Fly fishing is a pretty strange thing.
It has a strange allure, I can’t explain what it is. From reading other blogs, books, and articles, it appears I’m not the only one. Everybody seems to describe it in terms like “there’s something about it,” or “I feel so connected to the fish,” or “it’s intoxicating.” Maybe not that last one, but there certainly is something about fly fishing.
In an old book about freshwater fishing, the author describes fly fishing as “the most primitive way to fish.” Seems to me hand-lining is actually the most primitive way to fish, but retrieving line with your hand while your finger acts as a drag is fairly primitive if you ask me.
I was pretty skeptical about fly fishing before I tried it; it seemed unreasonably fancy and overly complicated. I just want to fish, I don’t need to be all artsy fartsy about it! And then I tried it, and I understood a little bit of the approach. Like 1% maybe.
Still, I find it fairly difficult. Fly casting certainly requires a level of physical control I certainly don’t have yet.. Most of my casts end with the neon green fly line slapping the water with a splash, followed by a second splash of my fly. Somehow, I can even get dry flies to splash.
I find this both exciting and maddening. In fact, I think that may be what fly fishing is all about!
The pursuit of the perfect cast, book-ended by terrible casts, wind knots, and huge amounts of frustration. It is a frustrating thing, until you get it right. Then it’s amazing. When that tiny, weightless amalgamation of feathers, thread, and fur goes floating through the air and lands right on that scum line: that’s magic. I’ve had a few experiences fly fishing where I literally saw my fly in the water and thought it was a real minnow or bug, especially in the case of little streamers. That is something that has never happened to me while fishing with conventional gear. Maybe I need to get my eyes checked.
One of the greatest things about working at home is the commute. After work, to make my way “home” all I need to do is leave the “office,” our second bedroom. What usually happens after that is either a trip to the kitchen to start cooking or a trip to some body of water for some fishing. Last night at 5:20pm I found myself in neoprene waders with a fly rod, standing in Salt Creek.
I fished for about an hour, until it was just dark enough I couldn’t see what I was doing. I caught my flies in all the trees, most of my casts failed to make their targets, and near the end I got snagged on something and broke off my entire leader. I recently cut off the few inches of “real fly fishing tapered leader and tippet” that was left and replaced it with some power pro braided line. I’m not sure if tapered line makes that much of a difference; maybe it does, but I don’t have any more tapered line. So I use what I’ve got.
But there was one moment, when I quarter cast upstream and a little clouser minnow I tied with bucktail, gold flash, and black thread slowly drifted downstream. It ticked along the bottom. I watched a king fisher or some other kind of bird flying around, when suddenly I realized my line was swimming away. Forgetting how I was supposed to set the hook, I did a last minute combination of pulling on my line and lifting the rod tip. Maybe that’s what you’re supposed to do.
The fish seemed large, not bluegill or greenie size; based on it’s fight, I guessed either a nice sized bass… or maybe even a pike. It’s fight was measured, not frantic. I was the one who was frantic, my heart suddenly racing as I struggled to remember instructions for playing a fish on the fly.
With a few head shakes the fish was gone, and a fish-less clouser minnow came flying out of the water.
I stood there in the stream, extremely excited. A few moments earlier some neon green fly line and power pro was connecting my left hand to some unknown fish. I could feel every little fin movement; I was connected to the fish. For a short time, we were in a kind of tug-of-war between its mouth and my hand.
It didn’t last long, and I couldn’t get it to happen again, but it was amazing.
Fly fishing is a pretty strange thing.