We have a new guest blogger! Isaac Ness, who runs our fly fishing program has agreed to pick up the reins of the category of our blog dedicated to anglers. I say dedicated, but it’s been a bit quiet for a while, so we’re excited to start getting some fly fishing content up again. For those of you who have been to the ranch in the past several years, you know Isaac is a bit single minded and has the ability to turn every conversation to revolve around fishing. I guess that means he’s in the correct role here at the ranch. With no further ado, I give you Isaac’s intro to fly fishing….more to come soon with tidbits for the novice angler to those who dream of big trout!
So you think you want to try fly fishing? That’s that thing from “A River Runs Through It” right? Sure, we’ve all seen the movie but what really is fly fishing? What makes it different from fishing with a “normal” (conventional) fishing rod? Honestly, probably not as much as you think. I’ve heard the definition of fishing as a jerk on one end waiting for a jerk on the other. This definitely applies to fly fishing as well as conventional fishing. What really sets it apart is the type of line and the lures or flies used.
When you break it down, line is the biggest difference. With a conventional rod, the lure or bait on the end has weight to it. When it’s casted, that weight pulls the nearly weightless line off the reel. This is a great way to be able to whip your lure nearly half way across the lake. The down side is that we need a lure that has enough weight to pull our line off, meaning that when it lands there’s going to be a splash like a fat kid cannonballing off a diving board. We might not get too many bites after that. It also means we can’t cast anything that’s small or light enough to float on the surface.
With fly fishing, we’re generally trying to imitate the food trout eat. Which often is bugs so small you must squint with your reading glasses on to see them at all. Realistic imitations of these bugs would be hard to throw on a conventional rod because they wouldn’t have enough weight to pull out your line. Fly fishing solves this problem by using a weighted line that pulls your weightless lure or fly out to where the fish are. This system accounts for the different cast you saw brad pit doing in “A River Runs Through It” where the line goes back and forth through the air like he’s Harry Potter trying to cast a spell. While this method doesn’t get our flies or lures out quite as far, it results in a more delicate presentation and more accurate cast (once the technique is mastered). But where does the “fly” part come in?
The other part to this story, and one of the hallmarks of fly fishing, is the use of artificial lures called flies. The name comes from traditional anglers imitating an insect called a mayfly that lives in and around streams. Today flies can be any artificial imitation of a fish’s diet that is tied with thread onto a hook. Most of them are imitations of various bugs that trout eat, but they could represent anything. I’ve even seen a fly tied like a cigarette butt. The fish that take that bait obviously haven’t read the surgeon general’s warnings! Some people have even tied flies that don’t end up looking like anything besides a hunk of fur on a hook despite their best efforts (we all have a few flies that match that description). One key feature to all flies is that they’re light enough to be cast by our weighted line. Because flies are so light they can be presented very delicately and quietly to fish. The down side to a lighter fly however, is a heck of a time trying to get them to go down deep in the water. Ever try diving with a lifejacket on? Parallels could be drawn. These Factors make fly fishing very effective for targeting shallow water fish.
Ultimately fly fishing is just another way to present your lure to a fish. Lots of people have gotten caught up in this purist mentality that they’re somehow better than the guy throwing a night crawler under a bobber. Everyone must decide for themselves how they want to fish. If you’re trying to catch bottom feeding fish in 200 feet of water, fly fishing may not be for you. If you want to catch a skittish trout in a crystal-clear mountain stream, fly fishing is probably your best chance. But just remember, however we choose to fish, we’re all just a jerk on one end waiting for a jerk on the other.