Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

May 22nd, 2000

Secrets of Fly Fishing

Eating and sex are probably the most recognized as instant gratification . . .even those two take some time. In my mind it seems many in fly fishing expect it to also be instant gratification. Well, it isn't. If you expect it to be you have missed it.

FAOL is a superb source of information for fly fishers. The intent and purpose of this website is two-fold: to provide good, honest information, and reestablish the fraternity of fly fishers. It will not make you an instant expert.

Some years ago, starting in the 1960's, there was a burst of information (even before the internet information highway) with a virtual explosion of books promising to make you an instant expert on fly fishing. Read this book and you know it all! That wasn't true then either.

Everyone is busy, there are demands on our time. We sometimes desperately need to get away from everything. Fly fishing and/or tying can do that. Time spent on the water or at the tying bench is instant gratification in that sense. For many it is the 'unplug' from the everyday world which assails us. Fiddling with tying materials, sorting hooks, mundane acts accomplished without even putting a hook in the vise can do it. Just getting on or into the water can do the trick. Actual fishing or tying is a step out of the world and into one's self.

If you could take a pill which would make you an expert, where you absolutely knew everything there was to know about either fly fishing or tying, would you?

Chances are if you have been fly fishing for more than twenty minutes the answer is no. But there are those in our sport who buy their equipment, including a handful of flies which they have no idea what they represent, hit a stream and are absolutely bent out of shape because they didn't catch a fish. That does happen! And of course, since in our current society no one is responsible for his own actions, it has to be the fault of the shop where they bought their gear. Didn't sell them the 'right' stuff. It certainly isn't their fault they know nothing about the insects, leaders, reading the water, casting, currents, drift, mending of line, or habits of the fish and the food they eat. No way! They want, and truly expect instant gratification!

Get real.

I've been at fly fishing a very long time, and being older than dirt I'm old enough to be mother or heavens forbid grandmother to some of you. I don't know it all, I am still learning and am actively trying to learn.

Most 'real' fly fishers are still working at it too. Even if you get one stretch of water doped out just try another stream or a different hatch. Think you know a particular fish really well? Wait until someone invites you to try their favorite fishery. The challenge is always right there.

For me one of the great things about fly fishing is I will never know it all. It is the step-by-step learning experience that makes it. I got a neat little true story from Steve Southard at the Fly Factory in Grayling Michigan today. He and his wife were fishing a wonderful Hendrickson hatch on the AuSable and he wasn't catching fish. He tried several different Hendrickson patterns and got nothing but flat refusals. His wife waded up to him and said, " you might try the blue-winged olives which are hatching." Steve was so involved trying to catch fish on the larger Hendrickson what he hadn't noticed the smaller BWO's. He put on a BWO and caught fish.

The learning experience here? Just because you have a great hatch it may not be the hatch of choice for the fish! Never forget to be observant.

And so it goes, for those new to fly fishing, the instant gratification is not hooking fish. That is the icing on the cake. Do the walk. Take the time to learn more about all of it - not just expect someone to hand you all the secrets. You can help yourself by reading the articles here, and starting your own fly fishing library. There are some excellent books, including many of the older ones. (Check the book review section on FAOL too, we make a point of NOT reviewing bad or misleading books.) We still buy fly fishing books!

The secrets of fly fishing? The secret is, there are no secrets! You just have to go out and do it. ~ LadyFisher

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