I’m a fly fisherman. I have been self-identified as a fly fisherman basically since I picked up a fly rod back in 1996. It is how I choose to pursue fish, it is how I choose to spend time in the wilderness and wild places. Somehow, it became a foundational part of who I am.
Fly anglers, especially trout anglers, tend to be purists. Once you start casting #22 tricos, you are less likely to thread the worm on the hook. It just… happens. You tend to start looking for other fish to catch on a fly, maybe even revisiting species from your bait soaked childhood with an eye toward enticing them with a fly. There is a mindset that seems to emerge. You fish with a fly rod. You release your catch. You change in these and maybe other, deeper, ways.
I went through this change myself. I started out throwing single salmon eggs to steelhead, and worms for bluegill, a panther martin here or there for the odd trout, a jig for shad at the opening days of summer. That was my childhood. Then I went fly fishing for the first time and it was a bit of a revelation and I was voracious in my appetite for the “quiet sport.”
So, it is with this growing fly fishing pedigree that I find myself slicing up strips of squid and threading them on big circle hooks on a rig that also includes an 8 oz. pyramid sinker and then hucking the whole thing out into water that is the color of chocolate milk, or maybe a mudslide. There is even the much maligned bell atop the stout rod to indicate when a fish has found the stinking squid in the fast moving and opaque tidal flats of the San Francisco Bay.
There is one primary reason for my sudden interest in this type of fishing…
My girl pretty much loves in out there. She loves sharks, almost, if not more than she loves snakes. She has little use for ponies or unicorns or the color pink, for that matter. What she loves are what she calls her “dangerous creatures.” These include sharks, snakes, crocodilians, and, to a lesser extent, tigers, bears, leopards and the like. When I understood that we could actually catch sharks, and just a few minutes from the house, well… it was on. I got the gear. I got some advice. I learned to snell a squid hook. I got a cart to haul all this stuff the 1/2 mile to the end of the pier and we got to embracing the stinky, smelly goodness that is bait fishing.
That would have been rather unexpected a year ago and I might have even scoffed at the notion. However, I find myself out at the pier rather often these days and, surprisingly, I’m enjoying it.
If I had a choice between baiting a line and throwing a fly, I would choose the fly pretty much every time, if it were just me to consider. However, if the options were to catch fish with my daughter or to not go fishing, I would take the stinky squid every time.
Purity would have kept me from this experience and I think both my daughter and I would be poorer for that.
Still, I’m not likely to put a shrimp on when pursuing bonefish or to thread that worm on a hook for trout, but I will be less judgmental of those who do.