I started with this addiction when I was 9 years old. I don’t really remember exactly where I got the fly rod from, but I do remember a yellow popper that I was trying my best to get out onto a local skinny creek. I asked family members if they remembered where I may have gotten that fly rod where it wasn’t only a rod I picked up, but a lifelong addiction. I have been told and do slightly remember… I collected pop bottles and cashed them in and saved until I had the money to buy the fly rod kit I saw at a local hardware store.
From my first time out all can I can remember is not casting the way the rod was designed; and the popper I was using floated out over some riffles into a small pool where a 12 to 14 inch smallmouth bass was waiting. Prior to this experience, I had always been fishing (most times) with the only uncle that would take me out with a Zebco 202. We always used bait and bobbers but nothing ever hit and ran like this smallmouth did on the fly rod.
I had no idea what I was doing. I’m really surprised with what I know today that I even landed that fish; but when that smallie took the popper, it took more line out of the reel and I just didn’t know what to do to get the fish in, so… I ran backwards pulling the fish up onto the bank.
I was very excited to say the least and by today’s standards I committed a mortal sin… I took my catch home. My next door neighbor was a bass fisherman and I am pretty sure a few years later got into some tournaments that started sometime in the mid 60’s. He was very serious about the outdoorsy kind of guy that not only fished but hunted too. I remember that, because he paid me to clean his hunting dogs cages; which is also where I earned some of the money to buy my first fly rod.
From then on, I fished with that rod as much as I could and almost always waded that small creek until my parents moved us out of that area on the East side of Columbus Ohio. We moved to the North end of Columbus and that put me near bigger water, a river, The Olentangy in fact and the fishing there was epic to me still being young because the fish seemed to be so much bigger on a more regular basis. Then, we moved again. Only further away from any water but not to far away because the Scioto river wasn’t far away, but that wasn’t to big a deal… I had my drivers license.
The Scioto River was the most dangerous water I had ever fished since it had very deep holes and was much much wider; however, that meant more and bigger fish.
As I got older the fishing was less frequent but I still used a fly rod. I joined the Army in 1973 but my rod stayed home. I wish now that I had taken it with me because I could have tested out the waters in the states I was stationed (Texas, Wisconsin and California).
I bought another fly rod after my term ended in 1976 and since my mom got rid of my old outfit, I had to buy a new one. I started back on the Olentangy and had a blast. I ran into another fly fisher that told me about a club in the central Ohio area called the Central Ohio Fly Fishers. I joined in the late 70’s and ran into a guy by the name of Don Wittlekind, who owned a fly shop called Dame Juliana. I bought my first fly tying vise from him… a Renzetti; and bought a lot of materials. A couple years later, in the early 80’s Don asked if I would be interested in tying for him… I was excited; but he wanted mostly flies tied for the trout fisherman.
I did this for a couple years. Don and I went fishing a few times (quite a few) and I was using some large unorthodox flies that definitely did not fit the trout line up. Oh, we used flies like squirrel tail crawdads, black nose dace, muddler minnows and spun deer hair; but I was doing things that just weren’t looked at favorably because of my flies being tied on extra large hooks and with more material than excepted at that time. But I caught fish and that was intriguing to him.