As I write this the adrenaline still courses through my body. Flying back home I am just overwhelmed with so many emotions. The weekend of The Lyman Lake World Championship has to be one of my best fishing adventures I’ve ever had. I say this as someone who is on the water a minimum of twice a week. I am no stranger to new adventures and different target species but this was definitely a whole new level of angling.
I gently set the hook and the line rushed under my index finger. It happened so quick. One second I am staring at my fly then the next POOF, it’s gone. Jeremy yells, “You got one!!” It almost seems like a dream until I see the yellowish belly slightly roll over. Then I knew it was real.
Time To Grow
My dad always wanted me to take up fly fishing. Honestly it never really interested me, but when he was sick and we both knew there wasn’t much time left we had many conversations about me advancing my skills as an angler. He said “Learn as much as you can and get out there. The world is too big son. Learn it all. Don’t ever limit yourself to one species or one technique”
I honor what dad said to me almost as a commandment. The world is big. Why not learn it all or at least try. As an avid angler this goal consumed me.
This trout is not giving up without a fight. He is going to make me work for this. My mind was focused. I could hear Jeremy (the first friend i made in Angler Pros) behind me saying “just be easy, take your time. He is not ready to come in yet. Just keep it tight. You got this!“
The mud surrounded me. It went past my ankles and had my boots in a death grip. I was stuck fighting this monster brown trout and couldn’t hardly move! I kept the line tight as instructed and just kept working the fish in. I tried moving backwards and then it happened! I slowly fell back from loss of balance and landed flat on my butt. SPLAT!
Florida To New York
I had been a member of Angler Pros for a few months and figured attending the trout fishing event at Lyman Lake would give me a better understanding of what they truly were about.
Is this something I want to be involved in long term? Is there more to it than just discounts on amazing gear and getting to see some awesome catches from all over the United States? Now is the time to find out.
Please Don’t Come Off
Sitting on my butt in mud and possibly cow poo I prayed this trout would stay on. I kept the line tight and let it do it’s thing trying to just tame this wild beast! Jeremy rushed to my aid with the net attempting to land it but the fish was nowhere near ready. Pulling line from under my finger and taking long runs. The couching from my new friend kept me zeroed in. Then after a few landing attempts the battle was over.
I pulled myself up from the slop shaking. Even Jeremy was shaking. We both were drunk with excitement! This three to four-minute battle felt like an eternity. I couldn’t contain my happiness and excitement. We both yelled, hugged, and jumped around like little children. Both just absolutely psyched to have been part of something so unforgettable.
“Thank you! Thank you so much bro for taking me.” That’s all I kept saying. Over and over again letting my buddy know how much this truly meant to me. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt this feeling. Being successful while trying a completely new style of fishing with no experience in that area or technique was so satisfying.
The Build Up.
The 2 days leading up to this moment is what made it all worth it. Once I touched down in Elmira, Jeremy was there to greet me. He welcomed me into his home, showed me my room for the weekend, and had fresh turkey barbeque slow cooked in the crock pot. His hospitality and friendliness was so welcoming. From the moment we met our interest for fishing turned us from strangers to brothers like that.
An hour after landing, it was that time! Time to fish!We grabbed our gear and headed to a local pond so that I could learn a few basics. I am not going to lie. First cast with the fly was a huge FAIL. Also – the second, third, fourth, fifth, etc., etc. Going from my habits of spinning reel bass fishing to trout on a fly rod was a lot harder than I expected, but I was determined to learn.
Fly Fishing 101
We decided to try some stream fishing since there was only a few hours of daylight left. I was explained what to look for as in food sources, how to read the water activity, and roll casting. He also gave me a crash course in local insects and bugs that are prayed upon. He never rushed me, was always positive, and did not throw too much at me. We just took our time and fished. Laughing and talking. Just having a good time doing what we love. I slowly started catching on and ended up hooking into a creek chub. We both laughed but almost at the same time said “A FISH is a FISH!”
One More Spot Before Dark
We hit a spot that I was told gets fished hard. In my head I was thinking “Now is my time to practice.” Well I definitely got some practice in. The hatch was CRAZY right at dark! I mean SAVAGE. We had trout literally rising up inches away from us. All you could hear was splashing and popping. We both caught one after another. We literally fished till almost 10pm and left them biting. Nothing huge but was able to put what I was taught into play.
We woke up about 5am, loaded the gear and started our two-hour trek to the Lyman Lake World Championship in Pennsylvania. I didn’t know what to expect but I was definitely excited to meet the guys.
When we arrived I was greeted warmly by everyone. This was definitely not the tournaments I am use to in Florida. The culture was completely different. Even though we were competing to catch the most fish, it honestly was more about just having fun in eachother’s company. We goofed off, talked trash, and hit the lake hard for about 3 hours. After the tourney we all went back to one of the members cabins and hung out.
We had grilled burgers and some amazing homemade mac & cheese. We drank some beer, played corn hole, and everyone just talked with the goal of getting to know one another. We exchanged hunting and fishing stories for hours. Everyone had something to share and we all wanted to hear it.
A few of us decided to hit a great stretch of stream after the cookout. I was pretty psyched about it. The day before, Toren (another avid fly-fisherman) caught an absolute monsterof a trout and had a good idea of what they were going to be hitting on. He was willing to share with us so that we could also experience success. That showed me a lot about what Angler Pros was truly about. Everyone getting a WIN!
Encouragement Breeds Success
We fished hard till dark. Jeremy and Toren both taking turns showing me the ropes. Everyone was catching trout and I was getting some great strikes but was late on my hook sets. I did not let it deter me though. I am new to this and wasn’t expecting much more then the experience to learn from some pros. Everyone in our little group was encouraging me. “Hey, tie this on.” “Justin, try it this way.” “Hey, they are hitting right here. Come over I am going to show you what to do.” This just seemed to keep me positive. Keep pushing to trick this fish into hitting my lure. I wasn’t frustrated, I was determined.
I had never experienced so many people wanting their fellow angler to be successful. It was a whole new experience for me. THIS IS IT! This is what they said they were about. People from all different walks of life. Biologist, laborers, tradesmen, wildlife researchers, chiropractors, business owners, military personnel and many other professions all coming together with a common goal. Absolutely AMAZING!
Grab The Camera
As I held this beautiful amazing fish in the water, I made sure to give it the respect it deserved. It was good to me so I was going to be good to it. I keep the handling to a minimum and made sure to leave it in the water to help keep it from getting to overwhelmed. My eyes studied hard. The lines, spots, and colors. What a gorgeous creature! I was shocked something of this size could be in such a small steam. The battle wounds on the fish told a tale of survival and the will to live. I gently removed the tiny hook and prepared for a stress free release. After a few minutes of building back it’s strength, it slowly swam off on it’s own.
Froze In The Moment
My body was paralyzed as I watched the release. Such a RUSH! I was high from this moment and didn’t want it to end. This was truly an amazing weekend and I owe it all to Angler Pros and the amazing people that it introduced me to. I am truly honored to be apart of this and look forward to giving others the same experience I was given!
As the pilot announces our descent into Tampa, I am still overwhelmed with emotion. What a GREATweekend! What Awesome people! What a Spectacular group to be apart of!
It really is disappointing that it is finally over. I tell myself though, this isn’t the last event. There are many more memories to be made with my new fishing family. We grow bigger and more diverse each day. People from all walks of life and from all different fishing backgrounds.
If you put in what you expect to get out of Angler Pros, I guarantee you will experience the same happiness I did. I can honestly tell you everything I put into this since joining was given back to me tenfold. I will forever hold this weekend in my heart and mind as one of my GREATEST angling adventures!