Trav

January 5th, 2009

Back to Basics
By Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona

Since some of our readers may have received fly-fishing gear for Christmas and since it is a new year I thought that it might be appropriate to review some of the basics of the sport.

First, we will start with some definitions:

Sport — an active pastime participated in for pleasure or exercise. Please note that fly-fishing is defined as a sport; therefore it is something that one participates in for pleasure — [i.e.] enjoyment, satisfaction, gratification, etc. Note that none of those synonyms make any reference to competition, one-upmanship, anger, annoyance, irritation, etc. If, while engaged in the sport of fly-fishing, you find that your main motivation is nothing short of fun sell your gear and take up golf.

Fishing — catching fish. The object of fly-fishing is to catch a fish. Everything else is really ancillary. This includes, but is not limited to, casting, tying flies, rowing a drift boat, bragging, cussing, lying, or any associated activity. What you do with the fish after you catch it also has nothing to do with the basic definition. If you are fishing you must be trying to catch a fish otherwise you are just casting.

Fly-fishing — to fish using a lure resembling a fly. Understand that definition has been stretched to include lures that resemble fish, worms, crustaceans, amphibians, and many other things that have no direct correlation to anything found in God's creation. When I started fly-fishing a fly was defined as something made from fur, feathers and steel, but today many modern flies have no fur or feathers involved in their construction. Even the steel in some hooks might be suspect. In some states the law defines what constitutes fly-fishing so check your local regulations for clarification.

So, if you are a fly-fisher you are engaged in a sporting activity that involves catching fish using a lure resembling a fly. From this point things get complicated.

Much is made of the various brands of fly-fishing equipment, and if we are honest about it most modern equipment is of equal quality. The only real difference is how much you are willing to spend to achieve the same results. At risk of offending some of my brothers of the angle many tackle purchases are based more on ego value than fishing value.

A fly rod is a specifically designed instrument used to allow e fly-fisher to deliver [cast] a fly to a desired spot. It should be noted that flies can be cast with rods not specifically designed for that purpose, but the results are seldom pretty.

Fly rods have been constructed of various materials from steel, yes steel, greenheart, ash, oak, bamboo, fiberglass, graphite, boron, and any combination of those and other materials. Some like bamboo, some like graphite, and it really is a matter of preference. I have some old fiberglass sticks that I think cast better than rods made with the latest miracle material, but that's a matter of personal inclination. It really doesn't matter what material is used to construct the rod but whether the rod will do what it was designed to accomplish, to whit; deliver the fly to a desired target.

Now I know that the fly rod must not only deliver the fly to the desired target but that it must also allow the angler to control the cast, hook and land the fish. In my years of experience I have yet to use a modern fly rod of any reputable manufacturer that would not accomplish all the necessary functions. Again the fly rod that you use is a matter of personal choice. Boron, graphite, bamboo, or fiberglass, if it does the job use it.

Fly reel — a device used to store the fly line. Unlike other types of fishing the fly line is not cast 'from the reel' so the basic fly reel is much less complex than reels used for other types of angling. Some reels used for salt water angling where the angler is attempting to catch tuna, tarpon, and such things are more complex, but for the average angler a far simpler model will suffice. Like fly rods, the choice of a fly reel is a personal choice. Preferably it should be relatively light weight, and have the ability to allow the angler to use it with either hand. Beyond those two simple requirements any reel made by a reputable manufacturer should prove more than adequate.

Fly line — a core of some material covered with a plastic coating of varying thickness and weight. Originally fly lines were made from such interesting material as horsehair and silk, but today modern fly lines are constructed of manmade materials. Modern fly lines are designed to float, float partially submerged, sink — slowly or quickly — and some have tips that sink while the rest of the line floats. There are several reputable manufacturers of fly lines, and like rods and reels what one you purchase is a matter of personal choice.

Leader — a piece of material usually made of nylon or a similar material that is tapered from butt to tip, and is used for attaching the fly line to the fly. Like rods and lines the original leader material was horsehair and then silk gut. Modern leader materials have many advantages over those materials, and like rods and reels what brand you use a matter of personal preference.

What I have endeavored to accomplish in this simple piece is to convey the knowledge distilled from over 50 years of experience. Good equipment is not necessarily the most expensive. Equipment used for fly-fishing is really quite basic; a long, more or less limber stick used to cast a piece of string covered with a plastic coating that has attached to the end a piece of nylon material to which is attached an artificial fly. You can spend a hundred bucks to buy the basic equipment or you can spend several thousand just for a rod or reel.

So I leave you with this thought: Whether your outfit costs a hundred bucks or several thousand it still is nothing more than a stick, string and a hook. I had a similar outfit when I was about 5 years old. A willow stick, a piece of string, and a hook, and I've never owned an outfit that made me more proud. ~ The Chronicler

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