There had been the usual early instruction on twirling a fly-rod and reel — from Dave Richey, the late Detroit News outdoor writer and teammate, as well as from the Orvis staff during an all-day seminar nearly 30 years ago. But a brush-up was mandatory as I got ready for a Manitoba adventure, with northern pike the intended target.
It spurred a call to Orvis in Royal Oak for a session with one of their aces, Jason Davis.
And it helped mightily.
The allure of fly-fishing is that It’s a more personal sensation. Using the weight of the line (generally a braided line coated in a synthetic) rather than the weight of the lure to toss something delectable a fish’s way; flipping the rod back and forth two or three times, stripping and adding line, keeping the sequence in reasonable rhythm, then shooting it 40 feet or so onto the water as the fly sinks and draws a fish, hopefully with an appetite.
Then, the fun, unique to fly-fishing:
You hold the line against the rod with your index finger, and pull in line with your opposite hand. With pike during last month’s trip, the trick was to retrieve in short, six-inch bursts to imitate a swimming or wounded baitfish.
When the fish hits and is hooked, you hand-line it, giving or taking slack with that opposite (in my case, left hand) and not bothering with the reel unless the fish is big enough to haul plenty of line and get into the “backing” — braided dacron, for example, which fills the reel beyond the 30 yards of polymer-coated line.
Of course, you can fly-fish for any species. It’s a terrific way to land not only trout, but panfish, especially bluegills.
If it appears overwhelming, it isn’t, which is the first takeaway from classes that nearly all the high-profile fishing shops offer.
Orvis offers for beginners Fly Fishing 101 classes, which are free, and Fly Fishing 202 for a modest charge (call 248-542-5700 for further information).
Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops also offer classes, as does Trout Unlimited, which last month sponsored a three-day class in Traverse City (future information available from coordinator Scott Smith at 517-442-2926).
Anyone can get into the basics of using a fly rod, as well as simple knot-tying. From these classes, a person’s fishing experience can change dramatically in something close to a life-altering way.
Give it a try.