I started fishing when I was just a little kid, always on family vacations since I grew up in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Just like a lot of others my first fishing pole was a piece of long tapered bamboo with a line, bobber, and hook. My Dad would take me to a nearby small lake and we’d sit for hours and fish with worms for sunfish, bluegills and an occasional catfish. As I got a little older, a friend and I would make the trek to the lake by ourselves. From the very first day I loved to go fishing. Over the years I progressed to a casting rod and reel, but my fishing trips became more infrequent. During my four years in the US Air Force I never wetted a line once. After my service, I was too busy raising a family and embarking upon a career in the Savings and Loan business to enjoy the sport. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I took up fly fishing.
I was invited to join some friends who always celebrated the opening of trout season at their camp near a large stream in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Being a neophyte at trout fishing, I wasn’t sure what equipment I’d need. So I went shopping and the clerk at the sporting goods store recommended a fly rod, reel, line, leaders and a box of flies. When I arrived at the camp the guys laughed at my selection of tackle since they were all spin and bait fishermen.
The first day of trying to cast a fly rod to catch a trout was for the most part a learning rather than fishing experience. Nevertheless, by watching a couple of fly fishermen in action I managed to at least get some line out in the stream to where there were fish and to finally catch a couple ( what’s that about a blind squirrel). My limited success and, more significantly, the fun I had fishing with a fly rod was enough for my friends so before the season ended on subsequent fishing trips my buddies showed up with fly rods of their own. By the way, I still have that first fly rod, not for its value, (it was actually pretty cheap) but because it was the catalyst that converted me and my friends to fly fishing.
Before long we were tying our own flies, invested in better fly fishing equipment and taking the sport much more seriously. For me, however, the most important phase of my becoming a more accomplished fly fisherman occurred under the tutelage of a real expert.
My mentor was a retired dentist named Kenneth Igo. We met when we were both invited to fly fish by a mutual friend. Although by that time I had been fly fishing for several years, I had never really had any kind of training in the finer art of the sport. I’m sure that fact didn’t pass without notice from my soon to be teacher.
Not long after that meeting, the doctor’s best fly fishing companion passed away. I can only surmise that that sad event prompted him to consider his own mortality since shortly thereafter he announced to me that, if I wanted, he would be happy to become my mentor in order to pass on his great knowledge of fly fishing. I’m still grateful that he felt I deserved that honor. That was the day that this neophyte began a true love affair with fly fishing that still flourishes to this day.
His teachings embraced among virtually all aspects of the sport, and I was eager to learn everything from him that I could. We fished together for many years and I will always remember him and be grateful for his wonderful teaching.
Although these events occurred nearly fifty years ago, the memories I have of those early days are still fresh. Since then, I’ve enjoyed some great fly fishing experiences at some wonderful streams and lakes.
As your mentor, I consider it a privilege to pass my knowledge on to you with the hope that you will find fly fishing to be as enjoyable and fulfilling as I have.
One of life’s truisms is that regardless of age you never stop learning. To keep up to date with the latest innovations in the sport I read just about everything I can on the subject of fly fishing, and maintain a membership in Trout Unlimited [life member], North America Fisherman [life member], and the Pittsburgh Sportsman Luncheon Club. Furthermore, I also make it a practice to fish with better fly fishermen than I am every chance that I get. Below you’ll find some of the people I’ve fished with that certainly fit that category.
PS. I am sad to report that my good friend Dr. Fran Perri shown in the third picture below went to join the greatest fisherman ever on the eternal trout stream in Heaven in 2014. May he enjoy his favorite sport of fly fishing forever more.