Hello and thank you for checking in at the O'Grady Fly Fishing Adventures. Due to the fact that half the team is on the bench (Connell is recovering from knee replacement surgery), we are handing the reins of this blog over to two incredible young men, Max and Ajay. If you are a long time reader you may remember these guys, if not click Here. They are great ambassadors for our sport. Below you will find an article they have written about teaching a very unique friend how to fly fish. Enjoy!
**The photo is of Max and Ajay's friend.
Fly Fishing Without Eyes
By Max and Ajay
Normally when you hear the words, “fly fishing”, one imagines a fisherman with a long rod, gracefully controlling a long line with a tiny fly attached on the end. The fisherman maneuvers the line with precision, placing the fly exactly where they want it, and in a blink of an eye they have a fish on. What if you couldn't see that fly? What if you could barely see the rod that was in your hand? Certainly fly fishing takes keen eye sight, but what if you didn't have that at your disposal?
Robert was born albino, meaning he had no pigmentation in his skin, hair, or eyes making him legally blind. He has already accomplished many things that other blind people wouldn't even try, like riding a bike, and traveling around the world competing internationally for judo. Robert's life is like any other teen, he goes to school, practices his sport, and now even knows how to fly fish. I have always been pushing him to go past his limits, and not let his disability effect what he really wanted to do, so he decided to learn how to fly fish. At first, I was not quite sure how I would go about teaching him. I had taught many of my other friends how to fly fish, but never anyone with severe sight problems; but I thought to myself that if a blind man can learn how to ride a bike, then surely he can learn how to fly fish and be able to catch something on his own. So I set out one summer morning with him, determined to get a positive result, and what happened pleasantly surprised me.
Everyone always says, “fly fishing is all about the feeling”, but is it really? Well actually it is. You don't need to see the fly, or the line, or the end of your rod in fact to fly fish. All you need to know is how it feels. I started teaching Robert the basics of casting. I would cast with him in order for him to get the feeling of what a good cast was like and sure enough, after 15 or 20 minutes of casting, he had it. Once he knew what it felt like to have a good cast, then he could work on catching those fish. I set him up with a streamer so he could really feel the fish, feel every movement, feel every nibble the fish takes.
After an extended length of time spent on learning how to cast and strip in the line and then re-casting, we moved around to the other side of the lake where there is a deep hole that year round is filled with fish. So I set him up in front of the hole and told him to cast out. Of course for the first few casts he struggled, but after a few casts he was back into the rhythm.
After the first good cast into the hole, he turned and looked in my direction, saying how he felt that that cast was good, and sure enough he was right. He had gotten the feeling down, and was ready to catch that fish. He slowly stripped in the line, and suddenly, was caught off guard. The rod was bending violently and his line was taut and twitching. He had a fish on, and didn't know what to expect. He did well, kept the rod up, kept the line taut, yet after a few seconds the fish slipped away, and Robert reeled in his line. He was disappointed but now more determined than ever to land one.
He turned to me and told me how it had felt just like a judo match, how his adrenaline was pumping, and how he had no idea how exhilarating fly fishing was. He cast it out again, but this time it wasn't the best cast, and he knew it, so he picked the line up and cast again. His second cast was much better, and as he was stripping the line back in, something hit it hard. Another fish was on and this time he was ready, and he was reeling in the line, aggressively one might say. One thing is for sure, he was going to land this one. I yelled to him that it was a decent sized bluegill as it broke the surface, of course he couldn't see it though. I grabbed my net and netted the bluegill. Robert was stunned, he had actually caught something. I brought the fish over to him and let him hold it. He had never held a fish before, so he was incredibly excited, and I let him release it back into the lake.
On our way home, he explained how he understood what it meant to be a good fly fisherman. He explained how every fisherman should be able to feel the fish, and that having good eyesight was an advantage. Of course he was right, you need to have a good feeling of not only what it is like to fly fish, but for everything in life. Robert may not be able to see well, but he sure can continue fly fishing for the rest of his life.