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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.