Windknots & Tangled Lines is holding a contest regarding each participant's fishing history/timeline. I have decided to throw my hat in the ring and give it a whirl.
My first fishing trip came in 1979. I was five years old and my father had planned a big trip for us. We were going to Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland on a camping and fishing trip. My father had always been a fisherman. He grew up dirt poor living in the projects of Detroit. He and his brothers would hitchhike out to the Great Lakes to fish for anything they could in order to put some food on the table. Since they were poor, my father would use hand lines and cane poles to fish. When my parents discovered they were having a boy, my father raced out and bought me a tackle box and three hand made wooden lures. He was so excited to share his love of fishing with his boy. So we went to Deep Creek Lake for my first fishing adventure. My father had bought us cane poles to use, which we did. I caught my very first bluegill fishing off a dock at the lake. Man was I excited and proud! Throughout the weekend we managed to land several bluegill and yellow perch. We even had a good ole' fashioned fish fry. It was a great time and I believe I was truly hooked on fishing from that point forward.
As I advanced in age and skill I was able to move from the cane pole (which I thought was boring) to a shiny new Zebco 202 rod and reel combo. I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was white with green trim. I was so proud and happy with that thing. I had it for years. Come to think of it, I wonder what happened to it. Anyway... I digress. So with my Zebco 202 I set out with the other neighborhood kids to explore the waters around us. There really wasn't much. There was one pond that was about a twenty minute walk from our neighborhood. It had largemouth bass and bluegill in it and was your typical farm pond. It had one small dock on it that we used to fish from. In order to get to it, we would come in from the road side rather than walk in the fields where all the horses were. The pond was on a hill that we had to walk up in order to reach it. I can still remember how excited I always got as I walked up the last part of the hill and could finally see the pond. I always thought about the possibility of landing the big one out of there. That very first glimpse held such potential for me. We used every kind of bait possible. I fished with cheese, hot dogs, crickets, bologna and other assorted "fine" foods. We always did well and we used to bring the fish home. I caught my very first bass out of that pond. I am ashamed now to say that I kept it and had it for dinner. It was a whopping eight inches but damn was I proud of my fishing skills in catching it.
Throughout the 80s I pursued the bass and panfish in that pond. I did manage to land a 13 inch bluegill on a cricket once. My father and I would venture out on day trips to Cunningham Falls and fish the lake there. We only ever made it back to Deep Creek Lake once. I am sad to say
it just wasn't the same as that first magical trip. We did fish a few times from the pier at Virginia Beach while we were there on vacation but never really had much luck. We almost always used live bait. A stop on the way at the local 7-11 for live bait was required. Looking back on it now, these were some of the best times I ever spent with my father. We would stop for live bait and snacks. Since my mother was at home, I pretty much could get whatever I wanted. This would usually include donuts or something similar and chocolate milk. An occasional Slim Jim would make its way in the vehicle as well. My father and I were (and still are) junk food junkies. There was a bond between us and an oath was taken never to let Mom know what we were doing. I am sure she wasn't fooled. My father was injured rather severely in a car accident toward the end of the 80's and our fishing became rather limited.
This was the time of girls, sports and the end of high school. I continued to fish but not as much as I had as a boy. Time became limited and girls were first and foremost in my mind.
After high school, I seemed to have moved to artificial bait at some point. I am not sure when exactly this happened but I think it was when I was fishing farm ponds with the friend mentioned above. I found a new pond in the area and took my father there one day. I had learned to use plastic worms Texas rigged and other assorted lures with much success. I enjoyed it cause I didn't have to sit and wait for the bobber to be pulled under by some small panfish. Stuck in his ways, my father continued to use live bait. For the life of me I can't remember how we did but I don't think it even matters. Times such as those between a father and son tend to be more about the bonding and less about the catching of fish.
