Just mention flyfishing and all sorts of mental images appear. Everyone has a different one. Some may imagine a pristine shallow sand flat with the water distorted by the rooster tail of water being thrown off a speeding fly line dragged by a hooked bonefish. Others may see graceful loops of colored fly line unrolling over a small secluded mountain stream as clouds of caddis or mayflies bounce and hover over the water and surrounding foliage, while rings on the water are centered by the noses of rising trout.
While fly fishing necessarily points towards the fish as the end goal, it’s often not really the true focus. Fly fishing is more about the overall aesthetic, the disparate parts that come together to create the whole experience.
Fly fishing writers and the industry as a whole seem to recognize this fact. What’s important is not catching big fish, but making a perfect cast at a tailing Charlotte Harbor redfish, or experiencing payara fishing somewhere deep in the Amazon basin, or enjoying the peacefulness of a lazy summer day as you float on a farm pond casting a rubber-legged spider for bluegill.
The fish we love to catch live in some of the prettiest places on Earth. It’s no accident that our favorite places to fish are often not those that promise the best shot at a trophy fish, but those that are the most beautiful and pristine. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with catching trophy fish in a beautiful spot!
The advantages of fly fishing are many. One of them is the opportunity to enjoy and learn about nature. Some of my most memorable trips are those during which I’ve had encounters with animals other than fish. I’ve seen bears, deer, elk and mountain lions while fishing western rivers; baby manatees kissing the back of my boat while rosette spoonbills flew overhead here in Florida; howler monkeys yelling from the trees while spider monkeys climbed on board the boat in South America. It’s crazy what you’ll find and see if you just slow down, look, be aware and be a part of it.
Another of the purported upsides of fly fishing is that it allows you to relax. I’m not sure about that, because you’re busy doing something all the time. Maybe it’s a different type of relaxation.
But I can tell you that while you are busy being involved in chasing fish, hearing new sounds and seeing new things, you’re putting everything else on the back burner. After even one day on the water you’re more centered and able to cope with everyday troubles. I know that when I have time off from guiding, I want to fish or just stand in the yard and cast so that I can relax.
Spending time with friends and family is always a pro in my book. I love sharing my knowledge and skills with them, as well as with clients who hopefully will become friends. Few experiences are as enjoyable as spending a day poling the flats in a skiff or floating down a river with someone whose company you enjoy.
Of course, a small boat can seem a whole lot smaller if you get stuck with a guide or fishing partner who just happens to rub you the wrong way. Fortunately, most of us who fly fish are pretty decent people, but it’s always good advice to choose your fishing partner wisely.
Other pluses: Fly fishing provides one of the best excuses for travel you’ll ever find. For those so inclined, it’s always possible to get a good shot of adrenaline. Solving challenges that arise are a big part of fly fishing: Where do I need to be on this incoming tide? Is that a size 18 Ephemeroptera emerger? How do I make “that” cast or presentation? Figuring these things out is truly satisfying when you finally fool a fish into eating a fly.
As I have tried to paint such a pretty picture of fly fishing it’s not without cons. To get better at it and able to enjoy it more, there are a few things that you have to do.
• Spend more time on the water. Sorry; you’ll have to go to your favorite stream, lake or saltwater destination and fish. (Darn, that’s too bad.)
• Practice casting in the yard 10 or 15 minutes a day. That’s all it takes if you are practicing correctly, and it will help immensely. (10 minutes? Who has 10 minutes?)
• Call a fishing buddy or family member and invite them to go and share this adventure with you. (Hang out with people you like? Ridiculous.)
Now if these downsides are too tough for you to endure, then so be it! But right now is a good time to jump into fly fishing around Charlotte Harbor. The water has cleared. The red tide has gone back to where it belongs. The water and air have warmed up, and the fish are eating. My trips have been consisting of good numbers of snook, trout, reds, sheepshead, along with some mackerel and a pompano here and there. We aren’t done with winter yet and we’ll have a few more cold fronts come through, but fishing will keep getting better on into March.
By the way if you are reading this and haven’t bought your significant other the expected Hallmark Valentine paraphernalia, drop this paper and get it done! You can’t fly fish from the dog house.
Capt. Rex Gudgel is a fly fishing guide in the Boca Grande area and an International Federation of Fly Fishers Master Certified casting instructor. If you’d like to get casting lessons, book a trip or just need more fly fishing info, contact him at 706-254-3504 or visit BocaGrandeSlamFlyFishing.com or CastWithRex.com.