I received my first fly rod as a Christmas present when I was 13 years old. The rod came with a poorly narrated learn to fly fish video and I diligently followed the techniques until I learnt how to cast. I spent hours practising and dreamt of catching and landing my first trout on fly. One year later, after months of persistence, that time finally came. Still only 14 years old, I was fishing the Macquarie River near my home town of Bathurst, and after a fumbled cast, I managed to hook and land a small brown trout – needless to say I was stoked!!
Fast forward 15 years and my obsession has only increased. I regularly guide my local waters and spend as much time as possible travelling the world in search of trout!
I was reminded of this story after a Father contacted me wanting to book a day’s fly-fishing for himself, and his seven year old son. He had seen the classic, A River Runs Through It and thought that Brad Pitt made it look easy so he thought they could give it a go. Was I crazy to accept such an offer? And take a seven year old fly fishing in some of the spookiest trout waters I know?
I met Charuka and his son Charma by the lake to give them a short introduction to fly fishing before advancing onto a stream. I started going through some of the basic elements of fly-fishing but not long into the lesson, Charma piped up, “So when do we get to go and catch a fish?” Very quickly I was reminded that a seven year old boy has the attention span of…, well a seven year old boy. I was going to have to improvise.
We discussed that the main aim of the day was to give young Charma some good fishing memories and we could work on refining their skills at a later date. I gave them both a quick lesson on how to Bow-And-Arrow cast and then we went through the basics on how to land a fish:
Now the hardest bit for a guide, getting them onto a fish.
We piled into my 4wd and made our way to the river. As we were driving, I was constantly thinking of ways to create a more memorable adventure for Charma. We pointed out echidnas and wildlife; stopped and took photos; and kept his attention with new and different sights. I was on the lookout for puddles in the road and intentionally charged our car through the water so it splashed up to the windows and kept Charma entertained.
This was not my average day of guiding.
Charuka and his son Charma with their spikey echidna friend
We arrived at the river and set up two of the LOOP Incite Fly Fishing kits. These kits are great value for money and after watching Charma step on the rod twice, without any damage, I realised they are very hardy as well! Great for beginners, they are not only affordable, but also quality.
I placed some thicker than usual tippet onto the leader and after attaching the fly, explained that we need to trick the fish into thinking our fly is a real bug and therefore a tasty, upcoming meal.
Not long into our session, a fish broke the surface to take a natural. Charma’s immediate response was to throw a stick at it! *Insert internal cringe* So the next conversation was that trout are very, very, very spooky fish and we must be quiet when trying to catch them, otherwise they’ll stay hidden away.
I set Charuka up in a likely pocket of water and said to young Charma to come with me to look at another spot. After only just setting out, I noticed a fish rising 30 metres away. I quickly reinforced what we’d discussed: stand still, no stick throwing and when I say, you have to lift the rod, lift the rod. I placed the cast in the likely path of the fish and seconds later the trout rose to the dry fly. Passing the rod to Charma, I yelled, “Strike!” and added “Wind, keep winding, hold the rod up.” And then miraculously, thanks to some heavy tippet, the most gorgeous brown trout of the season made its way into the landing net!!! There were high fives all round and I certainly couldn’t believe my eyes!! A seven year old had just landed a brown trout on a dry fly. Guiding certainly has its highs and lows, but this goes down as one of the most rewarding moments!
We took some happy snaps and the fish was released to see another day. What a moment!!
Charma with his prize catch
To top things off Charuka even managed to land two more fish after lunch. One of which was the most stunning rainbow I have seen in the area for a long time, with gorgeous early season colours and even spots on its belly – the first time I’ve seen this.
Charuka with an absolutely stunning rainbow trout
This was the first time I’ve seen such unique belly spots on a rainbow trout
So I ask the question – what youngster in your world might enjoy a day of fly fishing? Maybe seven is too young to learn the technical side, but it’s a good start to enjoy everything else fly fishing brings. It’s an opportunity to get them outdoors, enjoying the excitement of catching a fish, and more importantly, getting them away from the TV and computer.
In the meantime I will continue to thank that brown trout for being in the right place at the right time, and making a seven-year old as well as a trout guide’s day. Sometimes it all works out.
The right place at the right time – dry fly style