In the mid 90's I discovered fly fishing. I was fishing a small stream for trout one day when I ran into a fly fisherman. He and I were talking and he was kind enough to give me a couple of the grasshoppers he had tied up. I have no idea why as I didn't have a fly rod but I appreciated the offer none the less. After seeing and speaking with him, I ran out to Walmart and bought my first fly rod and reel. I have to admit that I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I couldn't even put the line on the reel. I had to get some books from the library and ask a coworker for help. After finally getting everything up and running, I started stalking the trout... without much success I might add. It took me over two years to catch my first trout on the fly rod. Saying it now, I realize how sad that is. In fairness though, I did it without any help or lessons. I can see in my mind exactly where that rainbow is in the stream and the way he surged skyward as my size 14 white fly drifted over his feeding lane. After I landed him, I literally ran all the way back to the car to tell my girlfriend about it. Needless to say, I was hooked. A year after that I got my first fly tying kit and bought a Cortland 3wt. It was time to upgrade from the Walmart special anyway.
In speaking with the owner of the fly shop where I bought the 3wt, I learned of a "secret stream" that held wild brookies. It was up in the mountains and could be a challenge to work I was told. Sounded fun to me. I spent the last part of the 90's working this stream and cutting my teeth fly fishing for the brookies. This is the same stream I still visit today. Every run, pool or riffle holds a memory. It is also a place I plan to visit more than I have been recently.
2000 and Beyond
As with most, work and family got in the way of my fishing and tying. I was married, became a
parent, divorced and became a single Dad during this time frame. I also got re-married to a wonderful woman who is the light of my life. I probably don't tell her that enough but she is something special. In 2004, she took me away on a surprise fly fishing weekend at a Bed and Breakfast in VA for my 30th birthday. I pursued smallmouth and panfish on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. It was such a great time. While I had caught smallies and panfish before on the fly rod, it was nothing like landing them in this river. I was thrilled and came home with a new appreciation of the darker side of fly fishing. Since that time, my wife and I have traveled back to that first place as well as out to West Virginia in search of warmwater fish. My wife doesn't fish but allows me to plan our vacations around my obsession which is really awesome.
Fly fishing and tying are more than just an obsession with me, they are becoming a way of life. I truly love them and can't imagine not being able to do either. For those that have this passion, you know exactly what I am talking about. For those that don't, it can be rather hard to put into words what one actually feels.
August 5, 2007
That is the date I made and fished my first popper. I, of course, did a sloppy, rush job in order to get it out on the water. I used a cork body in size 10, black and yellow paint (I didn't bother to let it dry), as well as yellow and black hackle but no legs. I used the yellow hackle for the tail. I later got away from this by using squirrel or calf for the tail. I also was initially using 3mm doll eyes for the eyes which are now next to impossible to find. I managed to catch 9 sunfish and one smallie on that sad looking popper before it started to rain really hard. Leaving the river, I realized that I was hooked on making my own poppers. That was over four years ago. My first popper now sits proudly in my display case.
J&M Flies was born in 2011 out of my love for chasing the smallies with poppers. I still get excited seeing my poppers being fished with success by people who buy them. It is something my wife and I do together which makes it that much more special to me. I am looking forward to doing more in 2012 and branching out to other markets. This really is an exciting time for us.
I now fish almost exclusively with a fly rod. Every once in a great while, I will use my 5 foot Ugly Stick and 4 pound test line but it is rare. I really love fly fishing. There is something magical about it. It becomes so much more special when you are able to tie your own flies and catch fish using them.
In some ways the cycle of fishing has come full circle for me. I have taken my kids fishing using live bait. My daughter now wants to learn how to fly fish and for the most part uses artificial lures when we do fish together. My son has his own Batman rod and reel combo and will be coming with us this year, or so I hope. Last year he wouldn't come cause he didn't want to get his hands dirty.
My father has gotten worse health-wise over the years. He doesn't even fish anymore despite the fact that my parents own a lake house. Given my job and family, I never get to see them as much as I should or could. Regardless though, I still remember those times we spent together fishing with fondness and a smile on my face.