Last December I had the chance to go fly fishing with Blane Chocklett — what an experience!
The first time I met Blane was in February 2018 at the Lancaster, Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Expo, which I was attending with my parents. I went there to tie flies with the Norvise Team and at the Fly Stones booth. I was also supposed to be in and out of the Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) booth, for two reasons, one, I had just become their first Junior Ambassador and two, Blane Chocklett was going to be in the booth throughout the day. Blane was someone I had been wanting to meet for a long time and this was the last show of the season I was attending.
That Saturday morning, I took a tying class to learn to tie Blane’s most famous fly, the Game Changer (the Feather Game Changer to be exact). There were only three of us in the class so it almost felt like a one-on-one fly tying lesson from the man himself.
Before the end of the weekend, Blane told me he wanted to schedule a time when it warmed up to take me smallmouth bass fishing. You couldn’t imagine how excited I was to go fishing with Blane. I had been wanting to catch a smallmouth bass for a long time, but never thought my first one could possibly be one the size he catches.
At the beginning of the summer my mom (Casey) and Blane set a date on the calendar for the end of July for us to go to the Roanoke area and go fishing. That trip was postponed because a “monsoon” came through Blane’s area and the river was blown out. They rescheduled for another day during Labor Day weekend, but another torrential rain came through the whole state of Virginia for several days and, once again, the rivers everywhere were a mess.
Blane decided to turn our smallmouth trip into a musky trip later in the year and I was even more excited to go fishing with him than before! He said we would talk more once it started to get colder.
Fast forward to December and my mom and I went up and stayed the night in a hotel, because we were going to have an early morning to go fishing the next day (thank you to my dad for staying home with my 3 brothers so I could go!).
It was an early and very cold Saturday morning when I was in the truck with Blane heading to the river with mom following behind us in her truck. The time had come for me to try to catch the “fish of 10,000 casts,” the elusive musky.
Blane explained to me how to cast, strip the line and work the Game Changer fly on the end of it to entice these fish to eat, and how NOT to set the hook like I have come accustomed to.
Musky fishing has its own set of rules and challenges that are completely different to what a fly angler is used to. After I made a few practice casts with the TFO Esox fly rod, Blane thought I was ready, and we set out to begin our adventure.
On my first real cast I hooked up, but I quickly lost it because I tried setting the hook like I was trout fishing. It wasn’t long before I had another fish on the line and I did everything Blane had shown me and got this one to the side of the boat, but just as Blane had got the cradle over the side of the boat, we all watched as the fish shook its head with great power and out came the fly from its mouth.
As we made our way down the river, I raised two more fish, but never saw them.
After fishing for close to four hours, we got to one of the last two spots that we had planned to fish, and I yelled, “I have a fish on!”
Blane said, “Are you sure you aren’t snagged on a log, again?”
I raised my rod trip just a bit and the line started moving and said, “Nope, not stuck!”
Blane carefully called out instructions, I stripped when the fish stopped fighting and let it run when it wanted to. The excitement on the boat between Blane, my mom, and myself was indescribable.
We finally laid eyes on this elusive fish and mom had her camera clicking away as we all watched it take an amazing leap in the air and land gracefully back into the water.
Finally, we got the fish to the side of the boat and Blane guided her into the cradle. He had me hold the cradle as he rowed us to a spot that was shallower, so he and I could get in the water to hold my fish of a lifetime. I was praying I didn’t drop a side and lose the fish. My mom quickly came up and helped me hold the cradle to ensure we didn’t lose it. Once we were at the spot where we would be getting into the water, my mom held onto the cradle. Blane told her to make sure that she kept the fish's head in the water and to be careful because a musky is a little like an alligator — it will rest, store up its energy, and then start thrashing around to try and get away.
She responded, “You two better hurry up and come take get this fish because I will NOT be responsible for it getting away out of the net and getting away!”
The time had come for me to come face to face with my catch. The excitement I was feeling was overwhelming and I still could not believe I had actually hooked and landed my very first musky.
As Blane opened the cradle I could see this amazing fish clearly for the first time and I was shocked at how much power the fish still had after the fight.
As I stood there holding my very first musky for some quick pictures, I was so grateful to Blane for his help in guiding me to this fish and for him directing me to make sure I got this fish to the cradle. There is no better feeling than releasing your catch back into its home and knowing it will continue living and be there for some other lucky fly angler to catch one day.
Blane is a great mentor to learn from! And his Game Changer flies are incredible to fish with.
The time I spent on the river with Blane and landing my first musky is something I will never forget. I know catching my fish, “the fish of 10,000 casts,” is something some people wait their whole lives for. I appreciate everyone who has taken an interest in me, guided me, given me advice, and/or made it possible for me to participate in some of the most amazing opportunities and events that I have been able to experience. I will remember what everyone has done for me for the rest of my life.
Even at 13 years old, I try to further the interest of fly fishing and tying with my family, friends, and those I go to school with. As I get older, I will mentor young fly anglers just like me to help ensure this great sport, that I eat, sleep, and breathe, continues on for generations to come.
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About Braden Miller:
Braden taught himself to tie flies by watching videos on Youtube and Instagram. He has been obsessed with fishing for as long as he can remember, and has been fly fishing and tying since he was 8 years old (he is currently 13). Since he ventured into this sport Braden has traveled across the country chasing after fish with his TFO fly rods and flies he tied himself. Braden has made fly tying appearances up and down the East Coast at several shows including the Fly Fishing Expo in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Lefty Kreh’s Tie Fest, and The International Fly Tyers Symposium. Braden plans to continue to volunteer with Project Healing Waters and thoroughly enjoyed tying flies at their 2-Fly Tournament at Rose River Farms. This year at his middle school he started Trout in the Classroom and a fishing club with the support of his principal and previous science teacher. This program is designed to educate his peers about the different types of fishing, saltwater vs. freshwater, fly fishing vs. conventional fishing and water conservation. Braden is the first Junior Ambassador for Temple Fork Outfitters, a Norvise team member, and he is an ambassador/pro-staff member for Fly Life Company and District Angling. You will be able to catch Braden at several shows this year: The Virginia Fly Fishing and Wine Fest, the Edison, New Jersey Fly Fishing Expo, Lefty Kreh’s Tie Fest, The Maryland Fly Fishing Show and the Texas Fly Fishing and Brew Fest.
You can follow Braden on Instagram @flyfisher0906.