By Indrek Kongats
Chasing trout is a very rewarding pursuit and catching the first trout of the new season is always memorable. Catching your first one on a fly rod is unforgettable!
Fly fishing can be confusing, mystifying and difficult to master, but at the same time, everyone can agree that watching someone proficient at it is pleasing to the eye. In reality, fly fishing is quite simple, no more complicated that getting up in the morning and deciding what clothes to put on based upon what the weather is doing outside.
Fly fishing has evolved as the most basic form of fishing. No mechanical equipment had ever been invented by the time the first person attempted to catch a fish with a tree branch, some sort of cord and a hook made from bone. The technique was to lower the hook into the water and possibly snag a fish as an alternative to trying to spear a fish that was out of reach. Once the fish became wise to the bare hook, the hunter had to bait the hook, thus catching the fish in the mouth and the concept of angling for trout was born. When bait was in short supply, the angler resorted to dressing the hook with some sort of attractant, maybe a small piece of hide cut off their wardrobe, with the fur still attached— thus we have a fly!
Next came the idea that to catch the fish even further away, it was necessary to fling the fly out to where the trout lay, and the concept of fly casting was born. To this day, fly casting is nothing more than flinging that fly out to where the trout are. As long as you can get the fly out to the trout you are fly fishing, it’s as simple as that!
The art of fly casting is just an infatuation, much like a little boy seeing how far he can throw a stone. The perfection of flinging the fly out across the river, well beyond the point of where the trout actually are is evidence of our need to be that little boy. The trout are actually right at your feet, near the edge of the river, where the current is lax. You might not see them because nature designed them with natural camouflage to blend in with the bottom of the stream, but trust me, they are there.
Trout naturally feed on insects or flies, as we call them, and it is the fly fisherman’s uncontrollable need to mimic nature precisely that the art of fly tying was born. The life of an insect, the ones born in the water, is simple to understand.
An egg must be laid; at this stage, the adult insect ascends down to the water’s surface and deposits the egg into the stream. Fly fishermen mimicking this adult are dry fly fishing, a fly that does not get wet, but hovers over or lands on the surface. Many insects will die after their ritual of depositing their eggs, float away down the river, and their tiny dead carcasses become food for the trout.
As the eggs settle to the bottom of the stream, they begin to grow, first into a larva and then into a pupa. At this time, the insect either drifts along the bottom or begins an ascent toward the surface. Fishermen that try to mimic this stage are nymph fishing. Fly fishing under the surface of the water is commonly called nymphing, emerger or wet fly fishing.
Now, if the fisherman is trying to mimic something other than an insect, say a minnow or some other sea creature, it is called streamer fishing. If an insect such as an ant falls into the water from a tree limb and the fly fisherman mimics this event, it is called terrestrial fishing. Streamers fall into the category of wet fly fishing and terrestrials such as ants, beetles or grasshoppers fall into the dry fly category of fly fishing. There are really only two types of fly fishing that you have to worry about: when you decide how you are going to fish or dress for the day, you ask yourself, “is it going to be wet or is it going to be dry?”
The whole point that I am trying to make is, that if you just want to simplify your fishing, go back to the basics, eliminate the need to seek out live bait and try using just an artificial fly, either wet or dry. Fly fishing has also evolved from the simple need to gather food to become much more complicated—a recreational sport—this in turn has coined a much misunderstood term, “catch and release,”— a term that is misinterpreted and widely misused by many fishermen.
We can all be guilty of this practice, as fishing can be addictive; the need to see how many trout one can catch can consume many fishermen. Izaak Walton, the forefather of the modern fisherman, wrote a book, first published in 1653, titled ‘The Compleat Angler’. Although Walton’s reference is spiritual, it is also a contemplation of who we are and why we do things. It’s interpretation is as varied and unique to each and every one of us, my own outlook is rather than seeing how much we can catch, the ‘Compleat Angler’ will be content to catch just one or two to take back home with him.
Getting back to my original statement, that catching your first trout of the season is memorable, tricking it to take your fly is unforgettable, but taking him home and having him for lunch is just out of this world!