Of all the outdoor pursuits I partake in, none conjure more interest from non-sporting friends than fly fishing. There is a mystique to the sport. A romanticism developed through literature, imagery, and marketing, over a long period of time. Anglers dressed to the nines in the most beautiful locales on the planet. It’s alluring.
This creative vision of what fly fishing is does have merit. There are places you find yourself with a fly rod in hand so breathtakingly beautiful, it’s hard to accept the moment as reality. Yet, fly fishing a subdivision pond for bluegill or largemouth bass is also an option. The sport can be, and actually is, so much simpler than most believe.
The weather has been magnificent the last week. I mean, we’ve been experiencing one of those magical stretches we should take note of, so the next time it’s miserable outside and we’re complaining, we can reflect on the gift of a week in April of sunny, 70-degree days with birds singing and red buds in bloom. The perfection inspired me to grab a fly rod and head to a local pond.
The golf course where I decide to make my first fly fishing trip of the year was abuzz with activity. Foursomes were backed up on the tee boxes and this was a Wednesday evening. The allure of outdoor activity had enthusiasts of all sorts out and about, soaking in the day’s last beams of sunlight. Young couples on walks pushed babies in strollers while toddlers wearing helmets zipped around on bikes supported by training wheels. But I had the pond to myself.
The freshly mowed grass and open landscape behind me made for a perfect spot to knock the rust of my backcast. A lot of Midwestern fly fishing is done on woods-lined or brushy rivers and creeks. Precision casting is at times necessary. Those are not where you should try to learn to fly cast. The pond I was fishing is perfect for that. It’s also perfect for an experienced fly caster to find their rhythm for the first time in months.
I tied on a small wooly bugger, which is a very common fly, because it’s one in my arsenal any fish in the pond will eat. There are smaller largemouth bass, bluegill and crappie where I was fishing. Their hungry after a dormant winter. Any activity in the presence of a fish right now in a pond like this could incite a strike. So don’t stress too much over what to use. This is the time of year they’ll eat about anything.
I approach the pond edge with the fly rod in my right hand. With my left hand, I strip line off the reel. When I have 20 feet or so of fly line at my feet, I use the rod to lift the line and throw it behind me. I wait about two seconds for the line to completely stretch out to the point where it is flexing or bowing the rod tip away from me. Then using energy loaded in the rod from the force of going backwards, I push the rod forward, firing the line similar to an arrow out in front of me. I abruptly stop and hold the rod tip at 10 o’clock. Once the line is laid out flat in the air in front of me, I lower my forearm and the line falls gently on the water fully extended.
When the wooly bugger hits the surface, let it sink for a few seconds, then give it a twitch by pulling in a foot or so of your fly line. Continue to repeat this process until you have worked your fly through the water back to you. Stop your retrieval in time to leave enough fly line out to have the weight necessary to begin your back cast. This is where you see fly anglers making false casts. When it looks like they are whipping the sky. This is to stretch more line into your back cast. All you really need for effective fly fishing is to be able to cast 30 to 40 ft accurately. So false cast conservatively. A pond is a perfect place to practice.
I caught a couple of dozen fish in an hour from the pond. It wasn’t every cast, but pretty close. Most of them were small bluegill under 8 inches. A couple stunted little largemouth put on acrobatic shows of jumping and splashing for the golfers. I guarantee a number of conversations were had on the golf course that evening about fly fishing. I wonder how many people said, I’ve always wanted to try fly fishing but it looks so complicated, while continued trying to put a tiny ball in a little cup 400 yards away.
See you down the trail…
Pic: Fly fishing is a sport one can participate in across the country, regardless of the fish species you’re after.