“I hate my brother” said the little boy. “He took almost all of my bait and left me with almost nothing, and now I can’t fish anymore” he said, trying to choke back the tears.
“Now-now” said Urban gently, “Hate is a strong word. Anyway, I’m not so sure you need any bait. Here, let me see what I can do for you …..”
It had all started when Urban had ridden Quicksilver (the Urban Assault Vehicle) down to one of the local ponds that he occasionally fished. The pond was in close proximity to Urban’s house, but it was also open enough to the surrounding community that the little lake saw a fair amount of angling pressure from it’s shoreline. Nevertheless, the pond always seemed to have a good stock of sunfish and the occasional bass, and with a fairly open shoreline it allowed full-cast fly-fishing without having to resort to other various improvised casts to get to the fish.
Urban had parked Quicksilver, tied her up (locked with a cable) and had proceeded a way down the bank. There he had spied a little boy, maybe around 8-10 years old, who was sitting down at the waterside with his head in his hands. It looked like he was crying.
“Hey there, little Marlin” said the Angler amiably. “You caught anything yet?” Instead of getting a reply, the little boy began to sob.
“Whoa, whoa” said Urban, “what’s the matter?”. And that’s when the little boy began his story.
A story that younger brothers everywhere know all too well. It seems like his big brother was going fishing, and this boy wanted to go too. Mom and Dad said that the older boy had to take the younger boy too, which did not go over with older brother very well. The older brother took the good spinning rod and reel and made the little boy (“Thomas Landcaster” was his name was when Urban asked) take a cane pole “since that was all he could cast”. He then caught up with some of his older friends, took most of the bait –bread — and took off, telling young Tommy to stay right there and to not follow them, and he’d come back for him later. “Not very smart”, thought the Angler to himself, “I bet Mom and Dad would not be pleased that older bother just left younger brother all on his own”.
“And, and, and, I would put on the bread but it just comes right off” said Thomas, now not crying anymore, seeing that Urban was interested in hearing what he had to say. “So now I’m almost out of bait, and the crummy bread won’t stick to the hook anyway, and my brother left me here and I’m supposed to stay here until he comes back, and, and, and ….”
“Ahh, I see” said Urban, interrupting the little boys monologue. “well, I think we can do something about that”.
Urban asked to see the cane pole the boy was toting. The pole was a bit over ten feet long, with some 10 lb test line tied at the tip, a small cork cigar bobber and a hook way oversized for the fishing. Urban said “OK, first thing, the hook is too big, that’s part of the problem with the bread not sticking”.
“But I don’t have any other hooks!” said Thomas.
“That’s ok, I think I have something that will work” said the Angler, pulling out his flybox.
“Oh wow, they’re so pretty” oooed Thomas with eyes gone wide at the sight of the flies all lined up in the box. “Can I hold one?”
Thomas reached in, and picked out a chartreuse and orange rabbit-tailed streamer. “Cool, look at the colors. Can we use this one”
“Too big, and I think what we need to do here is match the hatch”
“Match the hatch? What do you mean?”
“I mean this” said the Angler, taking back the streamer and pulling out a #16 brown and white spun deerhair fly, clipped thin.
“That won’t catch anything” said Thomas.
“No? Well watch ……. ”
The Angler then pulled out some 4lb tippet material and tied it to the 10lb main line, took off the bobber, then attached the fly to the tippet. “Now, we have to get the fish in the mood first. Hand me over whatever bread you have left”. The boy passed over the last piece of bread, which was actually the end piece of a loaf, mostly crust. Urban tore the curst into very small pieces, and threw it out on the water.
Thomas about choked — “Stop, you’re wasting the bread!!!”
“No, I’m priming the area for the fish that will come. Let’s just sit a minute and wait …”
The Anger and Thomas sat back and watched the small patch of water where the bread lay floating. After a minute had passed, the Angler glanced sideways and noticed the boy getting antsy. “Patience is not something that comes easy to little boys” half-laughed the Angler to himself. Urban rolled up a couple small pieces of bread between his fingers and flicked them out into the water. Urban noticed that as the bread balls sank, some of them disappeared from sight before they should have ….
Another minute passed and the Angler continued to feed small amounts of bread both on top of the water and below. The boy missed the first swirls, but finally saw the water dimple.
“Hey, did you see that!!??!! Something was biting the bread!!”
“Something indeed” said Urban. “Now come over here, and I’m going to help you cast. We’re not going to do this like a bait fisherman, but like a fly fisherman” Urban explained. “We want to be gentle and quiet. So, watch me the first time, and then you’ll do this. We cast by raising the rod and get the line to go back-and-forth. Back-and-forth like this …. you see?” as Urban imitated a fly cast. “Then, when everything is nice and smooth, we lower the rod down to the water on the forward cast like this …..” and Urban laid the fly out onto the water. Almost as soon as it hit, there was a little slurp and the fly disappeared. Gently raising the rodtip, the little bluegill was hooked.
“You got him!”
“See how easy that is? Now here’s the pole — you bring him in and we’ll unhook him”. Urban passed the cane pole and Thomas pulled the fish out of the water and onto shore. Urban grabbed the little guy, unhooked him and then placed the bream in Thomas’s hand. “You let him go” . Thomas got him close to the water, and when the bluegill did a little wiggle Thomas let go, and the bream fell back into the water and splashed away.
