Fly fishing is an ancient sport that continues to grow on a worldwide scale. It has come a long way since the days of a few pipe-smoking gentlemen in tweed suits splashing about in the chalk streams of England, fooling trout with simple creations of fur and feathers tied onto a fish hook.
Now, nearly every type of sport fish found in the world’s rivers, lakes and oceans has been caught with an artificial fly on a classic fly rod. New companies spring up every year, offering everything from ultraexpensive custom cane rods to mass-produced plastic reels. A growing market, from Anchorage to Auckland, in TV shows, magazines, videos and books feeds the growth and popularity of fly fishing.
From the most famous book ever written on the subject, Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler (1653) to Norman Maclean’s modern short story A River Runs Through It (1976), much legend and lore has been passed on over time. It is the stories told – about fish, rivers, flies and characters – that have provided the greatest allure of fly fishing.
There is a strong tradition of skill and technique built on centuries of casting. There is a huge culture of addicts and aficionados, each with a unique theory or philosophy on catching fish on a fly. The sport draws scholars and preachers and farmers alike. They form a society of perfectionists dedicated to the art and science of matching wits with a tiny-brained fish.
Part of the charm of fly fishing lies in the fact that truth and fantasy are blended like scotch and water. The size of a fish, where it was caught, and what was used to catch it are all subject to change, depending on the circumstances. Relying on a seasoned fly fisher to fully reveal the methods and materials of her success is a gamble at best. The real truth comes with hours spent on the river. You have to get out there and do it yourself.
Tying the perfect fly is one of the long-standing challenges of the fly fisher’s craft; to master it is a great achievement. To fool a big, wily trout with it is something close to greatness. To share it is to give away part of one’s soul.
The longer one spends learning and pursuing fly fishing, the less one knows. Along the way, however, the rewards get sweeter and the memories grow priceless. If you have the temperament to fiddle with small knots and big tangles, the patience to stand by a river and wait, and the commitment to learn the finer points of an age-old pursuit, then fly fishing may be what you’re looking for.
It is inexpensive to get started. You can purchase a complete starter package, including rod, reel, lines, flies and an instructional DVD for about $200 from a major outdoor sports store. On the other hand, you can spend $1500 on a state-of-the-art carbon fiber rod.
The fly fishing market is alive and well, but there is one major concern. The numbers of fish, in fresh- and saltwater the world over, are declining. It may be a sign of human neglect or climate change or something else, but for fly fishing to thrive, the fish must survive.
If you get involved with this sport, sooner or later you’ll be part of the bigger picture. You’ll find out how to contribute when you get your fishing license just by reading the regulations.
For a great, natural experience that challenges the mind and enriches the soul, there is nothing that compares to a day of fly fishing.
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