Getting Skunked While Fishing

Recently I went fishing with a long time friend who I recently found out happens to be a fly fisherman. In this instance, I’ve known Danny for somewhere over 15 years. I will confess that his passion for fly fishing is one thing I didn’t know about him. I’ve noticed that ever since I started fly fishing I am discovering that all these people I’ve known for many years love to fly fish. Danny is a wonderful human being and a remarkable fly fisherman. I’m not just saying that because he set this fishing trip up either!

This started a week or so ago when Danny and I ran into each other spent a couple of minutes catching up. We decided to make some time to have lunch since several years passed since we saw each other last. During an excellent lunch at Panera, we discovered our mutual love of fly fishing. I was fortunate enough to get invited to go fly fishing on the Little Red River. Lunch was on a Wednesday and fly fishing was two days later on Friday. Danny just happened to know a couple who own a cabin, and most importantly riverfront access, to the Little Red. He already planned to go fishing on that day and I was more than happy to tag along!

My initial excitement turned into worry over the course of the 48 hour waiting period. Being that I’m relatively new to fly fishing everything is still mysterious and wonderful. To date, I’ve just worked on catching any fish on a fly rod and not even tried to focus on just one species. I’ve also not done a lot of river fishing in my lifetime. I don’t know why I decided to worry over something like a fishing trip, but I did.

Thankfully, once Friday arrived I was on cloud nine for the opportunity to go fishing! I must have checked and rechecked my flies, tippet, nippers, trout net, and sling bag a couple of dozen times just to make sure I had everything. I think it’s funny how that works when you get worked up for something like a fishing trip. Somehow the gear becomes the focus as if it’s really going to make the difference. Oh sure, having flies that look and act the part is really helpful, but I know the trout don’t care which fly box I put on the left side of the sling or how tight the velcro is on my pliers.

Friday finally arrived and I was awake with the first alarm. No snoozing that day! After my wife and son left for school I hopped in the car and went to Starbucks. Because if there is one thing that will make the fish bite it’s a good cup of coffee! I met Danny at his house and we hit the road. After a short morning drive and a stop at The Ozark Angler, we were ready to hit the river!

Little Red River, Arkansas, fly fishing, trout, fishing, outdoor life

The start of our fly fishing area on the Little Red River.

Right away I saw several trout swimming around in the river. I spent a few minutes getting the lay of the river section we were in. Honestly, I had no idea what I was looking for but the beauty of the area and the immediacy of fish made me want to just stop and stand there taking it all in. That’s sort of what anglers do, just take it all in like it’s some sort of secret communication time between them and nature. You’ve probably seen this from time to time and it’s one of two things: someone who has no clue what they are getting into taking a moment to appreciate their surroundings or the greatest angler taking the lay of the land before they land any and every fish they want! I was the former.

Throughout the morning I fished a couple of holes and a few channels. I drifted in, out, and around everything I could. I floated flies in and around currents, rocks, and pools as best I knew how. I stood stoically still on river-worn rocks as if I were a small tree. You know the ones with a 30 something dad-bod look about them? That was me on that wonderfully cool Friday morning on the Little Red River with the look of an angler completely in control of the adventure.

The truth of the whole romanticized thing is that I didn’t catch a single trout. Meanwhile, my actually knowledgeable and impressively humble friend Danny caught 6 fish that I know of. I have to assume there are 3 or 4 that I didn’t see him lift out of the water. Even after Danny called me downstream to an area where the trout were somewhat rising I was unable to land a single one. Killer view, but no trout for Matt.

Little Red River, Arkansas, fly fishing, trout, fishing, outdoor life

Trout fishing on the Little Red River.

That’s the way it goes sometimes. I have enough experience fishing to know that I have no experience fly fishing. I’m still in the “it’s so much fun” phase of my fly fishing journey. I’d like to think that I’m still in that phase for fishing in general. I think it was Michael Jordan who said something along the lines of “make sure kids have fun playing basketball when they are young because the love of the game is the most important thing. If they love the game and want to get better then the love will get them through the difficulty of getting better.”

While it might sound silly, I can honestly say that every fish I catch is just so much fun to catch. While this adventure put me into a scenario that I have no experience in, I can still appreciate it. I was able to practice my casting and my line control on a river. I got to try quite a few flies in different scenarios. I was also able to get to spend time with a dear friend. I was able to go fishing on the Little Red River on a Friday. I almost caught a really big trout…

I’m able to take getting skunked in stride because I know that fly fishing is relatively new to me. I would like to think that I still have a “Beginner’s Mind” and I would really like to think that I can keep that mindset for fishing and for life. I’ve also come away with the realization that I need to spend some time studying fly fishing, fly tying, and general trout fishing. I have so little knowledge of these areas, but I have a love for the sport of fishing that will get me through the tough times of reading. There are more adventures ahead and thanks for taking the time for me to share this one.