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“Why fly fishing?” is a question I hear quite often from non-angling friends and acquaintances. The effusive answer can go on for hours but simply comes down to the fact that I like it. The practical answer is that in many situations fly fishing can be much more effective than using other methods and fishing tackle.
The Mystique of Fly Fishing
To many who know little or nothing about it, fly fishing is somewhat enigmatic. Indeed when a close look is taken at the history of fly fishing it was for centuries regarded as the sport of the upper classes. The belief that fly fishing is more difficult to master than other forms of fishing is fairly persistent. There are even those who will go so far as to say that the use of certain styles of flies don’t even qualify as fly fishing in their view. Though idealistic, these attitudes still exist in some circles within certain fly fishing fraternities.
The elitist attitude of some fly fishermen is waning as more and more anglers discover fly fishing. The truth is that fly fishing is no more difficult to learn than most other styles of fishing with rod and reel. The romanticizing of fly fishing by tackle manufacturers is little more than a marketing technique to get consumers to spend more money much like ads for luxury cars. In truth fly fishing does hold a certain allure, then again so does practically any other form of fishing with rod and reel.
The Practicality of Fly Fishing
When we take away the mystique that surrounds fly fishing and look at it from a practical fishing standpoint the usefulness of the fly rod becomes obvious. Fishing tackle manufacturers offer anglers a wide variety of hardware, terminal tackle, rods, reels, lures and other frills. Each of these items has a specific circumstance where it is better suited than other items. This is absolutely true of fly tackle.
Admittedly there are those anglers, myself included, who will use a fly rod over other more practical forms of fishing tackle in many situations. There are certain situations and fish species, however, where fly fishing is the most productive choice for catching fish. After all catching fish is the first enticement for those who practice it.
Delicate presentation, delivery of tiny flies and the ability to lift a fly from the water at a distance are all practical situations where fly rodding surpasses all other forms of fishing.
In situations where gamefish are feeding in extremely shallow water the use of fly rod and fly can excel over all other forms of delivery. Instinctively when fish venture in to very shallow water they become wary of predators. The presentation of a large, heavy bait can create noise and splash that will send a wary fish for cover. This is where a fly presented delicately to the fish really excels. Saltwater flats fishing is a perfect example yet this situation can occur in any shallow water.
Fishing saltwater flats can sometimes be tricky because of the heightened awareness toward predators of fish in very shallow water. The instinct to flee at the first sign of danger is heightened in shallow water fish due to exposure. Any amount of noise in close proximity to the fish can trigger the instinct to flee. A large fly that weighs less than a quarter ounce is much less likely to spook a wary fish than a lure weighing one or two ounces. The fly can be placed closer to the fish than the lure offering a better chance the fish will see and take the bait.
Delivering Tiny Flies to Gamefish
Obviously trout are the most often sought after species of fish with a fly rod; this is not just a coincidence. Trout feed most often on small food organisms such as aquatic insects and invertebrates. Matching these food organisms is best done with small and sometimes even miniscule flies. Much like the delivery of a large, light-weight fly to saltwater flats species the physical laws that govern the principals of fly rod casting make it the best choice for this situation.
Trout are not the only fish that will selectively feed on small insects. Several years ago while fishing the drop along a shallow flat on a Texas lake a fishing partner and I spotted several fish actively feeding in the shallows. Attempts to bring strikes were futile using an array of conventional bass lures. When we finally did land one of these largemouth bass it regurgitated dragonfly larva while being handled. Try as we might the next two hours yielded only frustration.
I returned the next day to find bass feeding in the same location. Using a fly rod and reasonable imitation of the dragonfly larva present I landed so many bass I lost count. Most were modest in size but a few tipped the scales at well over four pounds each.
Long Distance Pick-up and Quick Delivery
Most anglers who have spent much time on the water have encountered a situation where being able to quickly pick-up and redeliver a bait is advantageous. With conventional tackle the retrieval of a cast lure requires fast cranking in order to get the lure redelivered. This is another situation where fly tackle surpasses conventional fishing tackle.
Fish will often position along a certain structure such as a shallow bank or beyond a weed line while feeding. The ability to get a fly in and out of the strike zone quickly is definitely and advantage when this happens, especially when fishing time is limited.
Bass, trout or pike positioned in aquatic vegetation such as lily pads are easily and quickly reached with a well presented fly. The need to drag a lure through the vegetation and clean it often is eliminated with the use of fly tackle. Used on a floating line even a subsurface fly can be lifted from considerable distance and quickly recast.
These are just a few of the situations where fly tackle can excel. Like the bass angler who has a rod for each type of lure he expects to use, try a fly rod for those special situations. You may just be surprised at how effective fly fishing can be.