I don’t know exactly what it is about fly fishing I like so much. I like you can carry 50 flies in a box in your back pocket; I like that you can cast tiny little things that will catch tiny little fish (I’d always choose more fish over bigger fish). I like I can take a rod, a fly box, and some pliers to go fishing at the pond down the street. I like the act of fly casting, when it’s not the most frustrating thing ever. Which it is sometimes.
I really like it when a fish takes my fly and I feel it directly because I’m holding the line with my hand. There is no reel between me and the fish. I like how small fish feel bigger on the fly rod (again, I’d rather catch a lot of small fish than one big one). I like how I can tie a fly in a few minutes out of an extremely minimal amount of material and immediately go catch fish with it.
I always thought fly fishing was that kind of fishing for rich people in tweed outfits between golf matches at the private country club; fisherman who looked down on all other kinds of fishing, who spent thousands of dollars on gear. Obviously that’s not the case. Just like with everything else, there are all kinds of folks who fly fish. I’m sure there are those who fish with $3000 rods and $600 waders with flies tied from fur of exotic creatures and feathers from dodo birds…
But I realize now there is no inherent “prepiness” or “upitiness” in fly fishing, just like somebody who fishes with live bait doesn’t automatically disgard their used monofilament in the bushes. Some do, but most don’t. There are rich, preppy fly fishermen, but I know there are plenty of folks who aren’t rich or preppy. It’s just a different kind of fishing. Maybe it’s just me who had preconceived notions of what a fly angler was like- but I know now I was wrong! It’s a great realization for me.
When I fly fish, I fish just like I fish using any other type of method. I target the same fish, and sometimes catch more fish on the fly than I would with spinning gear. Certain types of water seem suited for fly fishing, like the greenie pond near my house. Even when the wind is gusting at 25 mph, the water is ice cold, and the air is 42°F, the hungry fish in the pond will rise for a variety of flies fished at the surface. Although flies have caught smaller fish for me in general, I’ve caught a lot of them.
I like that!
I still can’t cast very well, often get my flies stuck in trees and bushes; I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to jig your rod tip to manipulate the fly. But I’m learning as I go, and it’s a whole new adventure.
After breaking the tip off the travel fly rod I’d been using, I headed to L.L. Bean to get an upgrade. Instead of replacing the travel fly rod/spinning rod combo again (this would be at least the third time) Claire planted the idea in my head that I just get a nice fly rod instead. What a lady. I scoured the L.L. Bean website, read reviews, and selected a rod/reel combo I thought might server my purposes (and fit into my price range). I quickly jumped in the car and sped over there to check out the rods in person.
I love L.L. Bean. They might not be the “go-to” vendor for fishing gear for everyone, but I love their guarantee and the folks who work there are awesome. Their deal is if something breaks or isn’t right, return it and get a new one. Or just return it. I’ve done that more often than I care to admit; but it’s nice to know if I somehow manage to break my new fancy fly rod, I can bring it back and get it fixed or replaced.
I was going to get just the rod (an 8’6″ 6 weight) and a super cheap reel, but then they told me about the package deal. If I got the rod and the reel that “goes with it,” I’d save $78- and they’d throw in an awesome reel-on travel case, backing, fly line, leader, and even put the line on the reel for me. Done! Carl, the dude I see literally every time I walk into that store, the dude who has sold us various pairs of waders, the dude who has given me all kinds of fly fishing tips, happened to be in the store and the one who put the line on the reel for me.
While he used the fancy machine, I asked him all kinds of questions. Things I haven’t been able to figure out. Things like “Do you tie your leader directly to your fly line? If so, when your leader breaks, do you cut the fly line and retie? Do you really need a leader? What does ‘weight forward’ mean?” A fountain of knowledge, he showed me all the knots he used getting the line on the reel and introduced me to the “loop to loop” concept. Instead of using a knot to attach your leader to the fly line, connect a loop on the leader to the loop on the fly line, and you’re all set! He told me about changing leaders for different conditions, different flies, different fish… How he makes his own tapered leaders with different thickness monofilament lines…
This was mind-boggling. I learned so much.
Armed with this new information, I headed to the internet to learn more. I read about tapered leaders, tippet; how trout can be line-shy and a long leader can be neccesary; how bass don’t care and a short leader is fine. I wondered if I’d used a longer leader in Michigan if I’d have caught more trout. I read pages and pages about making your own knotted leaders with 10 different kinds of mono.
Then I found a video about making your own “furled tapered leaders.” I’d heard of furled leaders from research about tenkara (traditional Japanese fly fishing). The video talked about making tapered leaders from a single strand of mono in a matter of minutes, without tools. After seeing the hefty prices of store-bought leaders, I was very interested in making my own.
Of course I proceeded to make about 20 leaders; some furled, some knotted. All with loops on either end, just the way Carl explained. I took the fancy tapered mono leader off my line (figured I’d save that for trout fishing) and attached a 4 foot furled leader I made out of 6 pound mono. I was pretty happy with how it looked- it tapered from 4 strands of mono (~24 pound test) to 2 strands (~12 pound test). I then attached a short tippet of mono into the loop. It sure sounds like you need a tapered leader to get flies to land right, although I’m certainly not advanced enough to tell if flies are “landing right.”
I now had a homemade monofilament furled leader attached to a mono tippet, attached to a fly I tied. I like saving money and I like trying to do things myself, so it’s win-win.
Then I walked down to the greenie pond and caught six greenies with my new setup.
Did the furled leader help the presentation of my flies? I don’t know. I do know it’s much cheaper to make my own furled leaders, and the internet seems to agree you need a taper in your leader. Fair enough.
I thoroughly enjoyed my new fly rod. My old one was a 5 wt, and this one seemed a little heavier. The line seemed a lot heavier and much stiffer, but maybe it’s higher quality and will get softer with time. I was certainly able to cast farther and more accurately than my old rod. Although I never had to use my new reel to battle 4″ green sunfish, I do like looking at it’s shiny black metal surface. The faux wood on the part where you attach the reel is pretty sweet looking too.
And just in case anybody is wondering, even poorly-tied, splashily-cast Adams, Stimulators, and Elk Hair Caddises still catch fish.