I’m serving up something a little different today on FFC: a Guest Blogger. My former boss, Mark McKinnon, is a celebrity political strategist, a creative juggernaut, uber-athlete, a warrior in the battle against cancer, a writer for The Daily Beast, and all-around cool cat. Oh yeah, and he used to be a songwriter for Kris Kristofferson. No shit.
Here’s a 1976 picture courtesy of DannyEveritt.com showing Danny Everitt, Robert Scott, and McKinnon on the far right:
I was extraordinarily lucky to work for McKinnon. It’s been a few years since I fled that big tall office job, but I am still blessed to have Mark and his wife as dear friends. Dear enough that I was able to
browbeat lure them out on a Wednesday night to the Drake Film Tour here in Austin. A cursory Google of McKinnon will indicate how busy this man is and what a coup it was that he & his wife picked the FFFT as mid-week date night!
A few days after the film show Mark sent me this essay on his experiences learning to fly fish. So spit out your gum and sit up straight boys & girls. We have a real writer visiting the class today…..
The Angler — by Mark McKinnon
Unlike all of you who read flyfishchick, I was born without the fishing chromosome.
Growing up, I tried fishing. But, I could go out for hours with my fishing buddies and they’d easily catch the limit, while I would always, always, come up blanked. I went where they went, I cast like they cast (well sort of), and I used flies that they tied for me. But zippo. Nada.
I did catch a fish once. My wife, Annie, and I went to visit my grandfather who lived on a bay in Virginia. With nothing else to do one day, we took out his boat (of a rowing nature, I can’t handle motorized vehicles either). And on our way out, my grandfather stuck a rod in the boat. So, feeling obliged, I cast the sucker in the water. I’m not sure it even had a fly or bait. And then I just left the rod in the boat unattended. An hour or so later, the dumbest and blindest fish in the history of the bay swam directly into the hook.
After great panic and fanfare, I reeled the thing into the boat. But, having no knowledge of what do at this point, we were baffled and crouched in fear of getting flop cut to death. So, having no other clue and certain we were facing serious bodily harm, I grabbed an oar and beat the sucker to death. Nearly capsizing and drowning us.
Flash forward many years later. I got lucky enough to land a fabulous cabin in Blue River, Colorado. It is an idyllic spot. At the end of a dirt road with nothing behind us but National Forest. And the Blue River runs right through our back meadow. Yes, a river literally runs through it.
And so, I fantasized, wouldn’t it so “mountain guy” if I could just stroll off my porch and fly fish on my own piece of terra firma? But, damn it, I was reminded. No fishing chromosome.
Alas, I decided to fight my genetic history. I hired a guide and went fly fishing. He showed me the basics (which I promptly forgot). And he found a great spot where catching trout is easier than catching a cold in a crowded 747. Hell, I didn’t know the difference between white fish and trout. I just knew there was something flopping around on my hook.
Confidence bolstered, I bought some gear. But, the old doubts returned, and I left everything in the garage for six months.
Finally, I thought, screw it. A man can’t have a place on the Blue River and not fish it. It’s a sin against nature and manhood. So, humility and expectations firmly in place, I pulled out the gear. And kid you not, tied a fly to my line with a square knot. And then added a dropper to the fly with another square knot (patent pending).
I cruised out the back door to Opah’s Pond (OK, so I broke the law and stacked a few rocks to pool some water). Cast and waited.
About ten seconds. And, bam, I hooked a trout.
I was so excited and shocked that I literally fell over. And, then after a classic drawn-out man-versus-fish struggle with a four-inch Brookie, I landed him. Well, flopped him onto the shore.
And then in the next half hour caught five more trout, some actually breaking average penis length.
I had become a real man. Overcome my disability and family heritage.
And I was, metaphor intended, hooked.
Now there is nothing I love more than tying my silly knots and casting into my little section of the Blue.
And close to about half the time, I snag something, often a fish.
So, for all your hopeless, hapless friends and cousins who are similarly fishing afflicted, tell them hope floats.