How It Started

by | Aug 3, 2018 | 12 comments

There was a small shop attached to the house where he tied flies and built fly rods. Everything was a mystery as I opened the screen door, but I recognize the smell of cedar when I walked in. I knew nothing about leaders, tippets, tapers or nymphs. I just knew I wanted to fish dry flies.

I had turned sixteen that summer, and the fishing had slowed for me — again. It always did. So when the sun climbed higher and my freestone waters grew clear with their summer flows, the minnows I’d learned to fish so well just stopped catching trout. It happened every year, but I was old enough to be aware of the shift this time.

With my driver’s license, I discovered that traveling further to fish new rivers didn’t solve the problem — the minnows still didn’t work. But I knew I’d found better water when I saw trout rising all around me. They delivered a message. They wanted nothing to do with my bait, and now I understood why.

So the gentle, bearded man sold me a hand-crafted fly rod — and a fly line, a reel, a leader, some tippet and a box full of hand-tied flies, all for a price that must have cost him money. It was more like a gift to the curious young man in his shop.

He seemed so certain about things. We talked about flies and fishing and rivers and trout. The only other person I knew who carried that kind of assurance in fishing matters was my uncle, who’d taught me the ways of fishing the fathead minnow.

The shop owner then drew for me a map to Fisherman’s Paradise on Spring Creek. With pencil and paper abruptly torn from a notebook, he traced a path leading from where I was standing to where I am right now.

He told me where to park and how to fish. He showed me the basic cast, and I left through the screen door.

I removed the minnow needle and double bait hooks from my vest that night. I spent hours in the damp and dim basement, holding a fly rod and the strange thick line, dreaming of what might come. I found a pocket for the box of flies and a home for the spool of tippet. In the dark of the morning, I left my minnow bucket behind and followed the map to the river where I was told there was a wild trout behind every rock.

I caught no fish on that first trip. But I’ve never forgotten the trout that rose to my flies that day. It’s all I needed.

 

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Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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12 Comments

  1. One day, when I was a teenager, I was fishing below the first bridge upstream from Junction Pool on the Beaverkill. A fish rose to my fly and I hooked it. But as I was bringing it in, awkwardly and with wild haste, it got away.

    A man was standing on the bridge. He tried to make me feel better by saying something like, “It was a small one. There are bigger fish in the river.” I agreed with him, but I couldn’t tell him that I was crestfallen because that little trout was my first on a dry fly.

    I’ve caught many bigger fish in many rivers, but none like that little stocked brown that got away.

    Reply
  2. Short though your post was, far too short, the subject matter you touched upon makes this one of my favorites. Nicely said. When I turned 16 I bought an ancient, 1970 Ford Econoline van and it took me to soooo many new streams and adventures. Beyond here be dragons… great fun.

    Reply
  3. This is a beautiful vignette. It really captures that feeling of endless possibility when the door to the world of fly fishing first opens up, or when we just discover that such a door exists! It’s a bit of magic that keeps us going for a long time. My first times out were in places that weren’t even trout water, and probably held no fish of any kind, though I didn’t know it then. I was sure there were trout around every corner. I’ll always remember those initial efforts, even if passers-by were probably looking my way and saying, “What the hell is that kid doing?”

    Reply
  4. Great post. I remember my first trout on the fly at age 10 from 60 years ago. On a fiberglass rod I built and a wet fly I tied, both from mail-order kits from a Herter’s cataglogue. The line stopped, I set the hook and an 8 incher came flying over my head onto the bank behind me. I put it back in the water and played it to the net several times. Love the pic of the old rod and reel.

    Reply
  5. “he traced a path leading from where I was standing to where I am right now.” Strong writing, Dom

    Reply
  6. My first fly fishing experience also came at “Fisherman’s Paradise” on Spring Creek !! As a graduate student in 1970 at nearby Penn State in State College, I had very little free time. But JUST ENOUGH to read Joe Brooks’ book, buy a fiberglass rod and automatic reel and go fly fishing. The first fish that ate , after several trip as took a “Zug Bug”. I don’t know who was more surprised – me or the trout!!

    Reply
  7. Brilliant…..just brilliant.
    Thank you for the memories past.

    Reply
  8. Great post. The first trout i caught on a dry fly. I can still see the take from the moment the fly landed on the water

    Reply
  9. Really enjoyed the post, brought back great memories. Thank you

    Reply
  10. Beautifully written- we all have an origin story and hearing them takes us right back to those days and the excitement of seeing a new world.

    Reply

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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