Image of Fly Fisherman in stream

Fly Fishing for Dummies (Arkansas version) – Part 1

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Image of woman fly fishing in stream

History Of Fly Fishing


Fly fishing has been around in various forms for many years. Early historical records indicate that Macedonian fishermen were using artificial flies to catch fish as early as the second century. The Roman Claudius Aelianus described the Macedonian anglers as using six-foot rods with six-foot line. Aelianus detailed how the Macedonian fishermen would craft artificial flies from a hook with red wool and insect wings tied on. These Macedonian fishermen were apparently quite successful with their technique. There is also some evidence that fishing with artificial flies may even predate the second-century Macedonian techniques.

Unfortunately, little else was written about ancient fly fishing methods. It was 1496 before any major work was published describing fly fishing.

It is thought that modern fly fishing probably developed in England and Scotland. Fly fishing techniques similar to modern techniques began to be developed in England in the 19th century. Around this time fly fishing clubs were also formed in England to accommodate a growing interest in the sport. Part of the interest in fly fishing in southern England was because of the prevalence of shallow, weedy rivers. Fly fishing proved to be well-adapted to this type of watercourse.

Fly fishing quickly became something of an elitist sport in England. Fly fishing purists insisted on fishing with dry flies only and looked down on wet fly fishing as being inferior. Wet fly fishing continued to be developed around the same time, however.  The US and Scandinavia also saw fly fishing popularity increase during the 19th century. However, anglers in the US and Scandinavia did not share the English view concerning the superiority of dry fly fishing.  US and Scandinavian anglers fished both dry and wet flies.

Wet flies are designed to sink below the surface of the water. Wet flies have been tied in a wide variety of patterns to represent larvae, nymphs, pupa, drowned insects, bait fish and other underwater prey. Wet flies are generally considered freshwater flies

Fly fishing materials have continued to develop over the years. Significant advances have been made in fly fishing equipment, including rods, line, and flies.

Early fly fishing rods were made from a tropical wood known as greenheart. Bamboo replaced greenheart as fly fishing popularity spread. Bamboo rods were further refined as American rod builders developed advanced rod building techniques that involved cutting the bamboo into strips before gluing the bamboo back together around a solid core. Following World War II fiberglass became a popular material for fly rod construction. The fiberglass rods were more affordable than their bamboo predecessors since bamboo rods may take as much as 100 hours to build. Modern fly fishing rods are usually made from a graphite compound. Modern rods are less expensive than earlier rods and perform exceptionally well.

Artificial flies were originally made from natural materials like feathers and fur. Most modern flies are made from synthetic materials.

Fly line has also been improved quite a bit. Fly fishing line used to be made of horse hair. Horse hair line was replaced by silk line. The silk line was an improvement over horse hair but the line still had to be removed from the reel periodically to allow it to dry.

US interest in fly fishing peaked in the 1920s with Maine, Vermont and Wisconsin being the most popular areas for fly fishing. Interest increased again in the 1950s with the development of affordable, fiberglass fly fishing rods, synthetic fly line and monofilament leaders. These developments served to make fly fishing a more affordable sport for many people.

What Fish do you Catch?

Fly fishing is most famous as a method for catching trout, grayling, and salmon, but it is also used for a wide variety of species including pike, bass, panfish, and carp, as well as marine species, such as redfish, snook, tarpon, bonefish, and striped bass.  When I was young (a teenager), my dad and I used our fly rods for catching bream in the lakes of southern Arkansas.

Fly Fishing For Men And Women

Fly fishing was once viewed as a sport for men. This may be due in part to the early elitist status of the sport. Even nostalgia tends to favor the masculine involvement in fly fishing. However, fly fishing is now appropriately recognized as a great sport fishing option for men and women alike.  In fact, estimates are that there are well over one million women who now participate in fly fishing.  Some estimates are that women now account for 15-20% of modern fly fishers.

Interestingly, the first book on fly fishing ever published was written by a woman. Dame Juliana Berners published “A Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle” in 1496. Berners is reported to have been a nun and noblewoman. Berners certainly must have tied and fished her own artificial flies. There are equally influential women involved in fly fishing today.

There is a growing market catering to fly fishing for women. Some outfitters are dedicated to teaching women to fly fish while other outfitters report that the number of women participating in fly fishing classes routinely outnumbers men. Fishing clubs for women are also becoming quite popular, particularly around popular fly fishing areas.

