When I was 16 I started fly fishing in New Hampshire on the Contoocook river in the middle of the summer, when all the large browns are hunkered down in the deep pools and the stocked rainbows are dying off one by one from lack of oxygen. I spent two months on that river and didn’t catch a single thing, but that didn’t stop me from pursuing that speckled brown trout underneath the murky tea-stained water. After that summer I knew that fly fishing was not about the fish but about the whole experience. I love fly fishing because of everything that has to do with the sport. The windy drives through the Blue Ridge Mountains, the smell of the water in the humid Appalachian forests, and the sound and feeling of the water. It’s all about complete concentration on one goal, which flushes out the grade on my last Ecology test, the fact that my parents think I fish too much, or just anything that’s been bothering me.
I came to Furman as what I would consider a novice fly fishermen. I went to a river throwing san juans or parachute adams from Dicks Sporting Goods, not knowing what bugs were which and not knowing where fish feed. As a junior at Furman now, my love for the sport is just as addictive as it was on my beginner days on the Contoocook. Fly fishing for me has always been about trial and error, usually with a lot more errors or skunked days. I’ve never walked into a river and not learned something new. Everyday there is a chance to become a better fisherman and understand why fly fishing is so important to the soul.
I used to look back on my early days on the Contoocook blaming it on the warm water, but now I just blame it on myself for lack of knowledge. Being inquisitive and alert on the river is such an important aspect of the sport and if one can learn the basics then you can start seeing whole processes occur before your eyes. What I’ve learned is that trout are just opportunistic feeders trying to get by, so if you can figure out what the best food source is on a river you will catch fish all day. I’m sure those large browns were feeding on the Contoocook but only at dusk, dawn, and throughout the night. Fish need to eat, you just need to figure out where, when, and what.
When I was a freshman at Furman I was surprised at how quickly I started meeting other guys and girls who love to fly fish or just fish in general. There were two seniors, Paul Geier and Scott McLeod, who pretty much inspired me to pursue the sport and take advantage of all the opportunities that Furman had. Paul started the Furman Fish and Fly Club the year before I came to Furman, which sucked in all the rip lipping fly fishing junkies that Furman harbored. One by one we started coming out of our small cliques, which seems to be the social norm at Furman, and started fishing together. Without the club I would have never had met so many other fishermen or even fish as much as I do now. Now when I go to the river or get a quick bass session in on the Furman Lake, I’m rarely ever alone. There’s always knowledge getting thrown around by the people I fish with and I’m learning a lot more now than when I didn’t fish with the club. As I’ve spent my time fishing obsessively at Furman and talking fish with whoever wants to listen I find that I’m starting to get a lot closer with my fly fishing buddies, which leads me to believe that this sport may be a lot more than just a weekend hobby.