Anything Fly Fishing

Streamside Conversations

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Streamside conversations with strangers reinforce in my mind the myriad reasons anglers take to the water. Some come for the fish, some to escape from other events, and others come for a few reasons I can’t fathom.

Still, once someone speaks, I find myself hooked in conversations that rarely result in a quick release.

On the first warm day as winter conceded defeat, I took to the local trout stream knowing I would have to walk to find an unoccupied hole to fish. That’s the one problem with local water is that it’s local to more people than me.

The problem with local water is that it’s local to more people than me.

I had been pleasantly surprised to find one of my favorite holes unoccupied, so I quickly waded in and began to drift a jig fly. A trout bumped it like it was obligatory on such a fine afternoon, but did so with its mouth closed.

Switching to a smaller nymph, I was rewarded with a small brookie.

Thinking it a sign, I switched to a smaller nymph and was immediately rewarded with a small brookie. That was when a booming voice carried over the gurgle of running water to break my trance.

“How many you got?”

I looked downstream and noticed that a fisherman had waded in below me at exactly the point I planned to exit the stream. I thought about the lack of a greeting and why that would be the first question I yelled at another fisherman. So, I responded with what seemed an appropriate answer.

“I just started.”

On his next cast, the angler tossed his fly into the rhododendrons across the creek and broke off. I took his muttering as the appropriate time to wade back upstream.

The angler then tossed his fly into the rhododendrons.

But since I had started fishing, another angler had waded in above me. I try to practice good stream etiquette, but standing in one spot just to avoid spooking the fish of an angler who moved in on me seemed a bit much.

Since I had to cross the creek to go elsewhere, the rhododendrons being too thick to walk through on my side, I apologized for disturbing the trout.

“Sorry to bother your fishing,” I said, “but someone waded in below me and I need to get out.”

“No problem,” he answered.

To be polite, I followed up with, “Doing any good?”

“No,” he said. “I’m fishing dry flies but they aren’t feeding on top. But I like fishing dry flies better anyway.”

I thought about that comment as I walked further downstream. One angler so far was there for the number of fish he caught and the other for the experience of not catching fish.

A psychologist could have a field day out here and most psychologists would probably benefit from a day in the field.

The next fisherman I passed was using spinning gear to throw a rig topped off by a three-inch bobber. Since this was a catch and release stretch of water, I couldn’t guess what was under the bobber. The gentleman looked my way and turned back to his fishing so perhaps what hung beneath his float wasn’t strictly legal. Anyway, I moved on.

At the next hole, I stopped to study the water and see if any fish were moving. I was lost in thought and debating with myself over whether to change flies, when a passing angler must have thought I suffered from indecision and stopped to help.

He was approximately college age and said he had been fishing all day. He had fished this hole earlier and, pointing to where the fish were, stated he had caught two on a streamer there. He even alluded to the possibility that it might work still.

The young angler then proceeded to explain he was learning to fish Euro-nymphs and that it was tougher than he expected. I glanced at his fly and it was likely better suited to smallmouth or maybe muskies. I thought to myself that he might have invented Texas-nymphing where the flies are all bigger.

I had been mostly silent to this point as I’ve found listening better than talking in streamside conversations simply because I learn more that way. After the youngster completed his fishing report for the day, he asked, “How long have you been fly fishing?”

I did some quick reflecting and answered, “Since I was about ten.”

“Wow,” he said. “That’s a long time.”

Evidently, I show my age.

I saw him later in the afternoon, still Texas-nymphing, and merely nodded as I went by. Rather than offer any advice I’ve found that it’s usually better to let other anglers fish as they like since I don’t know whether they are after fish or something else. I hardly know how to catch something else when I don’t know what it is.

As much as I think about my conversations with other anglers, I sometimes wonder what those other anglers think about streamside conversations with me. Perhaps their thoughts of me aren’t much different from my thoughts of them.

People fish for a lot of different reasons, even me.

Jim Mize may not even need a reason to go fishing. You can purchase Jim’s new book, The Jon Boat Years, at or buy autographed copies at

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