“Wow, cool. Do it again!”
“Not me — you. But wait a sec while I keep the fish interested” and Urban tore a couple more pieces of bread and tossed them out. Now the bread was getting consumed almost as fast as it hit the water. “OK, put your hands on the rod like this ….. ok, let’s start the back-and-forth. Back-and-forth. Back-and-forth and drop the rod …. ” and the cast went out. Again, as soon as the fly landed, it was inhaled by a bluegill. “Pull up, pull up! Gotta keep your eye on the fly so that when it disappears you pull up. That’s it!” cried Urban as another ‘gill came sliding out of the water. “Good job, Thomas!” and the little boy beamed with pride.
“Let me do it now by myself” said Thomas, all excited, and while the boy did need a little help at first, he seemed to get the knack of casting pretty quick. “Pretty nice loops” thought the Angler, “a few more years and this boy will be ready for his first real fly rod”. Urban kept feeding small amounts of bread into the water, and the boy kept hauling in bluegill after bluegill. After a baker’s dozen or so, they were out of bread.
“Here, let me see your pole for a sec, we’re gonna change flies” said Urban. He snipped off the small bread fly, and tied on a small #6 green and white clouser and then re-attached the bobber. “We’re going to put on this fly that looks like a minnow. With all the bread we’ve thrown in, we’ve attracted a lot of little fish, and maybe we have a bigger fish nearby”. Same cast, but when the fly hits the water, wait a sec, then do a small tug with the tip of the rod like this — see how the cork wiggled? Do that, slowly bringing the line back in until it gets close to shore, then we cast it out again, OK?”
“Sure” said Thomas.
“Tho-mas. Where are you” called out an adult voice.
“Over here Dad!! I’m catching fish!!”
Guided by Thomas’s voice, Mr. Landcaster made his way to the spot just in time to see the cork sink, Thomas rear back and a hand-sized bluegill come skipping out of the water. “Wow, Thomas you got one! Who are you fishing with here?” and the Angler introduced himself and told the story of coming up on Thomas, being out of bait, and how they improvised. As they were finishing introductions, out from the side path came three older boys, one looking very much like he could be Thomas’s big brother.
“William? Didn’t I tell you that you had to take Thomas with you? Why did you leave him here?” demanded the father. “Awwww Dad, Thomas was just going to slow us down, and he wasn’t really gonna catch anything anyway. I just left him here with some bait”.
“Oh yeah? You left me with the ends of the loaf and you took the rest” countered Thomas hotly. “But I still caught 14 fish anyway”.
“No you didn’t!” said William, “don’t lie. I only caught two; no way you caught more than me”.
“I’m not lying!” shouted Thomas.
“He most certainly did, William. I watched, and I know your Dad saw him bring in the last one, right?” said Urban. “Thomas, show William and your Dad how you did it”.
“Dad, it was like this” explained Thomas. “Mr. Urban came up when I was almost out of bait, and he told me I didn’t need bait. We took some of the last of the bead and threw it out on the water, and we waited. Then he tied on this small fly with something on it that looked like bread, and every time I threw it out I caught one! Then we were out of bread, and Mr. Urban tied on another fly, and I cast it out like this and got a big one!” and with that Thomas did his very well executed back-and-forth and dropped out the line. “Then I just tug the line like this, and …..” and the cork sand beneath the water one more time “..and I got one again!!” This time the rod bent a bit deeper, and Thomas struggled a bit holding onto the pole. “OHHH!!!” he cried and with a big pull managed to drag the pound and a half bass out of the water. “Dad, as bass!! That’s a bass!! I caught a bass!!”
The Angler reached down to grab the bass, and brought it up for all to admire. “Wow, that’s a pretty fish” said Mr. Landcaster, “Thomas, that’s your biggest fish ever, right? I think that’s bigger than anything William has caught! The Angler looked in the eyes of William, downcast and not wanting to admit the truth, and Thomas, so proud of beating his brother.
“Thomas, I think it would be the right thing to do to show your brother how to cast like I showed you, and I’ll leave a couple of flies for the both of you, OK?”
“Sure” said Thomas, “but only if he takes me with him the next time and doesn’t leave me behind”.
“Oh, he won;t leave you behind, not if he ever wants to go fishing again, and not if he wants to learn from you and get the flys from me” said Mr. Landcaster, giving a swift look and a stern stare at William, who understood the implied meaning. “Boys, lets go home, Mom is waiting for us”.
Urban shook hands and said goodbye to the Landcasters. “Wow, that was an interesting day of not fishing” thought the Angler. “and it goes to prove, you don’t always need bait on the hook to catch fish”.
“That ol’ cane pole did a pretty good job of chucking that bread fly out there. I wonder …….” mused the Angler as he unlocked Quicksilver and mounted up. “…I wonder …….. you know, there is a patch of bamboo not too far from here. I wonder if I can find a good stick and turn it over to Da’Wand and have him craft his magic” ……. and the Angler set off, his mind reeling with new possibilities from this day when bait was not really needed ……