Through a Glass Darkly: Time flies when out fly fishing

By Bob Anderson
Staff writer

One of the many great things my father and his best friend taught me as a boy was how to fly fish.

In a way I guess I forced them into it.

For several years on our fishing trips, I sat in the middle seat of a boat between Daddy and his best friend, who I called Uncle Bert.

We all sat on flat wooden seats. Nobody had seats with backs.

Nobody had trolling motors either. Between nimble casts that dropped flies next to logs and stumps, my father handled a paddle in the rear.

Uncle Bert helped ease the boat along with a shorter paddle, its wood thumping on the wood gunnels before the swish of his casts.

My father fished the waters behind us. He and Uncle Bert timed their back casts to avoid each others’ lines. That’s more than I can say for the little boy who sat between them.

Too young to use a fly rod, I dropped my cork as near as possible to the bank between where they cast their flies.

As I watched them roll their long elegant casts on either side of me, the temptation would build to try to cast my worm the way they did their flies.

When temptation got too great, I would haul my cane pole back and lash it forward as if it were a fly rod.

Often that flung the worm off the hook and onto the bank. A worse result was that sometimes my hook caught a back cast. Then we’d end in a muddle of intertwined line.

That always earned me a lecture from my father.

Once they untangled the spiderweb, I would go back to nursing my cork. The temptation to cast would begin to build again.

Eventually they gave in and taught me the intricacies of fly fishing. That took concentration on my part and patience on theirs.

It also meant that our fishing trips started to require two boats, since it’s probably a geometric impossibility for three people to fly fish from a 14-foot bateau.

Our days fly fishing remain some of the warmest memories of my childhood.

It was rare for a weekend to go by in the spring or summer when at least two, if not all three of us, didn’t find a bayou, lake or pond where we would fish together.

At dawn we would cast popping bugs bigger than a thumb nail to attract the vicious strikes of bass. We’d set the hooks as the fish darted away, and the fight was on.

Of all the fishing I’ve done in my life, nothing compares to fighting a big bass on a limber fly rod.

As the sun rose and the bass strikes stopped, we’d change to smaller, wooden bugs that attracted bream.

Some days every well placed cast seemed to result in a strike.

Uncle Bert, Daddy and I spent two decades fishing with each other every chance we got. That time passed too quickly.

An album of those days resides in my memory like snapshots or bits of video.

Nearly 60 years after my first fly fishing lessons, I still feel the instructions of my dad and Uncle Bert in my wrist and arm whenever I pick up a fly rod.

Contact Advocate Florida Parishes bureau chief Bob Anderson by email at banderson@theadvocate.com.