There are a lot of ways to spend your time; fishing has always been a favorite of mine. My favorite form of fishing is with the classic fly rod.

Most people envision a fly fisherman standing in a stream that is rolling through golden meadows lined by scenic mountains in the background with that long rod and line in hand. Our imaginary fly fisherman is casting a long line to an unsuspecting fish hiding in a calm spot among the turbulent flow of the stream. The line casts out and gently alights on the water and the expertly tied fly fools the trout into a strike. The fish runs and the long rod bows under the weight from the fish as he runs down stream… Ok for some, that vision may not be too far from the truth but for me it's never like that.

My world I cast from a boat on much calmer water for a different but equally powerful prey. I also cast the same way as my streamside brethren, those long and graceful arcs of the long rod with multiple false casts. The difference is that I'm controlling a boat and fighting wind to place my fly in obscured targets. But in the end it's just as enjoyable as long as you don't tie yourself up in your own fly line, or cut short a perfect cast because you're standing on your slack line.

Besides the hours actually spent casting, hooking and fighting fish; you can spend an equal if not more hours preparing your fly fishing tackle, tying leaders and flies to be ready for next fishing adventure.

Flies of course are the weightless lures that are cast to fish in hopes of fooling them into thinking they have just found an irresistible meal of insect delight. Flies are hand tied from thread, fur, feathers and other bits of stuff to resemble a real living insect.

Purest are always trying to "match the hatch"; that's duplicating whatever insect is hatching and providing meals to their targeted game fish at the moment they are standing there stream side. And pure "Purists'" will tie those flies right there stream side to capture every fresh detail of insect newborn.

The non-purest like me just select a fly based on how it looks to me and then I just cast it and hope for the best. It may be important to fussy trout just which fly you temp him with. Largemouth bass don't care to eat little bugs. You're better off offering him a popping bug tied from deer hair or carved from some light wood. Save those tiny flies for days when blue gills and other brim are your target.

Another Part of the fly fishing experience is gear preparation, either for the start of a season or performing maintenance on your gear during the season. Prepping your gear can be as much fun as actually going out and catching fish. The feel of cork handles, the heft of the rods, and the cool metallic feel of the reel always brings back memories of fish fought and caught, and time shared with friends and family.

Right now I am out in the garage, the radio is playing and my fly rods are laid out on the table; this is a pre season preparation where I get to clean off the last fishing trip of the season's debris, lubricate the moving things, repair the broken things and long for warm and quite days to come. It's during these prepping times that I tend to catch the biggest fish. Handling the fly tackle causes the brain to shift into a semi conscious state more familiar to many of us as day dreaming or in my case fish dreaming.

Fly rods and lines have to be clean; if you don't clean off the accumulation of stuff that sticks to the line and on the guides and shaft of the rod, it can slow line speed when its needs to shoot through the guides. Cleaning the line requires removing it from the rod and stripping it off the reel and washing it in mild soap and water solution. After washing, the fly line is hung up to dry. After drying the fly line it's coated with a line wax to make it slippery.

The fly line is tied to a backing line which is spooled onto the reel first. The backing line acts as filler; it also extends the length of the fly line which is normally about 90 foot. The backing also fills most of the spool or the reel. The backing insures you don't lose a big fish on a hard run when all your fly line is run out. Most fly reels are pretty simple and there isn't any gearing to speed up line recovery like other reels. You get one turn of the handle and it rotates the spool on revolution. Filling up the spool allows for a faster line recovery when necessary.

Attached to the other end of the fly line is a leader which connects to a tippet which the fly or lure is tied on. Leaders are tapered; they can be purchased readymade, or you can make (actually tie different sizes or pound strengths of fishing line together). I like to make my own leaders according to a very secret and special plan of my own design.

You should never go out for a day or session of fishing without taking several spare leaders with you. You never know when you'll have to change a leader. Leaders get knotted up or impossibly hung up in tree limbs, or they just get so kinked they won't behave correctly. On windy days the wind can mysteriously tie knots in your leader too. You'll always need a leader when you don't have a couple of them tucked away in a vest pocket.

When I'm tying leaders I like to sit with a glass of adult beverage at hand and enjoy some quite time making (tying) leaders. Normally this quite time spent tying leader's only lasts until the adult beverages start to take affect then the difficulty of tying the special knots becomes greater than my ability.

At one time I attempted to tie flies; but everything I made looked like insects from hell so I gave it up and now I just buy them. I couldn't take the chance of using any of those ugly flies I had tied on real fish. Spending an entire day on the water casting to promising spots only to have the fish laugh at you; isn't my idea of fun.

Cleaning and fiddling with fly tackle can be relaxing, it's not as relaxing or as much fun as casting on a pond or lake with a chance of hooking up with some eager fish. I've spent days fishing, hour after hour and never saw ripple or scale; but I've never had a bad day fishing.

Anyone who casts a fly rod knows that half the pleasure in this form of fishing is making a perfect cast. Not every cast is perfect; there are all kinds of things that can interfere with a cast. Unlike other fishing rods and reels we're not casting the bait or lure, we are casting the fly line itself. From the moment you lift the line off the water, and fly touches down on the water; every part of the cast has to be perfect or at least as good as you can make it to end with a fish hooked.

The way most people picture a fly fisherman; he's standing in water wearing waders and he appears to be whipping the fly line back and forth in the air and then laying it out on the water. What most people don't understand is how much timing and skill is required to get that "whipping fly line" to behave just right and lay down on the water gently enough to mimic a near weightless insect lighting on the water.

There are men who can make that perfect cast, sending out every bit of the 90 feet of fly line and more. They can cast a fly and hit a specific target every time; unfortunately, I'm not one of them. As I said earlier I fish from a moving boat, with wind and water to contend with.

Because I mostly fish for largemouth bass I cast to almost impossible places, under the bushes lining the shore line, in-between logs and sticks. Largemouth bass are ambush predators that hide and attack from under bushes and in-between logs and weeds. These are all difficult spots to place a fly or popping bug especially when you have to cope with the wind and a moving boat. I spend a lot of time untangling my leader from tree limbs, bushes and weeds; not to mention those times when my line is entangled in my own feet.

Fishing with Phil

Out of thousands of casts I make, there are always a few that are perfectly placed. My bug or fly drops into a hot spot and triggers the fish to attack. Immediately the hook is set. It always amazes me that no matter how long I go without a strike, how automatic the strike reflex is once I feel that pull on the line.

Once the hook is set and the fight begins between man and fish; anything can happen. It's never a given that the fish will lose the fight and wind up in the boat; the tiny hook could pull free, the tippet could break, the fish could dive under limbs and logs and tie up your leader. Worst of all any of those things could be caused by you, in a moment of excitement or inattention and your fish is lost.

During the battle, if your opponent breaks the surface performing an aerobatic fish leap the day can't get better. How fitting it is that we are taught to lower the rod and slack the line when a fish leaps, they call it bowing to the fish; because it is an honor to see him fight that hard.

After the battle is over and you and fish are now face to face this is the time to remember him. All fish loose size from the time they are hooked until the time they are in hand. His fight is always bigger than his appearance. From the time the hook is set and the battle won; the fish may think its life or death but it's not. A strong fighting fish that is unharmed by the fight should be released. I'm not against eating them, but the released fish will come back another day and provide just as much or more fight the next time.

But right now all I can do is clean my equipment and dream about the next fishing adventure yet to come and those that have passed.

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