Victoria man makes lifelong fly-fishing dream reality

David Rhode caught this large sockeye salmon on a fly fishing trip to Goodnews River, Alaska, in July 2013. Rhode estimated the fish weighed about 15 pounds.
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As a kid, David Rhode went on several road trips with his parents to various parts of the country.

On those trips, especially ones to Colorado and Montana, Rhode saw something that would stick with him the rest of his life.

What he saw was fishermen standing in rivers and streams, casting fishing lines in and out consistently.

It was Rhode's first introduction to fly fishing.

"I always thought it would be exciting to learn to do that and experience that," he said. "But I never seemed to have the opportunity."

That opportunity finally came three and a half years ago, when Rhode moved to Victoria and met Wade Getz.

"When I came to Victoria a few years ago, I bumped into Wade Getz, who is the club president of this fly fishing club," Rhode said. "When I found out about the club, I joined up, and it's been a really neat experience."

Since joining the Whetstone Fly Fishing Club, Rhode has learned different casting techniques for fly fishing as well as different ways to set up his fly.

But it has also led to experiences he'll never forget. One of those experiences involves what might have been a record catch in Alaska.

In July 2013, six members of the fly fishing club traveled to Goodnews River in Alaska and spent 10 days camping alongside the river, surviving off of what they had brought and the fish they caught.

"If you forget your jacket at home, you're not going to have a jacket," Rhode said. "There weren't any stores once we got to the river."

On one of the days, Rhode cast out his line and hooked a fish. He would spend the next 25 minutes fighting to reel in one of the biggest sockeye salmon a pair of Alaskan fishing guides had ever seen.

"This sockeye salmon jumped out of the water about five times. You could see him do sort of a tail dance," Rhode recalled. "It looks like they're dancing on top of the water. Their tail is slapping the water. It's very exciting to see that happen."

Unfortunately, Rhode was unable to weigh the fish but said club members thought the sockeye salmon was about the same weight of the all-tackle record of 15 pounds, 3 ounces. All-tackle records include fish caught using any technique and bait.

It wasn't all fun and games for the Whetstone Fly Fishing Club in Alaska, though.

"One of us saw a bear, which was pretty frightening," Rhode said. "It's not a big deal usually. But if there is a cub, and if you're closer to the cub than the mama bear, you need to move away real fast."

For the most part, Rhode's fishing trips with the Victoria-based fly fishing club have been enjoyable. He says that for someone who had been fly fishing just once, he has learned a lot in three and a half years.

But there's still plenty more to learn, especially when it comes to different flies.

"Learning and knowing, to me, is a huge part of it," Rhode said. "There are hundreds of books and videos (on flies). There are clubs that meet just to discuss and show new fly ideas. It's unbelievable. You could spend your entire life tying flies and not even scratch the surface, it seems like."

Flies imitate different insects that are supposed to entice the fish to strike. These are made up of different materials, including feathers, hair and fur - both natural and synthetic. What makes flies difficult to master is that there isn't one way to tie them; rather, every person has his or her own way.

Luckily, Rhode has an excellent teacher in Getz.

"Wade has been just about everywhere there is good fishing, and he goes with us not as a guide, but as a coach," Rhode said. "He's already taught us so many things, and he knows exactly where to go, which flies to use, which techniques to use."

However, some things can't be taught - like remembering to put laces back in boots, a mistake Rhode unfortunately made.

"One time last April, we were at Coleto Creek, and I was in a rush and had cleaned my wading boots but forgot to put the laces back in the boots," Rhode recalled with a smile. "So I showed up out there without any laces in my boot. I told them 'Hey, it's not cold water. We don't really need to wear boots, do we?' and they were all like 'Yeah, you gotta wear boots.' So, I have to pull out these boots with no laces. I was slipping and sliding trying to hang on to that one."

That's also the day Rhode and other members of the fly fishing club think he caught the largest catfish at Coleto Creek.

Sometimes, fishing is just pure luck.

But like Rhode says, there's "always something funny or interesting going on."