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January 17th, 2000

Welcome to Fly-fishing
By James Castwell

Spring is on the way and you are you are going to become a fly-fisher. Great! Welcome to the greatest recreation you could ever pick for yourself. You may break your first fly rod if you don't read this whole column. At least in my humble opinion. I will presume you have done some fishing before, like for panfish or something requiring a bait-caster, or a spinning rod. Most of us got started that way. I remember when I got into fishing. The whole adventure was great fun. Then it was fun and the fish were a bonus, free food. Next came how many and how big, but it was still fun; perhaps a challenge too. And then it happened . . .

Sportsmanship! The idea that if I could catch fish with a fly rod I would be a real 'Sportsman.' Well, I did it, and now I am one. Have been for a longer time than I care to remember. Worth it? Aw, you bet it is. You are embarking on a venture that will stay with you the rest of your life. The things you learn will affect many facets of what you do even when you are not fishing. Responsibilities, ethics, stewardship, all kinds of stuff. All good. It will cost exactly what you are able to spend on it, always. You get rich, you will have very expensive toys. If not, you will have very good equipment that doesn't cost anywhere as much. It is a self-limiting thing. Sure some of the high-end toys do cast a bit easier perhaps, but right now, just get something you are proud enough to keep clean and oiled, wiped down, and taken care of when it is not being used. The decisions ahead of you will be a challenge in themselves. For instance, you may have a buddy who will recommend things. He may not really know squat, but, heck how will you know? And he may defend some goofy choice he made in the past, not wanting to look like he made a bad one. Could happen.

Or this. It seems like every new fly-fisher has an uncle who has been doing it for years. In fact probably at least thirty years. Everybody knows he is an expert at it. Common knowledge. The truth may be he has had one years experience thirty times, or really thirty years experience? How are you going to know? Big problem.

The rest fall into the 'well-intentioned-but-misinformed' group, trust me, they are out there. The exception to all of the above would be the shop owner more interested in profit than your personal welfare, if you know what I mean. There are a few of them too. And finally there are magazines with adds and stories and web-sites like this one. All trying to help you get started. Good luck, enjoy it.

I do hope you do not squander you bucks though. I mean, don't buy the cheapest thing you can find to see if you like it; unless you are very rich and can afford to throw money away, because that is what you will be doing. Kinda like buying a square bowling ball that is on sale cheap to see if you like the game. Just doesn't cut it at all. I will offer this so when you are ready you may not break your first fly rod quite so fast.

Oh yes, want to know what breaks more rods than anything? Think you already know? Wrong, not car doors, not car trunks, ex-wives, kids, stepping on them, nope, none of those. It's 'slack line.' Yup, remember you read it here first, 'SLACK LINE.' Think back a bit to hooking a nice fish on your spinning gear. You reared back and really set the hook. Why? Because the tip of the spinning rod when you only lifted it up in the air did nothing, you had to darn near point the rod behind you to really put some pressure on the fish. Why? Because you has some slack line between the rod tip and the fish. All raising the rod did was to take out the slack. The rod did not really bend down at the thick part until you had nearly doubled it into a hoop.

My friend, fly rods won't take that! None of them will. If you do it, it will break! So, what do you do to keep that from happening? Keep the rod tip down close to the water as low and as often as you can. When a fish hits, only raise the rod a little, there won't be much slack line to take out. With the rod low and pointed just above the fish you can bend the rod at it's thick part without endangering the rod. I have seen far too many new guys blow a rod by not doing it that way. And they then think the rod was defective. They always have done it that way before, right? Ya, but not with a fly rod!

Ok, there you are now. You're all set to buy the right fly rod, know how to use it a bit, and be known as a fly-fisherman. Congratulations, and welcome to the sport. ~ JC

Till next week, remember ...

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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