On the fly: New-school fishing?
July 25, 2012
ASPEN – I had to laugh at my Times colleague Andre’s tribute to “old-school fishing” in this space Wednesday. He essentially poked fun at expensively outfitted fly fishers and extolled the virtues of “lazy-man fishing” replete with beer, worms and fried chicken. Hey, don’t forget the bobber.
While it’s true I don’t have a free hand to eat chicken while I fly fish, I avoid finger-lickin’-good food when I’ve been fingering slimy worms anyway.
Growing up, though, I was devoted to spin fishing (so named for the gear involved). As kids, we watered the lawn so we could hunt nightcrawlers after dark. But I gave up my only remaining spin rod when I moved to the Roaring Fork Valley and devoted myself to a passion I shared with my father, who fly fished with his father.
It’s not exactly a new-school pursuit. Fishing with artificial flies apparently dates back more than 400 years in Japan, and most fly-fishing enthusiasts have heard of “The Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle,” published in 1496 and generally credited to an Englishwoman, Dame Juliana Berners. I’ve actually read it (transcribed into modern English). It champions the sport of fishing and even describes different flies to be used at various times of the season.
For the most part, I’d have to agree that one can catch as many fish with worms as with flies, and probably more, though live bait isn’t permitted on the rivers I generally fish. But which is the more noble pursuit?
Fly-fishing, of course.
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I say this because it’s what I love, not because it’s trendy, more expensive or more challenging, though it is arguably all of those things. Even Andre conceded that one would have to be completely inept to get skunked with his setup at the inlet to Ruedi Reservoir, one of his favored fishing holes.
For me, it’s the thrill of seeing a trout rise to the perfectly placed fly, on the perfect cast. It’s waiting for the strike that might or might not result as a lunker looks over my offering. Then there’s the matter of timing in setting the hook. Once caught, the trout may dive, make a beeline for the current or leap spectacularly. With a barbless hook on the fly, it will escape about half of the time.
When it comes to fishing, I’m an elitist, just like Andre.