I am not by any means an experienced fly fisherman. I picked up my first fly rod in Dec 2012. Over the past 9 months, I often find myself attempting to balance conventional means and fly fishing. As a passionate angler, I enjoy both equally but lately and more often than not, I tend to grab my fly rod over my baitcaster when I head out to fish. Which begs the question I’ve attempted to answer on my own many times, why is fly fishing slowly winning my heart and why is it more enjoyable than conventional fishing.
Often, I explain the difference between fly fishing and conventional fishing through an analogy. An analogy between sailing and motor boating. When sailing, you typically go “sailing”, and the value of the expedition is typically the journey itself. The pure joy is in the essence of navigation on the water, feeling the wind in your sails, and working the traditional devices like clockwork. When you return, you’ve achieved your intended goal although you went nowhere in particular.
When motoring, you’re usually on a quest of getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. The ride is fun, no doubt, but you try and to get it over with as soon as you can without “wasting time.”
There is much, much more. Fly fishing is an artistic sport and not just because it is aesthetically pleasing to watch and has the coolest gear. Fly fishing has the best stories, the most interesting people and camaraderie, and unbeatable venues. We fly fisherman like a challenge and are in constant pursuit of perfection. Pursuit to perfect the cast. Pursuit to perfect presentation. Pursuit to perfect mother nature. To me, the crafting of your own flies is our attempt as human beings to mimic life’s secrets into fur and feathers, in its purest form.
Fly fishing builds character, skill, encourages patience and is a lot more challenging than conventional means. There are multiple moments of pure excitement and never a dull moment. Even if you don’t catch fish, you can’t have a bad day. It’s more than catching fish. It’s about that graceful loop as your line glides over the water. It’s about environmental learning, entomology and adaptation to nature. Fly fishing is precise, exotic, natural and intelligent. It’s the never ending pursuit of refinement. The self-promise of perfection. The self-promise to constantly improve.
There’s almost certainly a renowned anticipation on every fly fishing adventure with unexpected challenges to be met. Conditions change and every day is different. Oddly, an accomplished sensation takes over you while putting your waders and vest on, while stringing your rod and checking your leader, tippet and knots. The walk to the water, the scanning of the hatch and exploring for potential fishing holes fuels unexplainable anticipation. The first step into the cool water, the approach, the profound sense of relief before the first cast. Each action, a comforting ritual we all follow.
Fly casting itself is a pleasing sensation. It’s calming and exceptionally relaxing. There is an almost hypnotic cadence to the fly cast. The back and forth motion of the rod with the tug of the line against the rod just before we release the cast. Casting is an art. A thing of beauty. Pure in its simplicity and yet difficult to master.
Fly fishing isn’t something you can just pick up off the rack and expect to go out and catch fish right away. It takes countless hours of practice just to learn how to cast. There’s a distinct satisfaction that comes from practicing and improving your casting, which makes fly fishing enjoyable when the fish are hard to find. Every outing provides something new. Fly fisherman don’t have the need or want a bunch of screaming spectators to enjoy the feeling of success. The victories of fly fishing can be had alone or with a few close companions. In the fly world, a smaller crowd is better.
Once you’ve had your fly line run through your fingers after a good fish has picked up your fly, and then watched your reel race and scream while it digs deep into its backing on a long run, it’s hard to go back to any other kind of fishing. At least it is for me, for now.