|Wilford Woodruff was the first fly fisher in the American West.|
The fisherman does not pull the fish out of water on the bank by the pole but worries the fish in the water with the line untill he will not struggle. Then he draws him up to the shore by the line if he stands on the bank or to him if he stands in the water. He then takes a small hand net with a light pole 4 or 6 feet puts it under the fish & takes him vary deliberately out of the water.
Father Smithies caught 7 trout & two Cheven in this way while we were with him. It was the first time I had seen the fly used in my life in the way of fishing. I was delighted with it the rod line was so light & flung with such skill & dexterity that the trout are beguiled & whare ever they are are generally taken. The fisherman has flies different for almost ever month calculated to imitate the flies that float upon the water at the time they fish. These flies are made of the feathers of birds some of various Colors. The trout will often take them before the natural fly. I was much gratifyed with this days fishing.
In fact, after this experience, Woodruff was so smitten with fly fishing that he picked up his own bamboo fly rod and reel in Liverpool, England after his mission to take home to Nauvoo, Illinois.
However, Woodruff did not have the opportunity to try the rod until the Mormon pioneer vanguard party reached Fort Bridger in Western Wyoming. The Black Fork of the Green River runs in close proximity to the fort and its cutthroat trout beckoned to Woodruff and other members of the camp. He wrote the following of his first experience with the long rod on July 8, 1847:
“First Fly” by Dix Baines. This beautiful painting is used with the permission of artist Dix Baines who was commissioned to paint the story of Wilford Woodruff using the first fly in the American West. In creating this painting, Dix actually went to the historical site and had his son dress in the clothing of the time period and use a fly rod. Having been there myself, Dix captures the Black Fork of the Green River perfectly! Check out this painting and many others at Mr. Baine’s website http://dixbaines.com/artwork/giclees/.
|This is a photo of the bottom half of Woodruff’s fly rod, which is on display at the LDS Church’s History Museum in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, the top section of the rod has been lost.|
For those who love to fly fish, Wilford Woodruff’s experience and sentiments no doubt strike a chord. He learned almost one hundred and sixty-five years ago just how great fly fishing is, especially when the fish rise to a dry fly. And he got to try it in the West before so-called progress came and spoiled it all. Now, if that doesn’t get you excited, then you need to take up a new pastime besides fishing!
After this experience, Woodruff’s church and family responsiblities kept him busy so that he did not get to fish as much as he probably would have liked to. In fact, Wilford Woodruff later became the fourth Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which, I guess, is not surprising considering the fact that Jesus chose humble fishermen as his Apostles during His ministry. Indeed, fishing is good for the soul!
Special thanks is given to Dix Baines for permission to use his beautiful painting, “First Fly.” This painting and many other gorgeous paintings are available for sale at Dix’s website: http://dixbaines.com/artwork/giclees/. For those who love the great outdoors, Dix really captures everything that we hold dear in nature. In particular, I love his paintings on fish and fishing. Be sure and check out Dix’s website.
Keep fishing with faith!