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Skyler Nelson found his passion along the shores of Smith and Morehouse Reservoir.
The then-9-year-old Nelson asked his father about a beaten-up fly-fishing rod thrown into the back of the family truck. They had been casting spinners and lures all day, and Skyler asked to try out the old bamboo rod.
"He told me that we would put a fluffy fly on the end, and it was supposed to get fish," Nelson said with a laugh. "I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Instead of using bait, we were trying to imitate an insect."
Even though they never had as much as a bite, the experience mesmerized the young fisherman.
From that day, Nelson put away the spool and devoted his life to fly fishing. Weaseling his way into a job at Western Rivers Flyfisher at 14, Skyler has been working on his cast, fly tying and entomology while seeking the perfect fish.
"It's not all about catching the fish," he said. "It's about being away from it all, the solitude of it. It's nice catching a fish, but I love the simplicity of it all, the places where the rivers take you and the purity of fishing."
Nelson explained that the transition from reel fishing to fly is difficult but achievable. Countless hours of practice and confidence in one's cast are the difference.
"As long as you have an open mind and are willing to put a little effort into it, people can learn to fly fish," Nelson said. "The casting portion is a lot more technical but doable with work."
Western Rivers Flyfisher will host its annual expo Saturday. It is a chance for novices to learn more about fly fishing. There will be workshops for fly tying, line rigging, learning to identify insects and an opportunity to practice casting.
"It's a great way to get into a sport that has taken me throughout the West's rivers," Nelson said. "There is no better way to experience the outside than with a rod in your hand."