Learning to fly-fish can be a whole load of fun
At some time or other, many anglers feel the need to broaden their horizons. Whether to feed one’s ego or to gain satisfaction from completing a challenge, we like to raise the bar.
Dangling a bait, throwing a chrome slug, rolling a hardbody, tweaking a plastic. Once mastered, we generally go back to the start and try to achieve the same milestones with different tackle or techniques.
Although it was different a decade ago, it intrigues me that only a handful of anglers then progress to learning fly-fishing –why?
Is it too difficult to learn or is it too embarrassing to just have a go?
It can be a little intimidating but I believe it is the simplest form of presenting an artificial offering. Fly-fishing little different from cleverly positioning a hard or strategically working a soft plastic and remarkably similar to letting a bait drift with the current or tide.
It seems expensive and apparently you need to wear chest waders and a vest loaded with flies, snips and various ointments to make it all work – wrong!
You need not purchase the most expensive rod or reel, nor all that traditional fly kit and clobber.
There are some great entry-level fly-fishing combos that will not break your bank. Get a budget combo, fish the fly with confidence and you just might surprise yourself.
I’m a complete fly novice. My casting skills are enough to be amusing to onlookers.
However, a while back I blew the dust off my fly rod after mate Fabian Beroukas informed me he had acquired a second-hand fly rod and reel and was eager to have a crack at this seemingly black art.
We scratched a few bits and pieces together and planned a stay at Buckenderra Holliday Village, on Lake Eucumbene.
Buckenderra is my favourite freshwater destination. I’d previously enjoyed excellent bait and spinning sessions there for trout and I’d heard it had excellent opportunities for the fly angler.
It was late November and Eucumbene was rising.
The grasslands were flooded with recent snowmelt and full of life. Yabbies and mudeyes (dragonfly larvae) were the main attractions for the fish.
When we walked, sorry, ‘waded’ into the water, we noticed a lot of tiny nymphs. So with our budget fly combos in hand, one of us rigged a mudeye imitation and the other a bead-head nymph in green seal’s fur.
Whip-wack-crack-splash! was the sound of my first cast.
I’m not even going to try to replicate Fabian’s first cast, although he did manage to land his fly in the water – a skill that I was yet to master!
What took place next will linger in my memory. A brown trout around 2kg snatched the fly, forcing Fabian’s rod into a serious arc.
The shock of hooking a fish took over before I could yell, ‘Give her some line!’. Fabian clenched the singing fly reel, the tippet broke and the fish was lost.
We were both too happy about hooking up to dwell on what could have been. Fabian definitely wasn’t expecting to hook a fish, let alone a trophy trout, on his very first cast.
But we’d learned that while there is an offering in the strike zone, there is a possibility it could be eaten.
I think the biggest misconception with fly-fishing is the distance, or lack of, that you need to cast to catch fish.
You don’t need to empty the spool of fly-line with each cast, which is a belief that deters many newcomers from taking up the challenge.
We both realised that the fish were at our feet amid the weed and short presentations, not too different from placing a hard-bodied lure tight to a snag, were all that was required.
Believing in yourself and having faith your fly will do the job is the biggest part. The fish continued feeding in the freshly flooded grass and all we had to do was present a fly and gently strip it back.
We continued our assault. It was as graceful as a couple of bulls in a china shop but we each managed to hook a fiery rainbow trout.
We called it an arvo and enjoyed a few beers that evening reliving the moments around the campfire.
The next morning we began our whip-wack-crack early and were rewarded when a beautiful brown trout fell for a Black Matuka. We snapped some pics, then released the fish.
That was the only fish we hooked that day but we had a lot of fun just trying.
That feeling of catching a fish on fly surpassed everything I had achieved before. It’s more than catching a fish, it’s about the whole experience.
You need to savour the scenery, the wildlife and the tranquillity.
We’re hooked. Since our Buckenderra trip, Fabian and I have tasted some champagne fly-fishing on saltwater species such as mullet, salmon, bonito and kingfish. Bass and estuary perch have become favourites, too – it’s not all restricted to trout.
We are in the process of planning a carp fly session, too. Anything you catch with bait or lures will eat a fly.
I know little about fly-fishing so it would be ludicrous for me to try to teach you. The sheer purpose of this article is to encourage the anglers who don’t think they can into believing it’s not only possible, but a lot of fun.
There are stacks of fly-fishing DVD’s, books, magazine articles and YouTube clips that should point you in the right direction.
Most tackle store staff will be happy to help select the correct rod, reel, line and flies for the job.
There are talented fly-fishing guides willing to put you onto your first fish as well. Some of these guides run classes, which would be money well spent.
It pays to learn the correct methods from the start, as opposed to rectifying bad habits down the track. NSWFM Jindabyne reporter Steve Williamson guides and runs classes, for instance.
All this said, there’s nothing like getting together with a mate and simply having a crack. You’ll surprise yourself how much fun you can have and realise that it’s not that hard.
DID YOU KNOW?
• More than 2500 years ago, before the Roman Empire was at its peak, the Macedonians were catching so-called ‘speckled river fish’ on insect imitations they tied from fur and pheasant feathers on bronze hooks.
• The first brown trout, from British eggs, were successfully grown and released into the Derwent River in Tasmania in 1864. The first rainbows, from US stock via New Zealand, were released in NSW in 1894.
• Most fish will take a fly, the trick is finding out which fly. Don’t turn up your nose at ‘less desirable’ fish, they’re all practice and good sport.
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
|•||Blackridge 6wt rod, reel, line and backing around $100|
|•||Gillies 6wt rod, reel, line, backing and instructional DVD around $120|
|•||Check out Gillies fly packs. There are six to choose from that cover everything from salt to freshwater, selected by Peter Morse.|
|•||For accommodation call the Buckenderra Holiday village on 02 6453 7242 or visit www.buckenderra.com.au|