Get hooked on fly fishing at the Andy Thornal Company fly fishing school from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24 in Winter Haven.

“It’s the beautiful addiction,” said Director of Fly Fishing Schools Chris O’Byrne, who named his soon to be published book about joys of fly fishing, “The Beautiful Addiction.”

“Nothing is more addictive than catching a fish on a fly you tied yourself,” said O’Byrne. “You get to make the lure come alive and when we hook a fish we are more connected to the fish than almost any other kind of fishing. You have to be in tune with creation and create the action of the lure. It’s about being in the moment with your total focus on casting rather than worrying about every day concerns.”

O’Byrne, whose father taught him fly fishing, passed the International Federation of Fly Fishers Casting Instructor Certification exam in 2011. In addition to leading fly fishing programs at community events, O’Byrne, a teacher at Lake Region High School and father of two, has introduced more than 1,000 anglers to the long rod.

Contrary to dangling a live worm, fly fishing uses a weightless lure with a weighted fly line that you cast with a fly rod.


“We don’t kill any bait and, generally, we don’t kill the fish we cast,” said O’Byrne. “The secret to success is to be the fish,” said O’Byrne. “We don’t have bait to attract the fish so we have to be able to find the fish are and figure out what will make them strike, and then create that image with the fly.”

“Central Florida is known as the Largemouth Bass Capital of the World so we fly fish for largemouth bass and blue gill locally, but our students travel the world fly fishing for trout, grayling and salmon, as well as saltwater fly fishing for tarpon, bonefish and others,” said O’Byrne, who started as a part time employee in 2004 in what was called the Army-Navy Store when it opened in 1945.

“This store is part of the cultural fabric of Winter Haven,” said Katie Worthington, president and CEO of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce.

Fly fishing classes include continental breakfast and barbecue lunch; a T-shirt or hat; and “Begin The Adventure,” the companion notebook O’Byrne authored.

The class costs $125. Kids 12 and older are half price with a paying adult. Reservations are required. Located at 336 Magnolia Ave. in Winter Haven, call 800-499-9890.

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