Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Learning To Fly Fish

My buddy Jim Griffiths asked me to write a short article for his annual Boater's Guide that's available all over Lee County right now.  The subject was a beginner's guide to fly fishing around Pine Island and with Christmas vacations right around the corner some of you might find it useful if you're coming to the area for the first time.  Here it is:

The waters surrounding Pine Island are a fly fishing paradise. In addition to the great saltwater species such as tarpon, snook, redfish, and sea trout, Southwest Florida is blessed with over 300 days a year of pure sunshine and relatively calm winds. If light tackle is your game then there are many reasons to take a saltwater fly rod with you each time you hit the water.

For this area, an 8 or 9-weight fly rod with a matching disc-drag aluminum reel is a great all around choice for the flats and inshore fishing. If you’re just starting out there is no reason to spend any more than a couple hundred dollars on your first rod. The high performance and fast action of a $700 Orvis will be lost on you as a beginner, so you really don’t need to consider those at first. Many smaller manufacturers such as Temple Fork, St. Croix, or Redington offer complete entry-level rod and reel packages for less than $400. This will give you a saltwater-ready outfit that often comes with a lifetime warranty, too. The advances in graphite composites and computerized machine-tooling have created a revolution in affordable fly fishing gear. Some of these beginner’s outfits are as good as anything the top manufacturers were producing ten years ago at twice the price.

Actually learning to cast a fly rod is a lot easier than it looks. It’s a simple matter or timing, coordination and a surprisingly small amount of muscle. Anyone who can operate a bait caster or spinning rod can learn the basics of fly casting in a few hours. There are dozens of great how-to books and DVDs on the market but to get the most bang for your buck I highly recommend taking a lesson from a certified instructor. The extra money you’ll spend on a personal lesson will guarantee that you don’t teach yourself a few bad habits that will hurt your casting ability later on down the road. There is a fly fishing school located right here on Pine Island and several fishing guides in the area, myself included, welcome beginners and will gladly incorporate a casting lesson into a day’s charter.

On top of being affordable and easy to learn, fly fishing is highly effective in a lot of different situations, especially when the winds are dead calm. For big redfish tailing in half a foot of water, silently dropping a deer hair fly on their nose is a great way to avoid spooking them. In the clear waters of Charlotte Harbor, stripping a dark streamer across the nose of a huge laid-up tarpon will often trigger an explosive strike. The resulting hookups are jaw-dropping and fighting a big fish on a saltwater fly rod is absolutely unforgettable.

Like any great sport, learning to fly fish is not effortless but it’s far from a mysterious and sophisticated art form. The truth is that being able to cast a fly is just another highly useful tool in the arsenal of a well rounded angler. Nothing about fly fishing, from the cost of the gear to the time it takes to learn, should be intimidating. If you spend time on the waters around Pine Island, make this the year you finally give it a try.