“Bet you I’ve caught more fish in my life than you have.” These are the words I stupidly blurt out my first time meeting the one and only Bill Oyster, considered by many to be the best bamboo fly-rod maker in the world. Sad thing is, it’s probably true.
For the last 15 years I’ve run a commercial salmon fishing business in Alaska, and each season I catch more than 100,000 pounds of Sockeye. I capture them with nets by the hundreds, some days by the thousands. No releasing, no measuring. Each fish gets tossed like a Frisbee into the hold with no special attention or second thought.
To compare what I do every day for a living in the summer with the exquisite delicacy of fly fishing is like a McDonald’s fry boy talking shop with Gordon Ramsey—a little insulting, to say the least. Now here I am, standing outside of Bill Oyster’s shop in the fly fishing capital of Blue Ridge, GA, receiving a personal lesson from the Sensei himself, and I stick my foot in my mouth.
My comment was intended as a joke, but without the context of my day job it comes off as arrogant. That’s the last thing I want to convey. But the truth is, sport fishing has never really appealed to me. It’s not because I enjoy commercial fishing more—I don’t, as the people closest to me know—I just get bored easily. I knew coming down here it was going to challenge my attention span. Now, I’m beginning to wonder if this whole trip is a mistake.