Fly-fishing with a friend from the past

Recently, the Dallas Chapter of Men Who Fly-Fish invited me to Texas for two days of fly-fishing. It was a typical MWFF outing. There was whiskey drinking, cigar smoking, tobacco chewing, card playing and some fly-fishing.

However, unbeknownst to me, a long-forgotten friend had been invited for the first day of fishing.

Any old geezer who has been fly-fishing before the invention of float tubes, inflatable boats, kayaks and belly boats knows this friend. This long-forgotten friend is a canoe. A friend that many of us have fished with in small bass ponds to the lakes of Canada had come along.

When our guide picked us up, I recognized my old friend strapped to the top of the truck. The guide had also brought a kayak and a three-person inflatable boat. My heart skipped a beat at the sight of my old friend, and I immediately began to plot how I could be assigned to fish with a friend that I hadn’t seen in such a long time.

As the canoe was being gently lifted off the truck, I realized this wasn’t an old aluminum model but a restored wood-and-canvas canoe. It deserved to be treated with the kind of respect a senior statesman demands, and therefore, its bottom was never to touch anything but water. When my friend was placed in the water, I grabbed a life jacket, a wooden paddle, pointed at one of the other fly fisherman, and said, “You’re with me,” then bullied my way beside my old friend and claimed it for the day. The other fisherman and I gently loaded our gear into the canoe, took our places and eased away from the dock. And then all the memories of days gone by came flooding back.

Fly-fishing from a canoe is an art. Your casts have to be gentle and deliberate. A cast that is made with a minimal amount of body movement will keep the canoe stable and the fish ignorant of your presence. At all times, both fisherman have to remain balanced. Standing up in a canoe, or trying to launch a 60-foot double-hauled cast, most assuredly will result in having the big open side facing down.

Paddling also requires a coordinated effort. If the fishermen in the bow and stern are not working as one, they will go nowhere. (Maybe our congressmen and women should learn how to canoe.) When working together, the paddling effort becomes a beautiful thing to watch. It makes it possible to guide the old friend into countless little coves where big fish are hiding. And the fish will not suspect the flies being presented to them are coming from two people who have moved silently into the protected shallows.

I truly had forgotten how much fun it is to maneuver and propel my old friend. Sitting there surrounded by wood thwarts and gunwales, with my feet resting on the beautifully finished wood ribs, it was easy to remember fly-fishing days of old. Fly-fishing, that one day, with my old compadre reminded me of how much I’d forgotten and how much I still have to learn about life and fly-fishing.

Never again will I let so much time go by without fly-fishing with, and from, this old friend.

Reach Don Oliver at