The proper gear for the thrifty fly fisherman

LEARNING TO FLY CAST IS LIKE CHILD’S PLAY

Fly fishing is my favorite. I don’t write about it much, because it doesn’t have wide appeal. And, to be quite candid, I don’t write about it for the fly fishing publications because they get esoterically ridiculous and pompously poignant. Most fly fishermen today are not snobs, but the magazines dedicated to them still carry that air.

There is, nonetheless, something special about this form of fishing. It predates baitcasting and spin-fishing by hundreds of years. It is the only form of fishing in which you actually hold onto the line, giving you a direct connection to the fish. The long, limber and sensitive rods telegraph every movement of a hooked fish so well that even small fish are a treat. And, more than any other form of fishing, the casting is a big part of the fun.

“It looks like too much work to me,” is what I’ve heard often over the years from people who have never tried it, or who have tried it without any idea of how to cast and failed miserably.

Truth is, fly casting is a lot less work than cranking a big-lipped crankbait or jerking a Rogue. It’s no more work than casting and retrieving a spinnerbait. But it does require more effort than fishing a plastic worm or tight-lining for catfish.

The casting is not difficult, either. It’s just different.

Years ago I taught fly fishing classes four nights a week. The easiest students were those who had never fished in any manner because they hadn’t developed any casting habits. Women and children learned to cast well in just an hour or so. In fact, I found it easier to teach a youngster how to cast a fly rod than it was to teach him or her the thumb-timing necessary to use a close-faced “Snoopy” reel.

Fly casting does require some level of hand-eye coordination and timing. But so does other forms of casting. The problem is that other forms of casting fit more easily into how we develop motor skills during other activities. From the time we are small, we learn to push and throw forward, and we can see what’s happening in front of us. The key to fly casting, however, is in the pull of the backcast. I used to tell my students all the time: “If you take care of your backcastit will take care of your forward cast.”

Since we can’t see what is happening behind us, I often had those who were having trouble turn their heads to watch what was happening during their backcast. This helped many because it taught them to redirect their concentration to the rear.

But the more experienced fishermen seemed to have their minds already set in one direction. The guys with a lot of experience with baitcasting or spinning equipment were the ones who found fly casting most difficult. It was hard to get them to cast with their arm instead of their wrist.

Now, there is a little more to it than that. I can’t teach you how to fly cast in this short article. There are some good, heavily-illustrated books available. But the best way to learn is with hand-on instructions from a good caster.

An excellent source is through a local fly fishing club. Nearly every major metropolitan area in the nation has such a club, and fly fishing courses are offered at many community colleges and even at some sporting good stores that specialize in fly fishing equipment.

Another great source of information is through the Federation of Fly Fishers, a national organization with affiliate clubs in every state. You can find them at www.fedflyfisher.org, or by writing The Federation of Fly Fishers, PO Box 1595, Bozeman, MT 59771.

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