Learning to fly fish
A fly fisherman makes a go of it in Echo Lake.
Photo courtesy NHDTTD/Ellen Edersheim
Fly fishing is a passion, science and lifestyle all in one. Long before it was popularized in the 1992 movie "A River Runs Through It," fathers bonded with sons (moms and daughters too) with trips to the local sporting goods store, followed by casting that first rod and reel.
Whether in saltwater or freshwater, pond, lake or stream, anglers strive for the poetry in motion of an arcing cast with a weighted line to net trout, bass and more.
There are many techniques and strategies to landing fish with a fly, and fly fishing is one of those endeavors that is a tad maddening, like golf, with a host of ideas about the best game plans.
For Ossipee guide Rick Estes of Owl's Roost Outfitters, fly fishing is an escape from routine and a way to connect with nature. He encourages new fly fishers to stick with it.
"The only caution I have is that fly fishing can appear very intimidating," he says. "The key is don't let it be. Enjoy it for what it is. There is plenty of time to be intimidated when you get good at it."
True. Fly fishing is loaded with lingo - line, tippets, knots, leaders, etc. But with time anglers come to understand the terms of the graceful and challenging pursuit. The gear can start off simply with a rod and reel and progress to waders, vests and, of course, those artificial lures called a fly that mimic movements of insects and other tasty creatures.
Estes says fly fishing isn't a competitive sport or one to keep score.
"Just treat it with respect," he says. "It's a mechanism of becoming one with the world around you."
The first Saturday of June is NH Free Fishing Day.
Expert Advice: Rick Estes
New Hampshire native Rick Estes is a life-long angler and licensed fishing guide. For 28 years, he was a New Hampshire Fish and Game game warden with territory in the Lakes Region and White Mountains. He owns and operates Owl's Roost Outfitters in Ossipee with guided trips to places he knows best.
How do I get started? There are a number of options. Certainly going to your local fly shop is a great way to start. New Hampshire Fish and Game sponsors beginning fly fishing seminars. Also the "Becoming an Outdoor Woman" program is available to the ladies. Most guides who specialize in fly fishing will introduce folks into the sport. Some sporting lodges, guide services, Trout Unlimited chapters, and sporting clubs offer instruction.
What's the attraction? Probably initially it is the beauty of the cast or the flies that first attract folks to fly fishing. However, as they master the casting and learn to read the water they find themselves separated from their everyday humdrum. They soon find it as a place to temporarily escape. As your skills progress it is so much more than catching a fish. All the life around you is connected to the water and its inhabitants. I like to think that trout don't exist in ugly places.
What's a good rod for a beginner? You can cast a fly with a $150 outfit and reap the pleasure of being an accurate successful fly fisher. Look at it from the fish's point of view - it couldn't care less if you have an expensive rod. The fish is only looking for a bug or a smaller fish coming into range that he can capture. If you have the capability to present that fly so that it fits that criteria then he/she will be fooled.
How complicated is it to rig my own line and how well-versed in fly-fishing lingo do I have to be? I am assuming you are asking about more than putting a reel on a rod and stringing the line through the guides with that question. There are about four knots that need to be mastered in order to connect the line to the backing on one end and to the leader on the other end. Then you need to attach a fly to the leader to complete the task. Knots are one of the things that come from a good introductory class to fly fishing.
How do I know which fly to use? That's all part of the observation of all things around you that I spoke of. If the fish are taking bugs, then what are they? How big are they? What color are they? How are those bugs being taken? Or are the fish taking smaller fish? The fly fisher needs a keen observation skill set. That's the attraction to fly fishing for most of us. That intense observation is how you become disconnected from all the worries of the world.
Is it easy to tie knots for the line and put flies on? Yes.
What's the best way to find a good fishing spot? Pay your dues. Go out and learn about the water. It's the biggest part of the sport. There is no way to describe the satisfaction that comes from figuring it out and catching that fish all on your own. Now you might say thats a strange thing for a guide to say. What I offer as a guide is more than where the fish are. I have boats and gear that not everybody will go out and purchase. I have knowledge that will make you a better fly fisher faster. I have arrived at my level by many, many years of paying my dues.
Test the waters with LL Bean's versatile and balanced Streamlight Ultra Two-Piece Fly Rod outfit ($169).
Wallow in and stay dry casting near shore with Bean's sturdy Flyweight II Boot-Foot Waders ($159).
Carry flies, lunch and more with the reasonably priced Clearwater Vest from Orvis ($69).