It all started and turned into an addiction when I was 9 years old. I do remember exactly where I got the fly rod from and also remember collecting soda bottles and cashing them in and saved that money until I had enough to buy the fly rod kit I saw at a local hardware store.
I tied on a popper that came with the outfit I bought, and at the time of that first time out, I can remember not casting the way the rod was designed; because I simply didn’t know how, so I pulled line off and tossed it 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 with my Zebco 202. We always used bait and bobbers but nothing ever hit and ran like this smallmouth did on the fly rod.
Obviously, 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. (Watch the video here).
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 tournament bass fisherman; and he was the kind of guy that was very serious about the outdoors. He hunted as well, 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 further on to the East side of town. 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 so far away because by then, I had my drivers license.
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, so I had to buy a new one. I went back on the Olentangy river 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 at the club, 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, which I had already learned, don’t catch as many bass.
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 by the local club fly fishermen 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, so I tied up some bass flies.