Fly-fishing 101: Remember, it’s fun
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
I can remember the sage words of a fishing pal of my father’s: “Trout fishing’s not difficult, but trout catching, now that’s something entirely different.” And he was right, of course. Catching a fish isn’t always easy, but the fun of fishing isn’t necessarily in the catching, which is why trout fishing with a flyrod should intimidate no one.
In Colorado, there’s opportunity for every angler, whether you prefer to fish with flies, bait or lures, to enjoy the sport. With basic equipment and proper instructions, much of which can be learned from books, just about anyone can be fly-fishing in no time. Truth be told, casting a flyrod isn’t as easy as casting a spinning rod, but even a beginner with some instruction and some practice should be able to cast a line reasonably well within a few hours.
Most of us began our fishing careers with something as simple as a cane pole and graduated to a spinning rod. A spinning rod is a formidable fishing weapon. From experience, I know that a couple of teenagers with ultralight spinning rods, some SuperDuper spoons and a handful of Mepps spinners, can just about clean out a trout stream. I moved on to fly-fishing because a friend who grew up fishing that way offered to teach me. That was more than 25 years ago and I’ve pretty much been a fly-fisherman ever since.
How fly-fishing differs from spin fishing is simple. In one you cast a lure and in the other you cast a line.
In spin fishing, you cast a lure that is attached to a thin monofilament line. Basically you have a rod, reel, line and lure. The line is threaded through the rod’s guides and then connected to a reel, which holds the line and is attached to the butt of the fishing rod. The lure has weight, which “loads” the rod to propel the lure (or bait attached to a hook) toward the spot in the water where you’re hoping a fish awaits. You might say the line is just along for the ride and is there to retrieve the lure.
When fly-fishing, it is the fly line that has weight, albeit not much and it’s what is cast. There are six primary components in a fly-fishing outfit: fly, tippet and leader, fly line, backing, reel and rod. The fly is virtually weightless. One end of a leader made of tapered monofilament is tied to the fly and the other end is tied to the fly line. Modern fly lines are constructed of very flexible plastics and have a much larger diameter than monofilament. The fly line, which is usually 90 feet long, is strung through the guides on the flyrod and then attached to “backing,” which is simply running line usually made of nylon, and the backing is attached to the reel. The line has enough weight to “load” the rod and propel the line. In this case, it is the fly that is along for the ride.
Flyrods are generally much longer than spinning rods. The length of a typical freshwater flyrod would be around 8 1/2 feet. Rods and lines come in various weights, and the weight of the fly line needs to match the weight of the flyrod. In spin fishing, you can put a 30-pound test line on an ultralight rod and reel and still be able to fish it, though I don’t know anyone who’d recommend doing that. In fly-fishing you need to be careful that the line weight matches the rod weight.
What size rod do you need? There is a simple rule of thumb: The smaller the fish you plan to catch, the lighter the rod; the larger the fish, the heavier the rod. If you’re going to fish for trout, which aren’t exactly piscatorial giants, then a 3- or 4-weight rod should work just fine.
If this sounds complicated, it’s really not ” especially if you have someone who can help you make the right choices. Go to a fly shop. There are several in your area and despite what you might have heard, the folks there are neither snooty nor pretentious. They aren’t going to sell you something that is wrong for you. Tell them what you can afford, what you plan to fish for and they’ll do their best to help you because it’s in their best interest to do so. They want you for a long-term customer. And if you have an addictive personality like me and like to buy gear, gadgets and just cool stuff, then they’ll come to love you.
You can get a basic outfit that is functional and serviceable for less than $200. You can spend less or you can spend more. The rule to remember is that you’ll get what you pay for.
The entire purpose of fly-fishing is to cast nearly weightless flies delicately to fish that don’t know you’re trying to catch them. For trout your flies are tied to realistically imitate small stream insects, which are primarily what trout feed upon. So how big are those flies? Well, pretend the question mark ending the preceding sentence is a hook. Some fl ies are that small. Thankfully, most are not and are 25 to 50 percent larger. Still, compared to bass plugs and lures, trout flies are tiny.
Think about it, it would be impossible to cast one of those tiny, delicate flies with any other kind of gear than a flyrod, which makes it perfect for matching the delicate presentation of a mayfly on the surface of the water.
If you’re wondering about fishing for other species such as bass, sunfish, pike or even saltwater stripers, the answer is, yes, fly-fishing is a great way to fish for them. While most identify fly-fishing with trout, you can very effectively use a flyrod to catch just about any kind of freshwater or saltwater fi sh that haunts shallow water. The difference is you simply need the right kind of rod, line, leader and fly. And remember, the fun isn’t in the catching but in the fishing.
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