Ol’ Sherry Anderson wasn’t known for her prowess with a fly rod. Despite the fact that she’d first tried her hand at fly fishing when she was still a freshman in high school, she often felt that she lacked the hand-eye coordination that seemed a fundamental necessity for mastery of the sport. After fifty years of practice her abilities were to be considered only passable, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Sherry liked to fish, in fact she downright loved it. She fly fished her way through summer camping trips with her dad who, God rest his soul, needed plenty of patience in those early years of teaching. The very first time her father gave her a lesson she succeeded in burying a size #6 Doc Spratley fly so deep into her forehead that her family had to immediately pack up their camp and drive three hours over dilapidated logging roads to the nearest hospital.
When the doctor arrived to asses her he took one look at the fly hanging out of her forehead and proclaimed that Sherry should maybe think about sticking to spin casting. Sherry would later claim that his patronizing comment would fuel her life-long tenacity for the sport.
Over the decades that followed Sherry took up the fly rod whenever the opportunity presented itself. The words of her father always echoing in her ear, softly encouraging her to maintain a mathematical rhythm as she cast the line in the direction of the fish.
Admittedly, she’d say, it wasn’t always pretty. The rhythm often fell apart into chaos, her line landing in an unorganized and tangled mess. But despite her lack of coordination, and sometimes persistent frustration, she still caught her fair share of fish.
Sherry often marvelled at the other fly fishermen she’d encounter on the water, admiring their seemingly natural ability to produce long, artful casts. She studied their fluid rhythms, hoping to one day imitate their grace.
I had the pleasure of meeting Sherry last week as she meandered through our booking office. I struck up a conversation with her and it didn’t take long before the subject of fly fishing came up. As luck would have it I had a morning available on the schedule so I offered to take her up to one of our local trout-filled lakes. The mayflies were already hatching, I told her, and the trout were eager to bite.
As we geared up lakeside the next morning I helped Sherry with her gear and suggested a fly for her to tie on. I watched out of the corner of my eye as she expertly tied on the fly, pinched it’s barb and waded out to give it a try.
Her first few casts were - shall we say, choppy.
It’s been a few years, she said, I’m a bit rusty.
I told her I’ve seen way more fish caught on bad casts then good ones, which is definitely true. She laughed and chopped out another cast towards a few trout that were rising.
I spent a few minutes watching her cast and then cleared my throat and gently asked if she would be open to some coaching.
Oh, please, she said. But be warned many have tried.
I waded out to meet her and she held the rod out towards me as though she expected me to give her a demonstration.
Actually, I said, I’d like you to keep it. Now do me a favour and put the rod in your left had.
Sherry looked at me like I was speaking Spanish.
But…she stammered, I’m right handed.
Ah huh, I said. Do me a favour and lets try it?
Sherry switched the rod to her left hand and took a few tentative strokes, working the line out a bit further each time.
Oh, she exclaimed, now why didn’t I ever think of that!
After another half-hour of practice Sherry was lacing out long, graceful casts in the direction of trout that were feeding way out towards the centre of the lake. Time and time again the line danced through the air, drawing more confident lines as she began to master her casting.
You might want to let that fly land on the surface every once in a while so a fish can have a look at it, I suggested.
Sherry’s broad, giddy smile flashed each time the fly line shot past her shoulder and laid out before her in a fine loop. She stood there, thigh-deep in the clear alpine lake and for the first time in a long career of wielding a fly rod enjoyed a sense of rhythm that had always eluded her.
I’m just fine, she told me. Those fish can wait.
To temp trout in the alpine, steelhead in the rivers, or salmon and halibut in the briny deep, stroll on down to our booking office located at 368 Main Street. Tell them Sherry sent ya.
– Captain Josh Temple