Amazing morning. Not just because the farm was so beautiful and the morning so clear and sunny. It was everything. The day. The great guys from Orvis who so obviously love what they do. Learning new techniques, and figuring out how to put it all together.
This was our home for the morning: a private farm at the base of Mt. Si, with a gorgeous pond stocked with rainbows.
I learned a couple of new tricks today, things that helped me pull my whole casting stroke together. We worked on the grass for a while, and Jason spent time with each of us. We were practicing line stripping: pull out a bunch of line, back cast, then as you cast forward, let some line slip through your fingers. I'd been doing it wrong, letting the forward cast pull the line, which made it rattle through the guides, which slows the line down. The right way, which no one ever mentioned before, is to release the line at the moment I stop the rod at the 10 o'clock position on the forward cast. It took some practice to get the sequence right, but when I did it correctly, the line shot out smoothly and went farther than I've been able to do it until now.
The other "ah-ha" was when we went to the pond to try and catch fish. Leland, one of the instructors (and sea-run cutthroat fishing expert) hung around with me and Dave, and took me under his wing. As I cast my line, he'd give me pointers, and this sort of instant feedback is how I learn best. How did he know that?
His tip: false cast 3-4 times and shoot line to get more distance, then immediately drop the rod tip to the surface, move the line between my fingers and the cork handle, then use my left hand to strip line below my right hand until the slack is out of the line. Holding the line between fingers and cork handle lets me feel what's happening at the fly, and I'm more ready to set the hook if I get a bite. I've been just letting the line dangle, trying to strip line from this floppy out-of-control line, and no one corrected me.
It was a perfect thrill to catch fish today. The pond was so clear you could see the trout coming to inspect the fly, so you could see if you made the curious, or were scaring them off (there's that instant feedback again).
The first two rainbows got close to shore before flipping off the hook, then I caught another and landed it (and learned the correct way to release a trout). The fourth strike was just a nibble, then two baby trout struck on the same fly (they flipped off right away). On the second and third fish, Leland said I made those fish bite on the fly by how I presented it and stripped line to make the fly look real. He was very proud!
Today was a day of putting it all together. I can now cast farther, my line soars out straight on the forward cast, and the line is under control and ready for a fish to strike the fly. It felt really good to get it right. Now that I've felt it for myself, lots and lots of practice will help me perfect my casting skills.
The fish was pretty cool, too... my first fish caught on a fly.