Despite those cherished experiences with a Zebco reel and a crawdad on the end of my hook, my experience with fly fishing was nonexistent. All I knew about the craft was what I had seen in “A River Runs Through It” and a few references in sermons from a former pastor who considered it his No. 1 hobby. That was it.
I had always been intrigued by fly fishing, but maybe a little intimidated. It only takes so much skill to cast a fishing worm into a shady spot on the river and wait. All of the sweeping motions and strategy it takes to correctly maneuver a fly rod just seemed like a lot of trouble, and I pictured myself tangled up in line so badly I would need scissors to escape.
But when the idea came up of working with Kate’s Mountain Outfitters on a fishing story for Cam’s Corner, I was filled with excitement. And when I found out that my instructor would be none other than Peck Dorsey, I couldn’t wait to hit the water.
Dorsey – a legend in outdoor sports in West Virginia, and also a terrific basketball coach – and I have a long history. During my high school years at Greenbrier East High School, I helped Coach Dorsey, serving as a student-assistant coach for his girls’ basketball squad at Greenbrier East. I was part practice dummy, scrimmaging against the girls to provide some size and a decent shooting ability, and part coach, studying the game with the longtime mentor to satisfy my own interest. I also served as Dorsey’s teacher’s assistant in a driver’s education class – an easy way to fill a spot in my schedule my senior year. We became close, talking endlessly about a passion for both of us, WVU football and basketball.
So, I was more than ready to spend a day in one of my favorite places, the Greenbrier, in one of my favorite spots, the water, with one of my favorite people, Peck Dorsey. How could it get any better?
The adventure started where it does for resort guests, at Howard’s Creek Lodge, adjacent to the 17thtee box on The Old White TPC Course.
After slipping on some waders, Dorsey and I stepped into the grass outside of the lodge for a quick lesson. I learned about leader line, fly line, and then eventually false casts, roll casts and overhead casts. I practiced all of them, as well as setting the hook, and after a few awkward casts and some corrective pointers, Dorsey decided I was just dangerous enough to hit the water, and we headed toward Howard’s Creek.
The techniques felt a little different once we had waded out into the middle of the creek, surrounded by the beautiful Allegheny Mountains. It was much easier casting in an open field than it was in a creek with trees, rocks and brush serving as obstacles. But I managed to keep the line in the water and out of the bushes most of the time and continued to learn about the trade – dry flies, wet flies and working with the current.
It wasn’t long before I had a fish on the hook, though the first one looked more like bait than a trophy catch.
Eventually, though, I was able to bring in a beautiful trout, and with Dorsey’s assistance I was ready to pose for a picture like the ones I had seen from my buddy Curtis Fleming, the host of “Fly Rod Chronicles.” As I proudly held up the trout for Mike Wyatt of Greenbrier Photography to capture the moment, the fish squirmed, and my slippery hands couldn’t hold him. We hadn’t even snapped the new cover of “American Angler,” and my prized catch was swimming back upstream laughing at my butterfingers. Or so I thought.
I had forgotten I was with an expert. Dorsey, who had been through the process probably a few thousand times with guests from all over the country, was ready with the net, and he had the trout back in my hands before it even hit the water.
With the necessary picture on the camera for Cam’s Corner – if “American Angler” chose to turn me down – the rest of the day was spent trying to improve on my casting abilities – with a little Mountaineer football and basketball talk sprinkled in, of course.
Just as Wyatt was heading back to his office to process the pictures, I landed another trout, about the same size as the last one. Since Wyatt was still in the vicinity we called him back for another picture, and this time Dorsey suggested we go for something creative, a shot of me holding the fish with the rod in my mouth.
After watching the Orvis rod fall from my choppers to the water a couple of times, we finally pulled it off, and I had the perfect picture to make me look like a professional fisherman – as long as Wyatt didn’t share the bloopers.
The project was complete, but I didn’t want to leave. I spent the rest of the day learning about the best spots to fish, the equipment necessary to take up this hobby on a regular basis and trying my best to progress from awkward amateur to not-quite-as-awkward amateur. It was honestly one of the best “work days” I can remember and an experience I have recommended to anyone who has been willing to listen.
To learn more about experiencing your own fly fishing adventure, click here or call 855-453-4858 and select option 1 to book. I promise it will be an experience you’ll be relaying to your friends and family for years to come.