Fly Fishing 101

Our local Orvis dealer offers free introductory fly fishing classes on a regular basis. So, with the encouragement of my wife, I took a fly fishing class. The Fly Fishing 101 class was held in the Orvis store (with the exception of the casting, which took place outside) and students were introduced to the very basics of the sport. We were shown how to tie two very basic knots, the double sugeon's knot and the simple clench knot. The former knot attaches the leader line to the fly line and the latter is used to tie the fly to the leader line. There's also a shorter fishing line called a tippet and it's used to extend the leader line. There are a near infinite number of flies categoriezed as a nymph, streamer, or dry fly. Flies are chosen based upon the time of year it is, the insects that are in season, one’s fishing location, or as our instructor put it, whatever the fish feel like eating….

…Needless to say, there's a lot to learn and a great deal of additional fly fishing gear to be had…

Once outfitted with all that's necessary to fly fish don't fall in…you'd sink and lose a lot of money. Don't worry, though, fly fishing typically takes place in scenic streams like those from Robert Redford's movie, A River Runs Through It minus the view of Brad Pitt. Besides, fly fisherman wear waders to wade the streams and stay dry. They also wear some pretty cool hats, which is my favorite clothing accoutrement.

The second class is Fly Fishing 201 where students are taken to a local stream, or in our case, a pond. Everyone is handed a rod and reel and then allowed to tie a fly to their leader line should they feel so confident. There's a brief review on how to cast a line and then everyone is turned lose to make a fool of him or herself. I ended up hooking my shirt and eventually losing my fly to the grassy lawn behind me. Still, I persevered and did not give up my dream of landing a big fish.

I did my best trying to recall what I had learned from the previous day, but failed miserably. Bear in mind that during the previous day's introductory class I practiced casting a line for maybe half an hour. Most fly fisherman spend a lifetime practicing this art and never succeed. There's a certain je ne sais quoi to finessing the fly line out and into the water all in one effortless motion.

Eventually, one of the instructors made his way over to me and after careful consideration of my technique relegated me to the empty grass where, and without a fly, (it got lost in the grass earlier, remember) he had me practice my casting. I really, really tried to do my best. I paid careful attention. I asked questions, and I even complimented the instructor on how easy he made it look. Perhaps it was due to my low casting aptitude, lack of a dry fly, or a crummy rod and reel, but I could not get the hang of fly fishing. Much to the instructor's chagrin, he eventually mumbled a few lines, shared some encouraging words, and slipped away towards another more gifted student. I think he had finally met his match when it came to patience and teaching even the most novice student how to cast a fly line. I sort of know how my former students felt when they didn't quite get something I was trying to teach like counting a set of objects.

I don't consider myself a fisherman, but I do enjoy fishing with Olive. We use live bait and I'm quite proud of my self-taught casting technique. There's little in the way of additional gear, but like any hobby, one could, can, and will invest heavily in things that are not always needed. We catch our fair share of fish, keep a few, and return the ones we don't need or want. Olive has her favorite Frozen themed fishing rod and tackle box and I have a friend's cast-off fishing pole and spinning reel. When we lived in our previous home the highlight of our fishing adventures was digging up worms in the garden. I think I'm too much of a minimalist when it comes to fishing. I have it my head that I am Nick Adams, the main character in Hemingway's short story, “Big Two-Hearted River”. I'm a simple man who simply likes to fish. (Not that Nick Adams was a simple man.)

Regardless, I enjoyed the experience and I can finally say I gave fly fishing a try. For now I'll enjoy and appreciate reading about the sport through the writings of Hemingway and dream about the fish I didn't catch. However, if my wife will allow it I might buy one of those cool looking fly fishing hats.

"He watched them holding themselves with their noses in the current, many trout in deep, fast moving water, slightly distorted as he watched far down through the glassy convex surface of the pool, its surface pushing and swelling smooth against the resistance of the log-driven piles of the bridge."


Enjoy some highlights of my humbling fly fishing experience. Please note that I was not “that guy” with a camera; all of these photos were taken with my phone, while still trying to be the best Fly Fisherman possible.