If you were to look back on life and attempt to categorize things that you actually know a whole bunch about; I imagine the things that top out your list are things you learned by doing. It is all right to sit in a classroom and learn from one who tells you what they have read and studied. The best lessons come from doing and experiencing. Knowledge comes from living. I would bet that several things you now know are things that you never set out to learn. I know people who quit learning the day they walked out of whatever formal school they last attended. I feel sorry for them. Life happens; take advantage of your opportunities to improve upon your understanding of the world.
The last week of June and first week of July was coal miner vacation when I was young. That week in June meant it was time for camping and fishing. It was the best week of the year for me. The destination was usually the West Fork of the Greenbrier. The whole family and often a friend or two went. Vehicles were loaded with provisions and that big smelly canvas tent. The majority of everyday was spent fishing. We didn’t know back then that since the river hadn’t been stocked in over a month that it wasn’t worth fishing. We caught fish, too. Lots of fish. That was about the time I began to notice how fish fed in the summer heat. I noticed fish feeding on the surface, sipping insects. I noticed that the most activity was in the shade. We still caught trout on salmon eggs and night crawlers but it wasn’t steady or consistent. Presentations were often overlooked by noticeably feeding fish. I knew there was a better method; but wasn’t sure of what it was.
Then it happened. My granddad gave me a 7 weight fiberglass fly rod with one of those clunky automatic reels. I don’t remember how long I frothed up the water catching chubs and dace on a Royal Coachmen but it was a while before the first trout. I do know that first trout was a 10 inch brown from a coffee colored, flooded Elk River. I bought flies at every opportunity, things that looked buggy or maybe just caught my eye. I started really paying attention to streamside insects and started catching fish. I learned that from May until autumn you it would be in your best interest to be fishing with a fly. Now, back to a summer week on the West Fork;
I noticed thousands of tiny black mayflies one morning while fishing. They were thick on the grasses and in the spider webs. Fish could be seen feeding but no trout could be caught. Tricorythodes (Tricos) were unknown and never heard of by me but I dug around in my fly collection and found a size 20 Black Gnat. The fishing trip was saved from then on. I had a grand total of 2 tiny flies; the other was a size 22 white midge. I used the black fly when I could see it and the white one at dusk and dawn. It worked for me and we ate trout all week. Yes, I do know now that Tricos are dark olive. The ability to learn cannot be taken away; unless you allow it to.
This is my article for the June 22015 issue of Two-Lane Livin