Friday, November 12, 2010

Interest and effort the most important ingredients of fly fishing

The author battles a Sarasota Bay pompano on fly rod while standing in his Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5 kayak
I've been fly fishing for more than 45 years and more than 20 in salt water.
I started out fly fishing for bluegill and other panfish while growing up in Ohio. I began concentrating on the sport after I moved to Florida in 1971.
For the most part, I concentrated on fresh water, casting popping bugs to bluegill. I really enjoyed catching bluegills on fly rod and still do.
The only reason I didn't fly fish in the salt is that there were no fly shops in Sarasota and certainly no equipment. I did, however, catch my first tarpon on fly in 1976. I caught my first snook a couple of years later. Since then, I've caught tarpon to 165 pounds, snook to 20, redfish to 15, spotted seatrout to 5, Spanish mackerel to 7 1/2, jack crevalle, cobia, bonefish, permit, pompano, bluefish, ladyfish, flounder, barramundi, amberjack, gag grouper and a variety of other species.
While I'm certainly not the best fly caster around, I do cast well enough to catch plenty of fish. I've won a number of fly-fishing tournaments over the years.
I've long wondered why fly casting is so difficult for so many people? I've come to the conclusion it's for a number of reasons. First, many people feel they can pay for a couple of lessons and become proficient without having to really work at it.
My belief is that success of lack thereof in fly casting is directly proportional to the amount of time, effort and interest a beginner has in the sport. If someone wants to be a good fly caster, he certainly will become one if he really wants to do it and dedicates his time to it.
I gave a lesson to a prominent Sarasota real estate broker and her boyfriend a few years back. It was quickly apparent neither would succeed easily. They struggled throughout the hour of instruction. Finally, I asked, "So, tell me, what's your interest in fly casting?
"Oh, we're going to Islamorada next week to fly fish for bonefish!"
They were headed for the Bonefish Capital of Florida and thought they'd be successful after one lesson.
No way.
I take a lot of fly fisher fishing. Some are decent. Some fair. And a lot of them struggle. Most are from the north and have been fly fishing small streams for trout for many years. Long casts aren't required on those streams. In fact, a cast is rarely required.
I call what they do "fly flipping" rather than fly casting. They flip the fly 15 to 20 feet upstream and let it then float with the current.
When they get out on the saltwater flats, 15 to 20 feet is all they can muster.
You don't have to cast 100 feet to be successful in the salt. If you can make an accurate 50-foot cast, you're in business. And a 50-foot cast is quite easy.
But casting 50 feet for many clients is something that has proven to be quit difficult.
There are those who can cast 80, 90 or 100 feet with no problem whatsoever. However, they have no clue when it comes to fly fishing.
Sure, you have to learn to cast a fly before you can actually fish with a fly rod. But fly casting and fly fishing are two separate endeavors.
Once you learn how to cast, you then have to learn how to fish.
What flies to use?
What lines?
You also have to learn to tie a few knots, how to attach backing to a reel, fly line to backing, butt leader to fly line and many other things.
You have to learn to double haul, roll cast, sidearm cast and accurately cast into tight spots.
And don't forget you have to learn all about the species you're seeking.
I've seen anglers who can cast 100 feet, but can't catch fish. They have no idea how to fish. They can cast, yet they can't fish.
I place more emphasis on fishing than casting. If you can cast 50 feet accurately and know how to fish, you're well ahead of the curve.
I had a guy out this past summer who could cast 80 feet with ease. I'd point out a snook 20 feet away, and he'd cast 80 feet.
Every time.
I truly believe you're either born and angler or you're not. There are born musicians and artists.
I can't carry a tune or draw a straight line.
But I can catch fish.
And that's what I was born to do.

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