Re-Discovering Fly Fishing
by Ed Migale
57 going on 17.
That’s how I feel when I’m fly fishing, something I re-discovered this past summer while on a camping trip with my wife, Crystal. We happened to see some folks fly fishing and Crystal said, “Oh, I want to learn to do that!”
A bit of background: I’ve fished both fresh and saltwater environs since I was 3 years old throughout California, along with many excursions to Mexican waters both in the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Ocean. I’ve even been in the fishing tackle industry as a custom rod builder, terminal tackle manufacturer and distributor, sports show exhibitor and featured seminar speaker and, of course, writer.
But 99.9% of that was with conventional tackle. I did do a little fly fishing when I was a teenager, fishing for trout in the Sierras and Coast Range, along with bass and panfish in various locations. I even tied some of my own flies and crafted bass poppers out of balsa wood. But fly fishing went away about 40 years ago when I got heavily into saltwater fishing
And the last 25 years has seen me focus all of my available time and efforts on hunting and shooting, leaving no time for fishing.
That has changed.
I feel like a kid again, casting to trout, bass, and bluegills, with plans to fly fish for shad, steelhead and even carp. There are times when I am so focused that I do not want to stop and keep saying to myself, “Just one more cast and I’ll quit ...” Yeah, right.
Not only am I utterly enjoying the fishing, but the learning process for this fascinating past-time has captured my inner being like little else in 50 plus years of outdoors adventure.
I won’t bore you with the details of my fly fishing successes (few) or mishaps (many), but I would like to share with you some of the resources that I’ve found that have helped me on this quest. Hopefully, these will be of benefit to you, too:
Don’t be Intimidated – Fly fishing doesn’t have to be a hoity-toity affair. In fact one of the country’s most renowned fly fishermen, Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis, put it quite succinctly in one of his company’s educational videos: “Fly fishing is easy; anyone can do it. You just need to learn the basics.”
Bug Your Friends – Pun intended. If you have friends who are fly anglers, don’t hesitate to seek their help. My bet is that they will be delighted to assist you.
Join a Fly Fishing Club – Don’t know anyone who fly fishes? Then join a fly fishing club and make some new friends. My experience with my local club is that the members are very welcoming of newcomers. To find a club near you check out www.flycaster.com
Read, Read, and Read Some More – There are a ton of books out there about this subject, with every facet covered. I’ve invested in quite a few and continually reference back to them before and after every outing. Some of my favorites are The Total Fly Fishing Manual by Joe Cermele, Fly Fishing the Sierra Nevada and Fly Fishing California Stllwaters both by Bill Sunderland with photos by Rick E. Martin, Stillwater Fly-Fishing Secrets by Hal Janssen, Fly Fishing Stillwaters for Trophy Trout by Denny Rickards, and just about anything by the legendary Lefty Kreh.
Embrace the Internet – To enhance your hard-copy library, the Internet’s video capabilities and endless supply of articles is a treasure trove of information. Some of the best are from tackle manufacturers. I really like the sites by Rio www.rioproducts.com for fly line care and knot instruction and the “Fly Fishing Learning Center” section on the Orvis site at www. orvis.com.
Get the Right Gear – To start you don’t need to take out a second mortgage to get into fly fishing. You do not need a $900 rod and $500 reel any more than a beginning duck hunter needs a $3000 shotgun. You’ll want to invest in gear that will provide you with good value and that you can use for a variety of applications. I chose to go with two moderately priced rods; a 9’ 5 weight and a 9’ 8 weight. With these two rods, I can fish for everything from bluegills and trout to bass, shad and stripers.
For reels, pick a product that you can get spare spools for. That way – depending on the situation – you can easily switch from a floating line to an intermediate or fast sinking line. This will enable that one rod/reel setup to be very versatile. Tip: Check out the L2A Fly Reels from The Fly Shop in Redding, CA ( www.theflyshop.com 800-669-3474). High quality product, super drag system, and value priced with spools available at about half the price of the reel.
Patronize Your Local Fly Shop – It might be tempting to shop the Internet for the “best” prices, but patronizing your local fly shop will provide you with a world of great local advice and tips that you cannot put a price tag on.
Get Good Instruction – I highly recommend enrolling in a class or clinic like WU’s Annual Fly Fishing Clinic held at the Bidwell Ranch near Burney. Crystal and I took the “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” clinic held there last August, with many of the same instructors. These guys are not only superb, easy going pros, but they are extremely approachable... and they leave their egos back at the gate to the ranch.
Learn About Fly Tying – I’m not saying that you have to tie your own flies, but learning about some of the designs can help apply that knowledge to certain fishing situations and techniques. And if you do decide to give tying a try, I can tell you that the satisfaction of catching a fish on a fly you tied just n’t be beat!
Start Out Easy – Your initial venue should not be a crystal clear spring creek fishing for wary wild trout. Instead, a great place to learn to fly fish is someplace simple like a farm pond stocked with a bunch of hungry black bass and bluegill.
Make it a Family Affair – If it weren’t for my wife’s wanting to learn, I’d have probably missed out on this wonderful new facet of my life. So share the wealth. Fly fish with your spouse and family. Crystal and I have done a bit of it together so far these past few months with plans for all sorts of future outings.
Just Do It – It could take several lifetimes to master this art form, so the time to start is now ...
Getting back into fly fishing has – at least it seems this way – given me four decades of life back. Now if I could only live to be 157, I might just get good at it!
*** Special thanks to my friend, colleague, gifted photographer, expert fly fisherman, connoisseur, and raconteur extraordinaire Rick E. Martin for all his help, encouragement and support in this, my newest journey.