This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

April 5th, 2004

Isn't It Great

There isn't a day that goes by when I don't marvel at the complexity of fly fishing or the amazing variety of people who take it up as not just a hobby - but as though it were a 'calling.'

By that I don't mean in any way that fly fishing is above any other method, to each his own - but it does seem the people who are attracted, then enamored, then consumed with the fly fishing adventure are of a different or special mind set.

Reading our email or the various topics on the Bulletin Board brings this to mind each day. Opinions vary of course, with age, time of the water, and exposure to a variety of fishing experiences. Some never fish outside their home waters, so they have no frame of reference about other fisheries or methods (which doesn't mean they can't or don't have an opinion of course.) - and some people who will tell you they have been fishing for 10 years (put whatever number of years in which fits) really don't have 10 years experience. What they do have is one years experience for 10 years. These tend to be the folks who don't understand hatches or the importance of knowing their local insects, think anyone who is distance casting is either a show-off or nuts, and their favorite rod is the same one they started out with.

Nothing wrong with whatever rod one starts out with (I still have one of my first rods though I haven't had it out of it's case for many years) - but usually as your experience and ability with the long rod improves you also recognize the need (or want) for better equipment. Sometimes that is also affected by fishing new and different waters where a larger or smaller rod would be advantageous.

Here at Fly Anglers OnLine (FAOL) one of our goals is to provide the best information we can - which gives our readers the ability to broaden their fishing experiences. The trout anglers who has never fished for any of the terrific panfish available in most parts of this country has no right to look down on the folks who fish for panfish - and perhaps ought to realize that over half of the United States does not have any trout fishing within a reasonable day's drive.

Those nose-in-the-air "purists" should be forced to spend some years where trout fishing is an interesting concept, just not a regional reality.

Conversely, those panfishers who believe trout fishing - or dry fly fishing is 'easy' are in for a big surprise. Those comments usually come from people who have never fished for nor caught a trout in their lives. Or at best have fished stocked waters right behind the stocking truck.

I've read comments about bass, bluegills, carp saying they don't eat insects.

Let's take a serious look at what any stream, pond, lake or river has for food for fish. What do fish eat? A big brown trout eats smaller trout or any fish it finds. They also eat insects, crawfish, frogs and snails. Smaller trout do too. How about bass? Bass eat smaller fish, insects, (including nymphs) frogs, crawfish and snails. Bluegills? Ditto. Carp? Ditto. Duh.

Water only contains a certain amount of food. Fish are opportunists - they eat what is eatable. They are also conservationists of energy. They can't expend more energy than the food they eat gives them. They must eat or they die.

What about all those bright colored 'attractor-type' flies for bass? Or trout? What do they represent? Probably not food. They most certainly will however catch fish at one time or another. There are thousands of flies, all of which work for some fish, somewhere, sometimes.

Do fish strike to protect a territory? Of course. But not all the time. Will they chase something just because the something is 'running away?' Sure. That's what the fast retrieve is all about.

Something else to put in your data base.

With the huge variety of flies available, (because of my personal bias I'm leaving dry flies out of this) and the different methods of retrieving the wet fly, think about what the fish actually sees. The fish is not looking at the fly as if it were holding still and the fish could inspect it closely. The fly is moving. The fish is probably moving. What the fish sees is an impression of something which might be food. If the shape, size and coloration sparks something in the fishes primal recognition system the fish 'takes' the fly.

I must admit I only really understood this concept after reading A Perfect Fish, Illusion in Fly Tying, by Ken Abrames about 5 years ago. (The review is in our Book Review section - and should be in your library if you tie or not). The point is, as old as I am, I am still learning. I don't know everything, nor will I ever live long enough to know everything about fly fishing. In fact, just when I think I've got one little aspect of it down, someone throws a curve ball. Different water, different fish - different insects or bait. You could add to that different climate or conditions. Just for fun add a dandy wind. (Hmmm, how good did you say your casting is?)

I have great respect for all kinds of fly fishing. I've fished with a bait casting rig, spinning gear, heavy boat rods for big blue water fish, and still, the absolute favorite for me is fly fishing. I'm very fond of dry flies on moving water - but that isn't always available here. The fact is it's several hours drive one-way to exercise that preference. That doesn't mean I won't fish for whatever is available here. Nor do I think those who don't share my preferences aren't really fly fishermen either.

Fly fishing is a huge entity. There is room for anyone who wants to take it up - in any way they find enjoyment. We can all have our 'favorites' and claim them for ourselves. . .and leave room for those who fish for different fish in different ways, tie flies in a different manner or build rods for special situations. We probably won't be able to experience even a portion of all the variations available in several lifetimes.

Isn't it great? ~ The LadyFisher

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