This past June, I had my first taste of fish. On a rod, that is.
My father decided to get me a fishing license and venture to the Little Naches River. He had been fly-fishing for about 20 years, and longed to share his love of nature with me. So we tried his passion.
On that day, I pursued the art of casting. With the rod being 8 feet, 6 inches long, it seemed quite heavy. As a result, the arm motions were intimidating. Dad taught me that the 10 and 2 positions on an imaginary clock indicated where my casting strokes were to begin and end.
Despite the constant watching behind my back for obstacles, my line kept getting tied up in trees and shrubs. At first, I had no luck when it came to catching anything. Whenever I felt a jerk on my line, I was trained to think of it as a bite. Unfortunately, it was just the hook getting caught beneath a rock. I knew I had to cut myself some slack, since it was my first time. After all, I was an amateur in the techniques that can take years of practice.
The second time we went out, I brought Dad’s 6-foot rod to the Tieton River. By then, I had bought fishing boots to gain better traction on the slippery rocks. The river was fairly deep. If I wasn’t careful, I could be wiped out by its strong current. Going upstream that day was by far the scariest experience of my life. The water’s force was pushing against me. To make matters worse, it was windy. Not getting pulled underwater, though, was my biggest concern. Fortunately, the death grip I had on my father saved my life.
In terms of fishing attire, Dad taught me about waders, the waterproof overalls that extend from the foot to the chest. According to him, fishermen would wear these during cooler seasons, or if they wanted to fish in deeper water. However, with the weather being 100 degrees each day, we didn’t bother.
Even without waders, Dad always came prepared. He wore a vest that contained pockets with a plentiful supply of flies, fingernail clippers and some extra line. The artificial flies were used to mimic real insects and float downstream to attract fish.
Sometimes, the delicate line would get tangled, especially in the wind. If a fish had taken a bite, the hook would’ve broken off. The clippers chopped off the tangled line, and new lines (called tippets) were added by tying them to a new hook. Dad also carried a net to catch larger fish more easily.
With only a rod in hand, I knew I had much to learn. For a beginner, though, there were memorable moments throughout the summer.
Dad and I would dedicate our time to the river every other day. We treaded the Tieton and Naches rivers downstream. The day when I caught a 6-inch fish was exciting. This was the first time I ever caught one. The other fish I caught were smaller, maybe about 3 to 4 inches. Later on, I landed 12 more fish. The more fish I caught, the more that I kept making bigger catches. Fly-fishing became an even more enthralling experience after that.
My dad showed me a new technique that he calls “nymphing,” which is used to attract fish that are just below the surface. I had been using a dry fly, which is a fly intended to float on the surface. A fly identical to that, called a bead head hare’s ear, is tied on the line. Above it, I used a strike indicator, a small floating cork, yarn or foam device to detect a fish that has taken my hook.
To throw the line out farther across the river, I learned to cast so that my line was in a tight loop. Sometimes, it seemed like casting was done more often than fishing. I was proven wrong on the Tieton River when I caught a 10-inch rainbow trout with my nymph. Just when I thought that nothing would strike, I made my first big catch!
Sadly, the summer was coming to a close. All those moments on the Tieton River were going to be missed.
Although my skills were strengthened, there was still lots of room for improvement. My hook always got stuck on a tree branch or under a rock.
Dad and I took a final fishing trip at the end of August. The river was high, so catches were hard to make. We hope to take one last venture on the Tieton River before winter sets in. He tells me that fall fishing is his favorite, because the water levels decrease. As a result, the fish are coming to the fly to store some calories for the winter when food is scarce.
Next summer, I hope to cherish those same memories, and yet create new ones. Both of my parents tell me of rivers in other places such as Montana, where large fish jump right on the hook. Sounds like a fish tale to me!
• Ciara Hansen is a junior at Naches Valley High School and a member of Yakima Herald-Republic’s Unleashed journalism program for high school students.