"You don't have any weight on your leader," he said. "Do you have any sinkers?"
I reached in my bag and pulled out a container of lead BB shot. Max suggested I crimp two or three of them to my leader, and then he inspected the fly I was using.
"Do you have any other wet flies or streamers?" he asked.
I showed him my fly box. He reached in and pulled out a brown Marabou Muddler. "Try this one, and make sure to keep it close to the bottom," he advised.
After a short walk upstream to a likely looking bend, I plopped the heavily weighed leader into the swift current and, following Max's instruction, swung the rod to follow the line's downstream drift.
WHAM! The tip of the line darted upstream. I set the hook and felt the rod throb with the weight of a hard-fighting fish.
It turned out to be a wild brown trout, 12 inches long, with silver-haloed black spots and a wine-red adipose fin. I unhooked the little streamer from its jaw, gave it a quick once-over and released it.
That trout turned out to be a five-way first for me: First trout on a fly, first brown trout, first fish on a fly I had tied, first fish on a streamer, and the first fish on a rod I had built.
It's hard to believe 35 years have passed since that wet spring day, but they have. And you know, I don't think I've ever thanked Max and Mike and the other TU members who mentored me.
That is, until now: Thanks, guys. You set me up for a lifetime's worth of good times, and I am grateful.