One of my most vivid fishing-related memories was of my great uncle cursing a blue streak at me when I was afraid to pick up a squid that was getting away. I think I was 10 years old. “Bleep, bleep, BLEEP — what the BLEEP are you thinking?!?”  I’m thinking that slimy prick is gonna blind me with ink, you asshole.

So yes, that was pretty much the end of my love affair with anything to do with fishing right there. I’ve been fishing a few times since then — a leisurely afternoon in British Columbia, another in Australia and a surprisingly stellar deep-sea fishing adventure in El Salvador, but I’ve never felt that manly urge to fish. So I thought I would try to remedy that during this Manly Moments month of Movember.

That’s how I found myself on the Sacramento River in Redding, California with Sac River Guide a fishing guide and outfitter that’s been offering excursions in the area for over 25 years. It was time for a proper lesson in the art of fly fishing.

A Redding native, my guide Justin has an obvious passion for the sport… and an obvious patience for newbies like me. (See Exhibit A above — he’s fixing one of the many lines I tangled during the day.)

It’s all about the form when fly fishing. A steady back and forth casting to get the line in place, then vigilant monitoring of the slack to ensure a straight line.

It’s difficult to get the hang of at the outset, but patience pays off.

Distinguishing between a nibble and a bite and even when just the current tugs the line can be tricky. Remembering to “set” the fish is also key — jerking up on the rod to “set” the hook into the poor bugger’s mouth.

I caught my first fish — a rainbow trout — within an hour on the river.

Another thing I learned is to let the fish run when it wants to run, otherwise you risk breaking the line. If he ain’t runnin’, get busy reelin’.

I managed to catch six fish during the day. But that’s more of a testament to the bountiful Sacramento River than any skill I acquired. 

Though I’ll probably have to settle for the role of Awkward Angler over Fish Whisperer, I’m glad I gave it a shot. It made for a perfect day, this fly fishing business. And I’m really glad it wasn’t squid we were after.