Judy’s First Fly Rod

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In a previous story, "Judy’s First Trout", Judy went from cane pole to spinning rod, to catch and release of trout.

Catch and release was rather traumatic for this country girl who still to this day is not sure why we bother to fish for fish we throw back. At that time the deal I had to make with her to release the rainbow’s she was catching was that for each fish she released we would go to the trout farm down the road and she could catch and keep one from there.

Well after experiencing all of the tiny bones in even the larger trout the new deal is I have to take her out to a very nice restaurant for a seafood dinner. Now that’s a deal I can live with.

As our fishing together went on, I bought her a real nice pair on Hogdman waders. They have waders that are cut for a woman’s figure. Getting Judy out of those old Red Ball rubber waders and into the new lightweight breathable stocking foot waders with wading shoes improved her comfort and mobility along the stream. And she looks pretty good too.

I really wanted her to try out my fly rod. She, however, was genuinely afraid that only disaster would come of her handling my Orvis 8-Ft Superfine 4wt pride and joy.

I was not too sure that me teaching her was a good idea either. I mentioned fly fishing school a couple of times but was met with "Why? I already know how to fish."

While vacation planning I came across Helen, Georgia and Jimmy Harris’ Unicoi Outfitters. Helen is a nice tourist town in the mountains of North Georgia with a lot of shopping and dining opportunities when we would not be fishing. Near by was Unicoi State Park where we could rent a cabin on the lake and fish the Smith Creek tailwaters below the dam at Unicoi Lake.

Not far from Helen is Amicalola Falls State Park. Amicalola Falls State Park is located at the base of Springer Mountain which is the Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Helen, being about 50 miles from Springer, is one of the first towns along the trail for hikers to resupply.

We arrived in Helen around mid-day, had lunch, and checked into our cabin. Our cabin was barrel shaped in a horizontal position and placed on stilts on the side of the mountain. The bedroom was on a loft. There was a deck off of the living room with a view of the lake. The trash cans in the park were made out of welded heavy gauge steel with tamper proof lids. This told us we were also in bear country.

While Judy chose to take an afternoon nap I sought out Unicoi Outfitters. I wandered around the shop, bought a fishing license, received some local fishing information and returned to the cabin.

We had a very early dinner that evening at Paul’s Steak House on South Main Street in Helen. Paul’s overlooks the beautiful crystal clear Chattahoochee River as it flows through downtown Helen.

The next morning after breakfast Judy purchased her fishing license at Betty's Country Store. Betty's is a "must-see" genuine country grocery store filled with items from the past as well as the present. Then we went back into the park and fished Smith Creek for a few hours. After a lunch break and a nap we went back into town and fished the Chattahoochee River as it passed thru town. It was a good day. We each caught a few fish with Judy working harder with her ultra-light spinning rod than I was with a fly rod.

After returning Judy to the cabin I slipped back out to Unicoi Outfitters to see about a guide and fishing their private water on the Nacoochee Bend.

As we were talking I brought up Judy’s fishing experience. They suggested I have her try their Gilligan fishing trip. The Gilligan is a 3-hour on the water basic fly fishing class. They supply all of the equipment and provide the instruction to get you the basics of casting and fly fishing.

This sounded like a great opportunity for Judy to learn how to handle a fly rod without any pressure. I called her on the cell phone and suggested this as something for both of us to do and she agreed. I scheduled us for the following morning.

The plan I arranged with our guide was for me to drift off to the side and for him to focus his attention on Judy. Once we got past stringing the rod and knots and basic casting I would move off about 25 or 30 yards and fish alone. I would be close enough for her to feel safe yet far enough away for her not to feel I was watching or for her to worry about making mistakes.

There is an expression: "A thing of beauty is a joy forever." As I share this story with you I can again experience the same enjoyment of that day as I watched her and her instructor as he taught her how to cast a fly rod. It will always be one of my favorite memories. I only wish I had remembered the guide’s name. Judy caught a fish and that was exciting for both of them. In a matter of a few short hours Judy was "hooked" on a fly rod.

When we returned to the Unicoi Outfitter shop I suggested Judy go across the street to the bakery and bring back some coffee and pastry. With her gone it gave me the opportunity to talk with her instructor guide. I wanted her to have her own fly rod outfit. But I knew if I was involved in the selection she would say yes to whatever I selected. It was important to me that her fly rod be selected by her. I explained this to our guide. I asked that he show her around and walk her thru the process of selecting a fly rod and reel combination. It was important that he not let Judy see any price tags because she wouldn’t agree to even buy a fly rod outfit if she new what a good quality rig cost. He asked me how much I wanted to spend. Well, I started with $300.00, then I said okay go to $400.00, but $500.00 was okay too. Actually there was no budget. Whatever Judy liked she should have.

While I chatted with others in the store, read magazines and sipped hot coffee, Judy and her instructor spent an hour or more looking at and handling numerous rods and reels before arriving on the rod and reel combination that was best for her.

Judy never did find out what her gear cost and she says she doesn’t want to know.

However, for our eighth wedding anniversary she bought me a Sage Fli 9ft 6wt 4pc.

She doesn’t know what she paid for that rod either.