If you haven’t already, be sure to read part one of Fishing Rods And Reels.
Generally regarded as a life philosophy as well as a fishing technique, fly fishing is so much fun! Just about the opposite of baitcasting – we have fly fishing. The art of casting fly line – yes fly line, and not the flies, is a time honored tradition. The premise of fly fishing is also simple. The angler is casting the line, and when it stops, the forward momentum of the tapered leader, tippet, and fly tied on to it continue to move forward. With the forward momentum, the fly gently lands on the water without making a sound. The idea behind fly fishing is to delicately present a realistic looking fly to a suspicious trout. Over the years, fly fishing has evolved into a method to catch pretty much any fish out there.
Fly fishing offers several advantages. One, the angler can precisely control where the fly will land. We’ve all seen fly fishermen involved in a series of “false casts” before finally allowing the fly to land. These people are doing one of or a combination of two things. They are either loading line for a further cast, waiting until they hit the location just right, or both. Either way, a seasoned fly angler has a lot of control over precisely where his fly will land. I say “seasoned’, because it takes time to learn this approach. Most fly fishermen will remember the time they hooked their own ear, or their neighbors, hat, or a tree, or their vest, or…
Fly rods come in all weights and sizes. Some are super small and light, for delicate brook trout or panfish. Others and long and heavy, for salmon runs and surf casting giant brown trout. Meant to be packed in for a hike, many come in 3, 4, or even 5 pieces to become as compact as possible. Same for the reels. There are big reels for big fish, smaller reels for smaller fish, and everywhere in between. Also, the lines vary. There are floating fly lines or a surface presentation. Also, sinking fly lines are created to get down deep, etc…
Fly tying is a whole topic in itself- and one for a later date. But… it’s important to know the basics. Generally, the tier takes a hook and adds threats, fur, and feathers to it to somehow make it look like a real insect, frog, mouse, minnow, leech, etc… Fly tying is wonderfully relaxing pastime and a great way to beat cabin fever during those long, cold winter months. Look online at fly tying videos and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Also, similar to reloading for instance, if a fisherman plans to fly fish a lot, it is very cost effective for them to learn to tie. Store bought flies are expensive.
Fly fishing also presents several challenges. One, they are not easy to use- we’ve established that. Two, the fisherman prefers to have a big, empty space behind them for their back cast. And three, much of the fighting of the fish is done by hand puling the line in without help from the reel. Personally for me these challenges is what makes the sport great. It’s an awesome rush to be hand stripping in a 10# pike! Talk about a fight, with a 9′ medium weight rod holding my line, and my own muscle and skill being the driving force weather this fish gets caught or not… fly fishing can be thrill ride. I appreciate the solitude that fly fishing offers, and the connection with nature I feel when I’m doing it. I like wading in a creek or river, looking for rising trout. I love staying hidden from them, and trying to figure out what is hatching. Once I see what bug are hatching, I either pull one out of my fly box, or run back to the truck and tie one up really quick with my tying kit. Then… when it all comes together. I find a hole full of fish, make the perfect cast, and catch a fish on a fly I tied. The feeling is amazing.
Appropriate in many situations where 1) the fish are huge, or 2) the water is very deep- trolling can be a lot of fun. Most “big water” trolling uses a similar baitcasting setup- but… there is no casting involved. Usually the boat will have a few mechanical downriggers. A downrigger is a weighted device that attaches to the back of the boat. It’s purpose it to take the line down to a certain depth. For instance, when we fish in Lake Michigan for summer salmon, we may be in 200′ of water. We’ll set the downrigger up and attach a giant weighted lead ball to it. The ball is a giant sinker that takes a cable straight down. On the cable, we will attach clips that take the line down to a specific depth. So… if we’re in 200’of water, and we’re marking fish at 140′, we will run the downrigger ball to that depth and know out lures are in the same column as the fish. With the flip of a switch on the reel, the downrigger carries the line down without hurting the drag because of how the reel operates. Once set at the right depth, the fisherman flips the switch back, and the appropriate drag is set. Usually on the big lakes anglers are targeting certain water temperatures that hold bait fish Where the bait fish will be is also where the big predatory fish will be too. The rods are then placed in a rod holder and the boat continues to drive around very slowly. It’s important to know that all of the work in regard to downriggers happens when the boat is moving. If it were sitting still, a huge mess of tangled line and cable would occur.
Downrigger rods are short, heavy, thick rods that can handle a lot of abuse. When trolling and using the downriggers, the rods literally almost bend in half! For a new trolling fisherman, this at first seems like an issue. But… after realizing that is how the rods run, it’s no big deal. In fact, because the rods are bend so bad, when a fish does bite, and the clip holding the line to the downrigger cable is released, the rod springs straight up- often setting the hook before the fisherman even touches the rod. Trolling setups require long amounts of very heavy line- sometimes hundreds of yards worth! Some people even use lead core line that sinks. When a fish does bite, the work begins. Not only is the fisherman fighting a giant fish, but they are also battling the boat and currents. I’ve seen salmon anglers battle fish for close to an hour. And that’s nothing! Deep sea fisherman have stories of fish fights that have taken hours. Many trolling anglers like to sit down and strap themselves in for the fight. Also, some prefer to still use rod holders, and simply reel. Regardless of the method, trolling on the big lake is a great way to have fun and land some huge fish.
A great way to land big fish when they are near shore, surf fishing in an art in itself. Generally requiring a long, stiff rod and huge reel, surf casters need to be able to send their lure a long way. Depending on the climate, location, and species, surf casting can be done throughout the year. The anglers are usually hoping to catch something spawning near shore, or something feeding in the shallow waters at night. The technique s literally how it sounds. The fisherman wades out into the water, and casts into the surf. Many people look for small waves and low tides, while others love rough water. It all really depends on the species targeted. A surf casting setup is like a spinning setup on steroids- everything is much bigger! If the bait needs action, then the fisherman will cast and reel, cast and reel. If they’re fishing on bottom, they will attach huge pyramid weights that do not roll in the current If they want their bait to roll in the current, they will use round, egg sinkers. Surf casters can be found an any hours of the day- but more often than not… at night. In my area for instance, many surf cast fishermen wander the shores of Lake Michigan in hopes of catching the world record brown trout feeding in the shallows.
The concept of surf casting is pretty simple. Many anglers rig up rod holders so they can sit in a lawn chair and soak up the sun. Others have homemade wagons, with fat, fluffy tires that can be easily puled on beach sand. And.. speaking of the beach, surf casting fishermen need to keep their gear clean. Every beach is full of sand, and salt water fishermen also need to battle the corrosive elements of the spraying salt. Either way, surf casting gear will take a lot of abuse.
That’s it! Sort of… There are still many more ways to fish. Ice fishing is fun. Some people net, and a few brave southerners still “noodle”. No matter the method, what is important is that people fish! So, get out, enjoy God’s creation, and try fishing! Or… if you’re already a fisherman, try a new style, or introduce someone new to the sport.
Trolling photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.