The Smell of a Mister Twister

I make a point to not think I’m above other anglers just because the majority of my fishing is done with a fly rod. At the end of the day, the reason I’m out is to enjoy the woods and water, and hopefully bring something to the net while doing so. I just happen to find fly fishing to be one of the most fun avenues to accomplish that goal.

I’d estimate that over 95% of my fishing time these days is spent with a fly rod in my hand. But there’s about one week each year that I throw in the fly fishing towel and grab my spin rod. Specifically, this week is always the week I fly home to Pennsylvania to spend time on the river I grew up with (and what I still consider to be my home river).

A woman in a red kayak holds up a smallmouth bass

Now, part of the reason for this is that I like to pack light for these trips. They’re always during the summer, so without gear I can easily get away with just a backpack of clothes. When I first moved to Colorado and started making trips home, this backpack-of-clothes-only approach was out of necessity. I was broke, and paying for baggage was a serious hang-up when I knew I could fit the necessities for free, especially since these weren’t fishing-specific trips. I was mostly going to visit family, while fitting in some time in the kayak around the edges.

It would be fine, I said to myself. Despite wanting to chase smallmouths and pike and walleye with my newfound fly obsession, I could suck it up and dust off one of the spin rods that, after serving me well through my childhood and teen years, had been sitting dormant in a corner of our boathouse.

Because fly fishing was new and exciting, I was in a mental battle against spin fishing, which I had, in my mind, graduated out of. I paid no attention to the fact that spin fishing had (and still today, honestly) taken up a much bigger portion of my life than fly fishing. I had spent almost two decades with those rods in my hands, only to toss them aside for fly fishing, which I’d only been doing for a handful of years.

That’s why I was taken aback when I launched my kayak, took a few casts, and was immediately having the same amount of fun I had as a kid. I appreciated the fact that I could look at the passing scenery, have easy conversations, and take sips of my beer without really having to stop what I was doing. The soft plastics, jerkbaits, crankbaits, and spinners I was fishing didn’t require much more than reeling in, and the occasional twitch of the rod tip. It was relaxing in a way even the most relaxing version of fly fishing can’t quite meet.

And I loved it.

A woman in a red kayak holds a walleye.

The fish I caught mattered no less to me just because they were caught on the forbidden gear. The next day, I repeated it with just as much enthusiasm and excitement as any day I have on the water in Colorado.

I also began to re-notice some of the aspects I’d forgotten about when I took up fly fishing. They say smell is one of the most powerful memory-inducing senses, and this was apparent as soon as I opened my tackle box. Soft plastics have a very distinct smell that anyone who has fished them can probably recognize. It’s something that had somewhat faded from my thoughts, just because it no longer appeared in my environment on the regular. But upon opening my box and being flooded with the familiar smell of Mister Twisters, Squirmin’ Lizards, and gangly worms and crawdads, I was instantly transported back.

A blurry photo of a girl holding up a pike while sitting in a boat.
A blurry image of my first northern pike, caught on none other than a chartreuse Mister Twister.

These days, I no longer view the spin rod as something I have to begrudgingly pick up each year because I can’t afford luggage. Now, I could easily take my fly rod home to chase my favorite species (and at some point, I would like to), but I volunteer to leave it behind. I still prefer fly fishing as a whole, because it’s more interactive and engaging for me. But for a week each year, I welcome the chance to simplify, reminisce, and enjoy the smell of a Mister Twister.

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