Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

April 13th, 1998

Just do it!

Women who make the decision to fly fish have some disadvantages. Don't get upset, it is just the way things are. Most of us have not grown up playing baseball. That has to do with the throwing motion.

Neither men nor women have much experience in throwing things behind them. That is an un-natural movement for anyone. It is part of being a fly-caster . . .throwing the line, (casting) behind you. And not just back - but back and up.

With a body conscious society, more women work out. Running, walking, aerobic classes or other health club exercise routines. Fly casting is mostly developing a sense of timing. Not much physical strength is required for fishing lakes and streams with small rods.

Salt water fishing, for salmon, bone fish, and bigger blue water fish like permit and tarpon can require casting heavier rods and lines. You will need to develop some upper body strength to do well at those. Steelhead require larger rods, as do stripers and redfish.

"Youze pays yer money and youze takes your cherce," as the old saying goes. In this case, you have to start somewhere. Let's hope it is with smaller rather than bigger rods.

You can learn to cast on your own. I don't recommend it. There are lots of good books and videos on the market. But getting up to speed takes time. The best idea is to take a class. Prices of classes and schools vary, but the bottom line is you will save a couple of years of frustration by taking a good class.

How do you find a good instructor, class or school? The Federation of Fly Fishers, (FFF) headquarters in Bozeman Montana, has a list of certified instructors all over the United States. There are some located in Canada as well as other parts of the world. A phone call will get you information on your region. You can reach the FFF at: 406-585-7592.

One of the local fly shops giving lessons? Ask for phone numbers of their former students. And call them. A reputatable casting instructor will always be glad to furnish references. Most quality classes will provide all equipment. If you have a friend or relative who seems to be able to put a fly where they want it, ask them to teach to how to cast. (Unless you have a marriage truely made in heaven, I don't recommend asking your husband or significant other.)

You need to have your own equipment after you have been through a class. Not a cast-off, "Here honey, this rod will work for you." Trust me, it won't. If it did "HE" would still be using it. That goes for waders too. Truth be known, I divorced my first husband . . . and many years later my oldest daughter said, "Hey mom, did you always get the leaky waders?"

"Only while I was married to your father," was my response. "Castwell makes sure my waders don't leak - either pair." Castwell is my husband of nearly twenty-five years. Part of the reason the marriage works so well is that we have a shared interest in fly fishing. And enough mutual respect for each other that we each have our own gear. I'm not a second class fly fisher, and I bloody well don't expect him to be either. None of our waders leak. Now. But that's another story.

It is very important for you to have your own fly rod. Again what brand or size or weight will depend on what you want to fish for. The most common rod for streams will be a four or five weight. If you need to purchase just one rod for several different fishing situations, I would recommend a six-weight.

Talk to your casting instructor. If the instructor works for a fly shop, be a little wary. Sometimes fly shops are anxious to sell what they have too many of, not what you need. Visit more than one store before you buy.

Never, never ever, buy a fly rod you have not cast. Any reputable shop will take you outside with the rod and a matched line and let you cast the rod. If the shop you try won't do that, say "Thanks," and leave.

After our students have learned basic casting, we have them, "Walk The Plank." They don't get wet, but it is a baptism of sorts. We lay out a dozen or so of everything from very cheap, modest, mid-range, to expensive fly rods, all the same weight with identical lines for them to cast. When they have done that, (all with six-weight rods) they have a better idea of the differences in rods. Even an idea of what feels good to them. Which rods are less work, easier to cast - and work best for them. "Walking the Plank" really is effective.

Another way to try out all kinds of equipment, and cast all the major fly rods is to go to a sports shows. Every major city has one, and some regional shows specialize in fishing. It's a great opportunity to pick up tips from professionals in the fly fishing world too. Some shows have classes and demonstrations that are free for the watching.

Your local fly shop can be another source of information. They should have a calendar of regional shows. Fly shops should know if there is a local fly anglers group, plus where and when it meets. It might be a Trout Unlimited or FFF group. Some of these have breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings with great programs. Or maybe a bunch of folks that get together and tie flies. That's another whole world.

Several groups in our area meet on a regular basis. They share where they have been, what worked, and how to get there. One local bunch puts a couple of family fishing outings together every year. Great fun! There is a group which raises trout to release in a local lake. Another raises - and releases - salmon. Neat stuff.

If you want to learn fly fishing, join one of these groups for a year. Attend their meetings. Get involved. Fly anglers are the finest group of people with whom I have had the pleasure to be associated. Dear hearts and gentle people.

You never know who you might meet. Did I mention I met Castwell on the main branch of Michigan's AuSable River one summer evening waiting for the evening hatch? ~ LadyFisher

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