
A couple of the other young ladies came over and joined in on the fun. While they were expecting yellow perch, rainbow trout would slip in and grab their flies. The spunky bows jumped two or three times and gave a good accounting of themselves.
I had tied eight or 10 of the damsel nymphs and, by the end of the morning, the supply had been exhausted.
By the time we quit the pond everyone had caught a fish or two. All the anglers were eager to go fishing again. The young lady that had caught all the perch told me, “I thought fly tying was more fun than the fly casting practice, but fly fishing was definitely the most fun — I hope I can go again, soon.”
At the end of the fishing trip the girls presented us with handmade thank you cards that were not only touching to us instructors, but they were works of art that showed tremendous creativity. All of us were deeply appreciative of the artwork. We regretted that we couldn't take the young women on more fishing trips. We wished the girls well and prayed that they would continue their growth in fly fishing and life.