Fly Fishing School Hooks Anglers
MOST Americans, whether or not they play baseball, have heard of Yankee Stadium. But the only people who have heard of the ``Madison'' or ``Battenkill'' are likely to be fly fishers. As the number of fly fishers grows, though, more and more people can identify Yellowstone's Madison River and Vermont's Battenkill - two of the United States' premier trout streams.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
One reason there are record numbers of fly fishers today is that there are more fly fishing schools than ever before. Fly fishing - which has been termed the most technique-intensive of all sports - is difficult to master. Thus, people often seek coaching before fly fishing the nearest pond, stream, lake, river, or ocean.
``Catching fish any way is fun,'' says Brock Apfel, coordinator of L.L. Bean's introductory three-day-long fly fishing school. ``But the actual act of catching a fish usually occupies about 5 percent of the time - if you're lucky, 5 percent,'' he says, and chuckles. ``So the important thing is what you're doing when you're not catching fish - in between fish.''
Fly fishing, however, does two things that other types of fishing don't, Mr. Apfel says. ``It gives you the chance to cast repetitively in a very pleasant, if not artistic manner. And it takes you generally to places that are very attractive to be in. So it's a chance to practice an artful skill in pleasant surroundings.''
In fly fishing, a fly rod is used to cast a hand-held, weighted line that propels a nearly weightless lure - or fly - to the fish. Fly fishers must master false casts, roll casts, curve casts, serpent casts, and reach casts. And fly fishers ``shoot,'' ``haul,'' and ``mend'' line - all before a fish can even be hooked, played, and landed.
Even assembling the fly and various lines onto a fly reel can involve tying five knots. Then a fly fisher must know how to recognize, when to use, and possibly even how to tie the flies themselves - Woolly Worms, Gray Ghosts, Zug Bugs, Muddler Minnows, Royal Wulffs.
But even when a novice fly fisher has mastered the right casts and can tie the right fly for the right fish at the right season - even that won't always produce a fish.
``Time and time again we see people who are good casters who don't catch fish, and we see others who are lousy casters who catch a lot of fish,'' says Apfel.
``It [fishing] is a matter of how you cause the fly to behave - that really is the bottom line. It's what you have on your line, where you put it, and how you make it act. This involves being able to `read' the water,'' he says.
In a recent L.L. Bean fly-fishing class here, there were 26 students - four of them women - from Michigan to Virginia to Maine. Participants ranged in age from their early 30s through retirement age. Classes often have teen-age participants, Apfel says.
Regardless of age, two basic types of people generally seek fly-fishing instruction. One type has never been exposed to the activity, or even to the outdoors. The other type has often done a lot of fishing, but with spinning rods, and wants to learn about fly casting.
When first-time participants try their first casts, they are anything but artistic.
``Eeiii,'' yells one woman, whose first back-cast snakes her orange line around her black rod as she stands beside the casting pool. A few minutes later, after she has managed to unfurl the May-pole-like mess, she adds, ``I think I'll try this again.''
``Hey, listen to that,'' says one Maine resident, obviously pleased at the whip-cracking sound his line makes as it unfurls behind him. An instructor patiently reminds the novice that ``cracks'' should be avoided, as they can dislodge flies from leaders.