Friday, September 9, 2011

Beginning Fly Fishing: Fly Fishing for Stripers

Written by Adam Coholan, an active blogger who writes about the great outdoors and fishing around his home on Fire Island. He also helps run web relations for Elliman Real Estate. On Twitter @Coho22

I’ve been fishing since I was a kid, and from the beginning, I knew my favorite times on the water would be when I was bass fishing. For about 95% of my fishing life, I used a spinning reel. I picked up a bait caster once or twice but was never in thick enough cover to need heavy line, so I rarely even bothered. It is fun, fast, convenient, and little still gets me as excited as a smallmouth crushing a topwater lure, but I never realized how much I was actually missing out on.

After I graduated college, my mentality toward fishing began to change. While always enjoyable, fishing just was losing a bit of its luster. I wanted more of a challenge. I thought back to a trip I took with my family to Yellowstone, where my dad and I had a guide float us down a river with a couple fly rods. I couldn’t get the fly to float to save my life, but I realized the scenery, the quiet, and the focus each cast took was what I was missing in my current outings. Since I had recently moved to the coast for work reasons, I decided to give saltwater fly-fishing a try. I’ve since found it is endlessly adaptable and never boring. It truly elevates fishing from a hobby to an art form. If you’re interested in getting started, here are a few suggestions to help you begin.

Practice Makes Perfect

When I started, I pored over magazines and even watched a couple of instructional videos. After some extensive studying I quickly realized there’s no substitution for experience. Like golf and other instinctive sports, fly-casting relies on muscle memory that improves with practice. If you have a friend who is already an experienced fly fisherman, you’re golden. I found that local fly shops were happy to let me try a few rods while handing out helpful advice. Some shops even offer classes in casting, reel loading, or even tying flies. Look for a group locally or online that accepts beginners. Then, the best way to learn how to fly fish is go out and do it. Also, a day spent with an experienced guide can be worth more than weeks on the water by yourself. You won’t regret it.

Budget Your Gear

Fly-fishing, like most hobbies, can get expensive. Open a catalog and prepare to be stunned by the infinite variety of rods, reels, lines, leaders, tippets, auxiliary equipment and, of course, flies. Fly rods and reels can be several thousand dollars on the high end, but can also be found for less than one hundred. I found that I could adapt much of my bass fishing gear, but for other traditional fly-fishing gear, like waders, boots, vest, etc., I again sought the experience of the local shops. After getting their opinion on what would fit me best, I was often able to hit the seasonal sales and clearance racks and get everything I needed without going over budget.

Patience is a Virtue

Any kind of fishing takes patience and perseverance, fly-fishing even more so. The beauty of fly-fishing is that it merges aspects of both science and art. The satisfaction of one perfect cast, the line looping effortlessly and a fly landing exactly where you sent it is worth five – maybe even ten – bad ones. It makes all those stares I received from my neighbors when I was practicing behind my house worth it. If you’ve been bass fishing and you’re up for an adventure, try hitting the coast with a fly rod. The first run from a striper on a fly rod is an experience you’ll never forget, and there’s a good chance you’ll get hooked.