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Fly fishing basics: Give it a try
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I grew up flyfishing for trout. I thought almost everyone fished for trout that way. Oh, I used worms & minnows beneath a bobber when Dad took us out pan fishing in the Delta or a local farmpond. But as far as trout were concerned, I never used anything but flies until I was in my late teens. There is a mystique that flyfishing is very difficult and takes years of practice. That’s a load of hogwash. Flyfishing is so easy, a child can do it.  Heck, if I can do it, anyone can do it. Let’s examine some of the basics of flyfishing.

The history of flyfishing goes back almost as far as recorded history itself. Writers in the time of Alexander the Great were describing flyfishing in detail. And Dame Juliana Berners wrote The Treatise of Fishing with an Angle in England before Columbus sailed for the New World. Modern flyfishing as we know it evolved in both Europe and America just after the U.S. Civil War.  Essentially the fly reel is simply a holder for the line and thus its simple technology made it almost universally available to rich and poor alike. Believe it or not, fly fishing was the sport of the masses until after World War I. As technology became more sophisticated new forms like bait casting reels and spinning reels became available. Thus it really wasn’t until after World War II that fly fishing fell into a minority status.

The mechanics of fly fishing are pretty easy to understand with the use of a simple example. To demonstrate how it works, you need a potato chip, a quarter and a cardboard box. Place the box on the floor with the top open, and walk to the far side of the room. Stand facing the box and try to toss the quarter into the box. With a little practice, you can toss a quarter into the box fairly easily. Now stand across the room and try to toss the potato chip in the box. Doesn’t work, does it? The potato chip is sort of like a trout fly, it’s very light in weight and has lots of surface area, and thus, lots of air resistance. You can’t throw potato chips.  

Since flies are light-weight things that don’t cast well, it is the weight of the heavy fly line that carries the fly to its destination. By contrast it is the weight of the heavy spinning lure that carries the light spinning line along with it. Spin fishing and flyfishing are the mechanical opposites of each other. Just picture the potato chip to help you keep it straight.

Now that I’ve got you thoroughly confused, let’s talk about flies. There are two basic kinds of flies, dry flies that float on the surface, and wet flies that sink. Sometimes the flyfishing snobs try to confuse things by claiming that there are all kinds of flies but that’s rubbish. Remember dry flies float, wet flies sink, its pretty simple. Everything else is some sort of variation of wet or dry flies.

Logically enough, bass flies are for catching bass, but they still break down into dry or wet, floating or sinking. Salt water flies are almost exclusively wet flies and universally sink down where the fish are.

O.K. Now we’ve got the theory covered how do you put it into practice? First, you can attend my free Basic Flyfishing class next Wednesday, May 20, at the Lathrop Library at 5 p.m. Then, if you like what you see, you can contact your local Fly Shop and they’ll connect you with the nearest Fly Fishing Club. Fly Clubs are a lot of fun, inexpensive and you meet some great people who’ll share their knowledge with you. If you can’t make my Basic Flyfishing next Friday in Lathrop, I’ll be offering a later one in Tracy that you can attend. Contact me for details at

Here are a couple other tips in basic flyfishing:

1. always wear polarized sunglasses, they greatly help reduce glare and increase your productivity.

2. always keep your rod tip up. Raise your tip as the fly floats toward you.

3. Keep the slack out of your line, so you can react faster and hook the fish.

4. Strike(set the hook) at the slightest hint of a fish. I call it Strike on Suspicion, or S.O.S. If you even suspect there’s a fish nearby, STRIKE.

5. Practice Catch & Release fishing most of the time. That way you can come back time after time and still enjoy great fishing.

Obviously, I can’t teach you flyfishing instantaneously, but try my free class, check with your fly shop and consult with a local fly club. Fly fishing is easy, and a heck of a lot of fun.

Until Next Week,
Tight Lines