It was early February. I had already sold all my drift gear the autumn before, and my most frequent fishing buddy and I were growing apart because he hated flyfishing. Feeling the urgency to get what we could into the season, we both took a little time off the latter part of the work day to hit some water that was usually a locals-only kind of place. Ironically, we both pulled up at the same time although we hadn't talked about it with each other.
"whaddya know!" Jack said with his million dollar smile. I grinned back and we were deep into the unnecessary race to see who can gear up first, as if it means the big steelie will come to the winner, a ritual I still enjoy with Brian Lencho or Bill or Tyler or... you name it!
Jack is hardcore. As we walked down the trail together, he jabbed at me with rhetorical questions about the Sage 9' 6" 8wt single hander I was married to at the time, the funny fat line, et. al. We were close enough friends so it was a form of friendly conversation, like two wolves play fighting, as I vowed to show him the merits of my new found conviction.
At the water, Jack got to work immediately where the downstream fish lay. We could see the fish although it was in deep water because it was ansty and kept moving toward the head of the run. Good sign.
I walked up to the tailout above the bend and stood up on a mound to study the water. Jack was amused. He had cast 50 times by then. He offered another friendly poke "is that how a fly fisherman does it?", referring to the fact that I had not even cast once. I laughed along too, it was kinda funny. Then I saw some structure I liked behind a root wad in the end of the pool before me.
I walked into the water and stripped line. I could feel Jack's eyes upon me. He was such a close friend that there really wasn't anything he could say that would frazzle me. It was all in good fun and I knew it.
I worked out the proper length of line and laid the fly behind the root wad. The line was quickly swept down and across over the shallow gravel shoal on the near side. No good.
I stepped upriver several feet, and stripped out more line. This time the cast put the fly well into the slow eddy below the root wad near the far shore, and I threw a huge mend. My upstream position let the line be straighter and offer less whiplash resistance, and the line slowly began it's descent until it became tight enough to swim the fly across the tailout of the chute I was fishing.
It was my second cast, with one correction of position and presentation. As the fly swung out of the trench, a big chrome flash and a arm-wrenching grab signaled the unbelievable, the incredible, the after-work second cast native 12 pound buck on a fly.
Jack was blown away. Although we tried to fish together a few more times, I would never use anything but my fly rod for steelhead again. My increasing success was also the demise of our long friendship as hardcore drift gear amigos chasing steel across the state. Sad in a way, but I knew I was going to make the personal journey to investigate all of my fly fishing curiosities and with my business travel, young kids, etc - there was no time to waste in the venture. Although I think of Jack as my mentor and a great friend, we grew apart through the years leading up to my move to the east coast 3,000 miles away. I owe it to look him up the next time I come in to SeaTac and cross the street to the 13 Coins for a Hangtown Fry - he's the one who got me hooked on 'em not to mention many other good things in life.
I photographed the fish and with a few strong strokes of the tail it disappeared into the flow once again. I'll post that image in this thread when I can get to the scanner.