Fishing has long been a staple in my family. My father does it, his father did it, and his father even was known to wet a line when he wasn't working to feed his family. Its just something you do in my family. Its a family tradition, as the cliche goes.
I've been fishing for as long as I can remember. My early fishing experiences were on the Illinois River, fishing for smallmouth bass. There was no Snoopy or Mickey Mouse pole ever in my early childhood. My dad put a 6ft Ugly Stick rod w/ a Johnson closed-face spin cast reel in my hands and sent me on my way. Mepps spinners and Road-Runners, as I recall, seemed to do the trick on the smallmouth back then. I always called them "brownies" back then, which was way before I even knew what a brown trout was.
Fast forward a few years and I'm sitting in the floor at our lake-house on Grand Lake, watching a fishing video. It was entitled: "The Babine Steelhead". It was an old '80s fishing video about 2 guys going to British Columbia to fish the Babine river for steelhead with a fly rod. I was fascinated with the way they fished for them and wanted to try it out. Later that week, after a quick stop at the local pawn shop, we came home with my 1st fly rod and reel. It was a 8 1/2 foot fiberglass rod (unsure of the brand to this day) w/ a Shakespeare reel loaded with an old floating line. I think the rod is at least a 5 or 6 weight rod...all I know is that it was a handful for a 11-year old. I learned to cast on my own at our farm pond and at the lake. It was a big learning curve for me, but I watched a few fishing videos over and over again so I finally kinda figured it out. The following years were spent chasing bluegill with small popper flies that you could buy at WalMart or any decent bait shop. I still have that rod and reel today as it hangs on my wall in the living room, paired with another old Shakespeare rod and reel I came across at a pawn shop.
A few years later, we started to vacation to a little place called Roaring River State Park, just outside of Cassville, Missouri. This was where I had my 1st encounter with trout. I fished with spinning gear in the beginning as my attempts to catch them on my fly rod were futile to say the least. I was pretty successful with Mepps spinners, rooster-tails, road-runners, and glo-balls fished under a bobber. But I continued to see other anglers catch those trout with their fly tackle and was determined to figure it out.
This was about the time that we started buying our tackle and licenses from a fellow by the name of Tim Homesley, owner of Tim's Fly Shop. It was all downhill from that point on. I like to say that Tim was my mentor in fly fishing although I've never actually fished with him but I spent a lot of time in the fly shop and watching him fish when I was young and learned a lot just from doing that. With his recommendations, my dad bought me a new fly rod and reel to better suit where we were fishing at. Tim helped me hone my casting skills a little better and showed us a few methods to use on the trout at Roaring River. I never picked up a spinning rod EVER again for trout.
That was 12 years ago and things have really came full circle in my fly fishing endeavors. I put the rod away for several years during high school and college as I was too busy playing baseball or racing motocross all the time to worry about fishing. It wasn't until my senior year in college that I picked the rod back up and started fishing seriously again. It took a few trips to Roaring River again to really get dialed back in but I was hooked once again. I realized how much I really loved fly fishing and how rewarding it could really be. Over the next year, I started fishing new waters in the Ozarks. I floated the North Fork of the White for wild rainbows, chased trophy brown trout on Lake Taneycomo, and got the Grand Slam on the Norfork tailwater in Arkansas.
I am ate up with fly fishing now so much that my wife thinks of it as a disease. I've bought rods, reels, waders, gear bags, more tying materials, etc, etc etc...and I've not even scratched the surfaced as to the money you can get tied up in fishing gear. I want to fish all the time and I'm always trying to plan the next time I'm going to hit the water. I've chased all kinds of fish now with the fly stick. From largemouth bass to catfish to stripers to carp....I've landed them all with the fly rod. I prefer to fly fish for whatever species I'm after now, I don't really remember the last time I picked up a baitcaster or a spinning outfit.
Fly fishing can and will consume your life if you allow it. There's just something about it...maybe being part of something that is rich in tradition and history. Maybe its the ziiinnnngggg of the reel when you hook into a big fish. Maybe its the beauty and art of the whole thing. Or just a combination of all of the above. Whatever it is....I love it.