Day One: Rattlesnake Lake

Having only fished a handful of times, I look back on my first outing with a good deal of gratitude. Rattlesnake Lake is where I first fly-fished, and rather fortuitously, where I first caught fish on a fly. This is now a historical fact that will remain throughout my fishing education. The experience was made possible by the patient support of experienced fishermen who offered up their time, advice and encouragement generously.

On the way out to the lake, we stopped by Creekside Anglers in Issaquah to pick up a Baker’s Dozen of flies and get a light fishing report from the clerk. I had never picked out flies before and was drawn in by their intricacy and the slight adjustments made for each style in an effort to perfectly imitate nature. The broad selection of flies alone captivated me, and my detail-oriented mind was thoroughly satisfied to merely peruse the offerings for some time. I still recall some of the descriptions offered up to me about which flies to invest in (“for now at least”) and why:

Parachute Adams: a dry that can pass for a number of insects most times of the year, making it a versatile must-have for a fly box.

Wooly Bugger: another versatile choice that enables fishing beneath the surface, the bugger can pass for a nymph or a leech and makes for a safe underwater impersonator. Perhaps the larger size and added texture is too irresistible for less picky trout; I’m not sure – but I have already developed an affinity for this fly.

Pheasant Tail Nymph: mimics a wide variety of species with less flash than a Hare’s Ear. A reliable option.

We selected my 13 new flies carefully, tossing in a few types of caddis flies and nymphs - and I picked up a cheap stand-in fly box to store my new collection.  I’ll never forget the enthusiasm of the clerk at Creekside Anglers. His energy sent me forth that day with a good deal of optimism, which made me nervous; I didn’t want to get discouraged by a lack of fish early on in the learning process – but he made excitement at the prospect of catching fish all too inevitable. He explained to us that there would be plenty of fish to catch due to the recent drop of hatchery trout. He expressed frustration that too many fish were dropped into the lake; there wouldn’t be enough food to keep them alive.

Despite the fact that it was only May, temperatures were surprisingly hot, and many families were out at Rattlesnake Lake to swim – meaning we’d need to put the drift boat in and get away from all the commotion if we wanted to catch anything. As we rowed out to deeper water, I worked on rigging and began painstakingly tying a fly to my line. I would be fishing with a Sage rod, borrowed from my companion. We found what we thought would be a good place to start and quietly began casting. That is, I made attempts at casting – much to my embarrassment and frustration. With mild corrections from my company, I adjusted until I could get the line out just far enough. Looking back, I understand something that I did not see at the time: I was benefiting from gentle teaching that was unobtrusive and borderline apathetic. Being a perfectionist, I fear looking foolish or inadequate far too often, and I ran the risk of discouraging myself to a point of no return on this initial foray. I lucked out by fishing with company that was unattached to my success in a deep way.

I will never forget the adrenaline rush from the tug on the line – a sensation that I think will always generate a joyful shock, no matter how many times I feel it. I had never experienced the unexpected connection to an unseen creature, and my mind quickly wanders back to that feeling regularly. It did not matter that the fish on my line was very small – perhaps it was better this way, actually. I was aware that my company also shared in the energy, likely remembering what it had been like for them the first time they caught fish.

I caught all my fish that day on a green wooly bugger and was so excited that I affectionately kissed the fly a few times before putting it back inside its box. I may have developed a bizarre attachment to the fly, but fortunately was able to cope just fine when my boyfriend lost the fly a few weeks later. I anticipate a longstanding affinity for wooly buggers nonetheless.