Fly fishing

From Academic Kids

Fly fishing is an ancient and distinct angling method, developed primarily for salmonids (trout and salmon, mostly) and now extended to other species such as pike, bass, and carp, as well as a wide range of marine species. Artificial flies are constructed — "tied" onto a hook with thread, fur, feathers and other materials — in sizes and colours to match naturally occurring food or simply to excite a fish. Fly rods are relatively light and long while the lines are relatively heavy, providing the casting weight. Lines may be tapered and of differing densities to float or sink and are matched to the rod according to weight. The fly itself can weigh very little and is normally attached to the line by a 2-3 meter leader which may taper to a very fine line at the tip end, also called the tippet.

Records of fishing with a fly go back to Ancient Greece when it was common to catch fish on a hook dressed with red yarn. Modern fly fishing originated in Scotland and was greatly refined in southern England on the River Test and the other 'chalk streams' concentrated in Hampshire, Surrey, Dorset and Berkshire (see Southern England Chalk Formation for the geological specifics). The seminal work in the sport is The Compleat Angler written in the mid-1600's by Izaak Walton, largely about those classic English waters.

In the late 19th century, anglers, such as Ray Bergman, in the Catskill Mountains of New York began using the fly to fish the regions many trout-rich streams such as the Beaverkill and Willowemoc Creek. Many of them also wrote about the practice and invented new flies, drawing yet more anglers to the region, which is still considered the birthplace of American dry-fly fishing. The Junction Pool in Roscoe, where the Willowemoc flows into the Beaver Kill, is the center of an almost ritual pilgrimage every April 1, when the season begins.

Participation in flyfishing peaked in the early 1920's in the eastern states of Maine and Vermont and in the midwest in the spring creeks of Wisconsin. Ernest Hemmingway helped to popularize fly fishing, along with deep-sea fishing, through his works of fiction, including The Sun Also Rises. In recent years, interest in flyfishing has surged as "Baby Boomers" discover the tranquil nature of the sport. Movies such as A River Runs Through It starring Brad Pitt, cable fishing shows, and the emergence of a competitive fly casting circuit have also added to the sport's recent resurgence.

North American fly fishing for trout is now generally centred in the western states and provinces with Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, British Columbia and Alberta, and California holding the most interest. The city of Calgary, Alberta holds the distinction of having one of the world's best trout rivers (thanks to nutrient rich runoff from the city's waste water sewage) run through the centre of the city, although West Yellowstone is arguably the epicenter for Western Fly Fishing in North America. Famous North American waters include the Henrys Fork (home to Mike Lawson) and Silver Creek (Ernest Hemmingway's favorite haunt) in Idaho, the Yellowstone and the Madison in Montana, the Deschutes, the North Umpqua and the Rogue rivers in Oregon, the Pitt, Hat Creek, the Owens and the East Walker in California, Lee's Ferry on the Colorado River in Arizona, the San Juan in New Mexico, the Upper Delaware and the Green River in Utah, and the Frying Pan, the South Platte and the Blue River in Colorado.

In addition to River Test, River Itchen, the Kennet, the Lambourn, and the Avon in the same area of southern England may also be considered legendary. Along with the River Don and the River Dee, Scotland boasts the River Spey after which an entire genre of two-handed fly rods and casting techniques is named. On the other side of the globe, the active geothermal area around Lake Taupo on the North Island of New Zealand is another world-famous trout destination, particularly the Tongariro River near Turangi.

Salt-water fly fishing has rapidly expanded in popularity, especially along the Gulf Coast and the Florida Keys for such species as bonefish, tarpon, redfish, and permit, and along the mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts for bluefish and striped bass. The Bahamas and Belize also provide outstanding opportunities for salt-water fly angling. Christmas Island in the Pacific is famous for bonefish, and various parts of coastal Australia offer a wide variety of saltwater sport fish.


1 Fly Rods

How to

The fly angler uses a rod longer and lighter than those used for bait and spin fishing. Fly fishing rods can be as short as 2m (6 ft) long in freshwater fishing and up to 4 m (14 ft) long for saltwater fishing. The average freshwater rod is around 8 to 9 feet in length and weighs between 2 and 5 ounces, though a recent trend has popularized lighter, shorter rods.

To cast a fly, the angler whisks the fly rod forward and back using primarily the forearm and upper arm, using the wrist to soften the motion. Generally, the rod is moved from the 10 o'clock position to the 2 o'clock position without letting the line touch the water or ground. This motion, known as 'false casting', can be used to pay out line, dry a soaked fly, reposition a cast, or show off one's casting abilities. False casting continues until the desired amount of fly line is airborne: perhaps as little as 3m (roughly 10 feet) for small streams, but averaging around 10m (30 feet) in most freshwater conditions. Anything over 18m (60 feet) in freshwater is likely to impress fellow anglers more than the fish, but many saltwater situations call for casts well beyond 25m (82 feet).

When a 'false cast' is 'released' the line floats gently down to the water. Casts are made to spots where fish are likely to hold, such as pools and pockets in streams. Once on the water, the fly may either float or sink, depending on the type of fly and the style of fishing. This presentation of the fly onto the water is one of fly-fishing's most difficult aspects, because the angler is attempting to cast in such a way that the line lands smoothly on the water's surface and the fly appears as natural as possible. After several moments the angler withdraws the fly by pulling in a small portion of line by hand, then lifting the tip of the rod. The angler then makes another presentation, perhaps after a few false casts. If a fish strikes, the angler pulls in line while raising the rod tip. This sets the hook in the fish's mouth. The fish is then 'played' either by hand, where the angler continues to hold the fly line in his hand to control the tension applied to the fish, or he eliminates the slack in the line to get the fish 'on the reel' in order to use the reel's mechanism ('drag') to slow the fish's runs.

Fly fishing for trout usually takes place in rivers or lakes; although the basics are the same, methods and flies vary. Methods and flies also vary substantially across regions and countries. The UK, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Tasmania, Patagonia and parts of Europe are probably the most common destinations for freshwater trout fishing.

Fly Rods

As stated, most fly fishing rods vary between 2m (6 feet) and 4m (14 feet) in length. The earliest fly rods were made from split-cane bamboo originating in the Tonkin area of Guangdong Province in China. The mystical appeal of handmade split-cane rods has endured despite the emergence over the last 50 years of rod-making materials that offer more durability and performance: fiberglass and graphite.

Split-cane bamboo fly rods combine sport, history and art. It may take well over 100 hours of labor to select and split the raw cane, then cure, flame, plane, file, taper, glue, wrap and finish each rod. Quality rods made by the famous masters (Leonard, Dickerson and Winston to name but three) in good condition may fetch prices well over US$2,000, and new rods from competent contemporary builders may bring nearly that much. These rods offer grace and form, and they demand a 'slow' or 'soft' casting style that's beautifully suited to refined, leisurely fishing. In competent hands, they provide more than adequate performance in most freshwater trout fishing situations.

On the other hand, fly rods made from man-made materials generally offer greater versatility, durability and performance than bamboo, and they require less maintenance. Fiberglass rods became popular in the years following WWII, but by the late 1980s, graphite rods had emerged as the material of choice for that mass market. Some makers are currently experimenting with new technologies and high-performance materials such as boron, but graphite rods still cover the broadest range of fly rods for all purposes, from 'ultralight' to two-handed spey rods to serious saltwater rods built to cast exceptionally long distances.

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