Christmas, we all know, is a time for giving and most of us will have done so with thoughtful gifts purchased with hard-earned money.
These material things are always welcome, but I think now is also time to remember that one of the best gifts a fly angler can give is introducing a friend or child into the sport.
It sounds a little cliché but I truly believe there is great truth to this assertion. I can think of few other gifts that possess the potential to bring such great meaning and enjoyment to another person's life. And, if you are lucky, they'll pass it on as well. That's a whole lot of joy to be gained from one simple act.
If you doubt this for a moment, think of the first time someone took you to the river or lake and, with great patience, taught you how to fish. Then think of the moment that first fish was caught. Or recall the instant the lights went on as that first perfect loop unfurled.
I've been fortunate enough to introduce quite a few friends and my children to the sport over the last several years. And I have learned a few valuable things along the way.
I'm not talking about techniques and tricks of the trade but rather the general approach to teaching.
First and foremost, don't let them take it too seriously. Newcomers will sometimes get embarrassed or frustrated when learning. At times like this, it helps to remind them that everyone, even the best caster on the river, caught trees, broke tippets and tangled lines. Then tell them that the whole point of fly fishing, after all, is to relax and have fun.
Set attainable goals such as a 30-foot overhead cast. Let them practice that until they are comfortable with the motion. Then show them how to fish the fly in question.
This is not always achievable during the Christmas season. If not, add a promise of a fishing trip or two to the casting instruction. Take the new angler to water that holds panfish, bass or some other easy to catch fish. After all, there is nothing like a fish on the line to provide memories and encouragement. Remember your first?
When you get there don't fish so much as coach. Gently point out and teach the techniques that will make the fishing easier and enjoy the fact that you've given someone a gift that will bring joy for a lifetime. Then, when it all comes together and that first fish is on, be as happy as if it were on the end of your line.
I guarantee that this will be one of the best and most memorable gifts that person will ever receive. Merry Christmas.