When I was younger, I had no real understanding of fly fishing. And when I get questions about it now that I’m a fly fisherman myself, I see that those same misunderstandings are still as strong as ever in the non-fly fishing crowd. In the past two months I’ve had more than one non fly fisherman tell me that they thought the whole point behind the casting back and forth over the water was to make the fish think it was a bug flying around so that they would want to eat it. And I think a lot of these misconceptions are what keep many fisherman from picking up a fly rod in the first place… They don’t even understand what it is.
Fly fishing is what you make it. And there’s no right or wrong way to do it. I explained to a friend a while back that there was no way that he could cast a weightless dry fly with his spinning rod. That the weight of the fly line and the energy stored in the bend of the rod was what enabled you to get the line to shoot, and something as small as a single miniscule feather tied to a hook with a couple wraps of thread out and to a target. That was the point behind the fly rod and the heavy, colored fly line. And most importantly… It’s not just for Trout!
The whole conversation had me assessing everything to do with the differences between spin fishing and fly fishing. The conclusion I’ve come to is the differences are what YOU make them. Make it all too complicated, and you may frighten away many of your peers that are considering trying it out. So let’s dissect what we’re really doing.
We’re casting a fly to where we think a fish is. But a fly doesn’t necessarily mean a tiny dry fly that you want to drift with the current to imitate the other bugs, the “hatch” at that moment. There is a movement in fly fishing of anglers who consider themselves purists. They believe in nothing but dry fly and traditional nymph fishing. And to them, that’s what fly fishing is. And to them, I say that’s great. They know what they like and believe, and it makes them happy.
Then you have streamer fishermen. Flies that imitate bait fish, worms, leeches, crayfish, anything that isn’t a dry fly or a nymph. They tie them with nothing but feathers on hooks, they tie in lead dumbbell eyes or lead thread for weight, and modern materials are making them the soft equivalent to the Rapala lures you cast with your spin gear. And once the cast is over, you fish them the same way. They jerk, they twitch, and they swim. They bump the bottom or cruise just below the surface. Except it’s all with a fly rod. The graceful cast is the difference.
It all gets blurry. Why do you call a large streamer tied with lead dumb bell eyes and 6 different types of flashy materials a fly? Because it’s cast on a fly rod? It’s not a “fly” like the tiny dry flies Trout sip off the surface, some of these streamers are being tied 6 to 7 inches long or more and cast on huge 10wt and 12wt fly rods for Huge fish in both fresh and salt water. It’s big, and it has as much lead weight on it as let’s say a buck tail jig on the end of a spinning rod. But the fly angler would most likely be offended by the angler that had such disregard for ”how it’s done” when they saw him tying a buck tail jig onto the end of their “tippet”, which in many instances is nothing more than some mono or fluorocarbon line, but they call it tippet, because they’re using it on a fly rod.
If you have a hook with a lead head molded to the hook, it’s a jig. But if you have a hook with the same amount of lead in the shape of eyes that’s tied to the hook, it’s a fly. Arguments ensue, lines are blurred to the point of confusion and frustration to those looking in from the outside and wondering where to start. Instead of everyone being a fisherman, everyone debates who is doing it right, who’s doing it wrong, and just how to justify what is right or wrong seems hard to clear up.
The simple fact is it’s what you make it. I say tie on what you like and cast. Go explore new waters. Catch fish. Make memories. And introduce new people to fly fishing the easy way…By not complicating it. Don’t tell them what fly fishing is. Teach them to cast, then show them that they can put whatever they want on the end and make it what they want it to be, not what someone else tells them it is. I might be looked upon as unconventional. And I like it. The moral? SIMPLY FISH.