Andy Dear | Sunday, 21 July 2019

My first exposure to Fly Fishing came somewhere around 1978. I wasn't but 8 years old, but the experience of seeing an angler fish in a way so radically different than what I was used to left a very deep, very profound imprint on my soul. And although this happened 40 years ago, today it came full circle in a very meaningful way.

 My dad used to have a small hunting lease just outside of the southwestern city limits of San Antonio. On it were two small farm ponds that would function primarily as the platform to teach me how to wing-shoot mourning doves with a Stevens single shot 20 gauge. As luck would have it, they also held a healthy population of scrappy largemouth bass that were not in any way shy about viciously ambushing a lure.

  The front tank on the property was by far the best for wing-shooting. It lay on the edge of a small horseshoe shaped field surrounded by mesquite scrub brush and johnson grass. Birds were easily spotted on the horizon and when properly struck with a 7 1/2 shot Dove load, usually fell square in the middle of the lake, where our old black Labrador "Tex" would subsequently retrieve them.

  Most of the time we fished in the lake further back on the property. It was deeper with more structure, and best of all held more fish. In spite of the fact most of the fish fell in the 1lb range, it was a fantastic place for me to hone my skills as a young angler. And, a yellow and black beetle spin sent out to the depths on behalf of a Shakespeare rod and a Zebco 33 reel was always a combination those bass simply couldn't resist.

  One afternoon my dad picked me up from school for an early evening fishing trip out to these lakes. Trips like these weren't really out of the ordinary, but today was different, as he had invited my grandfather to come along with us. I had never fished with my grandfather before but had no reason to believe that anything significant would come out of the experience. As we unloaded the gear though, it quickly became apparent that his rod and reel weren't at all similar to mine. I watched with great intent as he walked over to the small end of the earthen dam, and began to execute what I know now as a "roll cast" out to a few small stickups off the adjacent bank. To be honest, I really don't remember if he caught anything or not. Looking back, with clear hindsight I now realize that it didn't really matter. The important thing is that this was the genesis of my understanding that there was a different way to play this game, that up to that moment I wasnt even aware existed.

  Unfortunately, that little parcel of land has now been swallowed up by an ever expanding city in the name of "progress". I passed by it the other day, and while the original dirt road entrance is still there, I feel certain that those two lakes have been filled in and are now covered by tract home neighborhoods and shopping centers. In fact, it is entirely possible that the only evidence they ever actually existed now resides deep in the recesses of my aging memory.

  I never got to fish with my grandfather again after that. Not for any other reason than life simply "got in the way". We spoke often about fishing, and how he would love to go again, but it just never happened. He is 95 now, and although he is in fantastic shape for his age, is now living in a managed care facility where he can be properly looked after. I try to visit him a couple of times a month, and of course, Jackson and I's fishing and hunting adventures are always the hot topics of conversation.

  On my last visit, he indicated that he would like for me to go over to the house and take possession of his fishing equipment, which I did this afternoon. There wasn't much there...a few old tackle boxes that contained some period appropriate baits, along with a couple of old fiberglass spinning rods that were in mediocre shape. However, mixed in with everything was one shining gem.... that old fiberglass Garcia Conolon fly rod that first introduced me to the grace and elegance of an unrolling loop so many years ago.

  And although it would take another 18 years before I would succumb to the temptation of pursuing my quarry with the long rod, I feel very privileged and blessed to now have in my possession one of the many important artifacts that have steered my life in a direction over which I have completely given up trying to control.

Hope you all have a great week,