I was not born with a fly rod in my hand. I didn’t first hold one until I was 19 or 20. Up to that time I was a spinning rod angler. Mostly, I threw single eggs and worms and the occasional lure for steelhead and jigs for shad. I fished for the odd trout and pan fish as well, but mostly it was bait and steelhead. I think most of us start out with a spinning rod, if not one of those little snoopy rod/reel combos.
My first attempt at fly fishing was untutored steelhead fishing with a beast of a fiberglass rod. I caught no fish, but I did bounce a few Silver Hiltons off my head. My second effort, on the McCloud with a guide-who-shall-not-be-named resulted in fish and a spark of interest. I was pretty much hooked and my spinning rods fell into disuse. I have no idea what happened to them or the little Mitchell 308 reels I used to use.
For the next 15 years I didn’t touch a spinning rod. I think I even developed a bit of that fly-only mentality which discounts other methods. I was afflicted with exclusivity.
Then, a funny thing happened. I went to Cuba with a group of anglers/writers. On the trip was Charlie Levine (who works for FishTrack). He was mostly a spinning guy and an occasional fly rodder. I watched him have fun throwing big pencil poppers for big, angry barracuda and I thought “boy, that looks fun.”
Next, there was a camping trip to the coast with my daughter. We stopped by a pier and watched some people fishing. She asked if we could do that, and, of course, I said yes. We went right to a Big 5 and bought a combo outfit and we went fishing. This was the first spinning rig I had bought or owned in 15-17 years.
The following year we moved to Fremont and found a pier very close to the house. We figured out we could catch sharks there (and my daughter loves sharks), so we started making the pier a regular destination. At this point I started routinely fishing with a spinning rod, hanging bait for the little sharks of the South Bay.
Last spring break we had a trip to the Bahamas and I figured a spinning rod might be good to have along for my daughter and wife. I bought one and Charlie, from the Cuba trip, sent me a Penn spinning reel. It turned out to be a great idea and my daughter and wife both caught fish on the spinning rod.
That same rod/reel made the trip with me to Long Island and provided some good fun casting to Barracuda. It saved the day a few times, really.
I doubt I’ll ever throw a spinning rod for bonefish or tarpon or trout, but there are some things that just make good sense and I’m likely to add to my spin fishing arsenal, both for my kids and myself.
I am a fly fisherman, but I’m also an angler. I’ve dropped a degree of orthodoxy. In the eyes of some this will sully me. I am no longer pure, but I’m OK with that.