Monday, August 27, 2007

What Fly Fishing Is and Is Not

So to begin with let's dispose of all the definitions of what fly fishing is and is not. We all know the what it is as far as tackle and the like so with that taken care of there is, at least in my uneducated opinion, more to it.
I will try to expand on the idiosyncrasies of the deeper meaning of the "affliction" I call fly fishing.
Fly fishing is not about catching a freezer full of fish! You want to do that then there are much more effective and cheaper ways than chucking a fly to accomplish your carnivorous desires. If you are fly fishing to feed yourself then you very well may turn into a vegetarian.
Fly fishing is about deception. You are trying to fool a fish into thinking your abstract creation is something edible. Your creation or maybe someone else's is presented in a way to hopefully deceive a trout into feeding.
Fly fishing is about solitude and oneness. Yes I know that sounds like a cliché but you cannot stand next to someone and cast a fly.
Fly fishing is about physics. A perfectly executed cast is truly a marvel that an expert in trigonometry or geometry could appreciate.
Fly fishing is not about ego or at least it shouldn't be.
Fly fishing is about a one on one connection to your quarry. A dry fly is about as simple as it gets when you think about it. It is just your line and leader connected to a tiny bit of fur or feather on a hook....basic stuff really.
Fly fishing is not about selfishness but then we can be terribly possessive of those waters we have grown fond of.
Fly fishing is not about blowing your own horn but celebrating a communion with the water, the fish and everything surrounding.
Fly fishing is about discovery and inner thoughts. The quietness of the stream at dusk only broken by the splash of a leaping fish or a screaming reel is music to some.
There is a darker side of "fly fishing" though. It happens when the summer steelhead ascend the Columbia and enter some of the smaller tributary creeks for a respite from the warmer water of the big river. Herman creek just east of Bonneville dam seemingly gets a huge number of hatchery steelhead. This strain of fish amazingly takes a fly better than any place in Oregon! Imagine that!!! All you need is an intermediate sinking fly line,a short leader and a weighted fly. You strip like crazy and these fly eating steelhead, in seventy degree water mind you, hit your fly with reckless abandon!!!! Bull feces!!!!!
Some of these fish are no doubt accidentally hooked but this practice, most commonly referred to as flossing, is also practiced and even advocated for coho salmon. So as you can see fly fishing is not just about tweeds,briar pipes and single malt scotch whiskey. There are those that would use a fly rod as a tool to break the law and that is troubling to say the least.
I'll comment more on this later in the fall when the remnant Oregon coast chum salmon start up the Miami and Kilchis rivers on their spawning run.


  1. do you ever wonder if trout fishing is about being hunted, and not at all about being the hunter?
    i mean, the ruse is to present a fly that tricks the predatory nature of a trout, and not just going out and sticking a spear in the side of one of those wonderful slivers of energy.
    the best take is that confident take of a trout, the sip-sip-sip and then gotcha. and that period of time after the take that we both are in a moment of disbelief.
    i cant believe i got it right disbelief- and the i cant believe that was a fraud by the trout. that one moment where everything remains suspended in some warp of time.
    i think, my friend, that fly fishing is that moment.

  2. I've thought about that very thing Ed. The very instant that the trout realizes that something is very wrong and you realize that something went right and you put it all together.
    With the coastal cutthroat trout I fly fish for there is a suddeness and a realization.No build up at all...a vry abrupt fish.
    Great comments Ed!

  3. Good post Shane!
    A similar set of thoughts arise when someone asks me why I fly-fish. I have never found the right answer because if someone has to ask, then it's unlikely they are going to understand my answer. Did you ever read the chapter "Why fish?" in Jerry Dennis's book "The River Home"?