Waving the stick in the air

Thursday December 08, 2011 Written by rohan

My Orvis hip waders have been idle in the corner of my room for much of the winter, taunting me, eager to head out into the cool river water. Recently, the long-range forecast has indicated warmer days for the southeast, which is good news for my waders and those who like to wave a 9ft fly rod in the air.

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Fly fishing is more about developing an understanding of the natural world rather than buying expensive fishing gear. Weather plays a big role. A few warm days in succession and the insect world comes alive. Nymphs (that have patiently waited to enter their next life stage) crack and hatch above the water. Metamorphosis occurs en mass, giving trout an easy feed. Fish tend to focus on whatever food source is in abundance and simple to catch. Therefore, some detective work is required on the water. Take your time, observe your surroundings, identify your insects and match your fly accordingly.

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It's better to have your fly box full of different patterns than a box full of the same thing. Dun (insect) hatches are always a good sign, especially on the lakes. However, when you're on flowing water you can use all types of flies to attempt to replicate the food the trout are interested in on that particular day.

As an insurance policy, especially this early in the season, I like to run a dry fly floating pattern (or an emerger) dabbed with some ging above the surface of the water (with a wet nymph) on a short tippet. This gives me double the chance of attracting the fish.

Not making much sense? Let me explain some basics.

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The Fly

A fly is a hook with a bunch of stuff wrapped around it to imitate something in nature that fish hunt for food. A fly is referred to as a 'pattern' in order to describe what animal it imitates. Patterns are also sometimes named after the guy who invented them, or what they look like. One common pattern is known as 'The Woolly Bugger' because it's woolly and crazy looking.

There are two basic types of flies: wet and dry. One sinks below the surface of the water and one floats on the surface (with the aid of ging, a petroleum based floatation liquid). Figured out which one is which? Wet sinks, dry floats.

In winter a lot of insects are at nymph stage of their lifecycle. In summer many insects will hatch, thus dry fly fishing is a summer deal and wet flies are generally used in winter.

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The Fish

Trout (being of the salmonoid family) are aggressive predators; the idea with fly fishing is to dangle a pattern in front of it in the hope that it'll strike. Often trout are smarter than we are, there's a very real risk that they'll frustrate the person who's been waving a stick in the air for hours on end. Fools we are.

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The Gear

When starting out, the best places to buy fly gear (and go for advice) are specialist fly shops. General fishing and camping stores usually have staff who don't know a thing about fly fishing. My local hunting fishing shop has a dedicated fly expert who has taught me so much. When you find a good source of knowledge behind the counter - stick to it like glue.

Still confused? Don't worry; it takes a lifetime to learn, I'm still on my L Plates. I guess that's why fly fishing is considered a 'gentlemen's' sport. It takes time, experience, intelligence and a plentiful supply of patience to master. Fly fishing has an allure that's almost unexplainable. It will take you to beautiful places, where you can be part of the natural world, where you can strut around in unnatural hip waders and waterproof boots.

Rohan Anderson is the man behind Whole Larder Love, an online portal to an offline sowing, growing, reaping, hunting and cooking world.