Back in the spring, I wrote an article about the beauty of fly fishing for the Press’ spring Destination Sheridan magazine. Admittedly, I was a guy writing a story about a sport in which I had never participated. In fact, I had never seen anyone fly fish aside from a strapping Brad Pitt in “A River Runs Through It.”
My allure, though, was based on the allure of others. The sport has become increasingly popular in this part of the country, and I wanted to know why.
I soon discovered that fly fishing isn’t a sport. It’s an art form.
My plan when I moved out here was to learn how to fly fish. It was one of my top objectives when I came to the West. Three years later, I finally made it happen. Better late than never, I suppose.
Tuesday, with a little help from my buddy and avid fly fisherman Andrew Marcure, I gripped the paint brush.
Marcure, who coaches football and track at Big Horn High School, spent the better portion of the spring and summer blasting his Instagram account (a.marcure) with photos of his adventures into the mountains and the fish he was catching in the process. Eventually, I had seen enough.
“When are you taking me up there and teaching me your ways?” I commented.
From there, the coach and I made plans for an excursion. Tuesday, we ventured into the wild — I learned that via fly-fishing code I can’t disclose where — and marked our path along the Tongue River for a fruitful day of catching fish.
I caught at least 200, maybe 300 fish. I apologize to anyone else fishing the Tongue this summer because I emptied it.
OK, so I did not catch 200 fish, but I did catch fish, and that was exciting. I approached the trip with zero expectations. Fly fishing is an art, and art does not come easy.
I simply wanted to enjoy more of what the Bighorns had to offer, something I haven’t experienced yet. I wanted to be handed the paint brush.
And, at times I felt like Bob Ross. I flicked the line back and forth through the air and every once in a while, the fly went just where I intended.
I have high expectations for the Big Horn Rams football team. One, because I had a full day with one of the team’s coaches, and the journalist in me couldn’t resist talking football. But two, because Marcure is a heck of a coach. I took everything he showed me on the mountains to heart, and, most of the time, his advice worked. It didn’t always land a fish, but it surely made me look like less of a rookie.
He even tied me a red and blue fly because he knows I’m a Chicago Cubs fan. Quite the gesture. And that Cubs fly landed me my first fish not 30 minutes after I first started painting the river. A Sammy-Sosa-home-run-esque cast, I must say.
Like Bob Ross, though, and like most fly-fishing newbies, I would imagine, there were happy little trees in my adventure, too. I quickly picked up the fine art of untangling fishing line.
But my preconceived expectations kept me at bay. For me, it was a day of peace, and I’d face the tasks and challenges as they were handed to me. And a good coach helped calm any potential meltdowns.
As I drove home from the trip, I appropriately blasted Chedda Da Connect’s “Flicka Da Wrist” — a reminder of Marcure’s frequent reminders to stop using so much of my arm to cast. Still up in the air if that song is actually about fly fishing.
I was by no means perfect on the river. But my first fly fishing experience went perfectly, I’d say, mostly because it matched my eventual feelings of the sport. Like my casts, I’m not fully hooked, but I’m hooked enough to get me back flinging flies.
There won’t be any Mike Pruden masterpieces displayed at the Museum of Modern Art anytime soon, but at least I can hang a few on my fridge at home. I’m quite proud.