The First Fish

         Anyone who has ever even attempted to fly fish has heard the words “You never forget your first trout.”  The phrase is as ubiquitous to the sport as “catch and release”. The First Trout holds a mythical hold over the sport. I have met people who can describe their First Trout in intricate detail -- from its individual patterning, to the exact water temperature at the time of the catch, to the angle at which the sun hit the water. Perhaps the reason for the fascination is that the First Trout is the hardest to catch. It takes on a sort of symbolism of the endeavor as a whole. The First Trout is always released, always allowed to travel back into its watery hide-away.

            For all that, I do not remember my First Trout. I have no recollection of its breed or its color. I cannot picture it in my mind. I have a vague sense that it was caught under a covered bridge. Definitely in upstate New York, right near Roscoe. Other than that, I have no idea. On the off chance that I am right about it being under a covered bridge, I know who I was with (vaguely). If I am right, I caught four or five other trout that day. I don’t remember them either. While I don’t know why I can’t remember my first trout, I can take some good guesses. My first would be that catching a fish isn’t all that important to me. Sure, everyone loves the feel of the tug and then holding the little (or big) guy in your hands before you let him go, but I love other things more. Like the rivers, the people, the feeling that follows a really good cast… 

            I don’t remember that first fish, or really any of the fish I have caught. I do, however, remember countless beautiful days where I didn’t catch a single fish -- days when the water was too warm, or when I just decided that I wanted to fish a wooly bugger for the hell of it. I remember the first time my younger cousin got her cast just right and when her brother tied his first fly. I may not have pictures of the fish I’ve caught, but I have pictures of the friends I’ve made. In my mind, those are the important things. A conservationist by the name of Roderick Haig-Brown once remarked that he had, “fished through fishless days that [he remembered] happily without regret.”  I have to agree with that statement, and I have a feeling many of you do as well – whether you remember that first fish or not.


said on Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

You've really captured something, here, Bridget.  Gorgeous.

said on Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Thanks for sharing, Bridget. I'm one of those people that remembers his first trout — and I do so fondly. It's the countless bluegill, bass and perch that came before that blend together. I'm not sure if it's the fish, or the fact that I started chasing trout at the same time I started using a fly rod, but trout changed how I look at fishing.


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