Image of woman fly fishing in oceanFly fishing does not normally require a lot of physical strength.  Fly fishing is far more about speed, finesse, and style. Women actually do quite well at fly fishing.

The catch-and-release ethos so prevalent in fly fishing may be appealing to many women as well. While traditional fishing often closely resembled hunting trips with the objective being to bring home food, sport fishing activities like fly fishing often are more about the thrill of the catch. Photos and great memories are frequently the only things brought home from fly fishing trips. The fish often stay right where they are. Many fly fishers even use barbless hooks now to make catch-and-release fishing even easier.

Fly fishing provides a great opportunity to get out in nature without having to kill anything. There are certainly women who fish to catch supper but many people, both men, and women, enjoy fly fishing because of the opportunity it provides to get in touch with nature. Fly fishing is a very relaxing sport but also provides good exercise at the same time. The rhythm of the cast is soothing for many people. Fly fishing also provides opportunities to see a variety of wildlife and birdlife in their natural environment. The scenic backdrops around many fly fishing destinations are also simply incredible.

Fly fishing clubs and groups provide social networking opportunities and camaraderie. Men and women both enjoy these benefits. With the advent of specialty, women-only fishing clubs and groups many women are finding a home with fly fishing.

Manufacturers are also recognizing the significant increase in participation by women. Women can now buy waders that are actually designed for women – rather than relying on the closest men’s size they can find. Fly fishing rods are also now being designed with women in mind. Women’s fly rods are designed to be somewhat lighter and to have smaller handles. These improvements are good news for all women who enjoy the fly fishing sport.

Fly fishing is a great sport for everyone – men and women, adults and children. Everyone can enjoy a day out fly fishing.

 

The 5 Different Fly Fishing Casts

Image of man fly fishing

The art of casting is a very important skill in fly fishing. It requires gradual, synchronized movements. It helps to think of each movement, both the back cast in the forward cast is divided into three steps. The first is loading, the second is the momentum of projection, and the third is the pause. It takes a lot of practice to master the art of casting in fly fishing.

There are several types of casts. The most common of these include the basic cast, false cast, side, and reverse casts, roll cast, and double haul cast:

  1.  In fly fishing, the easiest cast, called the basic cast, is simply casting the line straight back and then directly forward. Anyone new to fly fishing should master the basic cast before going on to other techniques. Use a short length of line to begin with if you are new to fly fishing. This will help you gain sufficient control of the line while practicing short gentle movements.
  2. The false cast is a variation of the basic cast. It consists of the same backward and forward movements as the basic cast and is immediately followed by another set of the same movements. The fly line actually travels backward and forward repeatedly without touching the water. Practicing this type of cast helps to build precise timing that is required in fly fishing.
  3. In fly fishing, the side and reverse casts are generally used when the wind is a problem. They are also used if there are obstacles that can make a regular cast difficult.
  4. A roll cast is generally used if the fisherman finds himself with his back to such obstacles as a high riverbank or a wall of vegetation. When these conditions exist, a basic cast is almost impossible. You need to let out a good length of a line in front of you; it’s best to let the current take it a short distance. The drag of the water on the line will load the rod, and you can cast forward without needing to execute the back cast.
  5. Using a double haul cast in fly fishing will enable you to cast a much longer line than is possible with a basic cast. In order to do this you need to have a much faster line speed. This is done by making much larger casting movements, applying more strength, and loading the rod more before the forward cast. During this cast both hands of the fisherman must work independently.

The above five types of fly fishing casts are the ones used most often. There are many other types of casts also, including the S-cast, the parachute cast, and the mend cast.

Casting is the basic physical skill involved in fly fishing. Its purpose is to place the fly exactly where you want it to be, just like any other skill it takes practice. Accuracy and the delicacy of the presentation are very important when fly fishing. Mastering the basics of fly casting first will make it easier to move on to the more difficult casts.

 

Fly Fishing Terms You Need to Know

In the world of fly fishing there are many words that are important to know. Many of these words are unusual or have a different meaning when used in reference to fly fishing. The following list includes some of the more unusual and double meaning words used by fly fishermen.

  • Action: a general term often used to try to describe the feel of the rod – such as sft, hard, slow, or fast
  • Attractor: usually a bright colored fly that is not usually tied so that it imitates a particular type of food
  • Belly: the sagging portion of a fly fishing line
  • Blank: a rod without a handle, reel seat, or guides
  • Blood Knot: the common name for a barrel knot
  • Chalk Stream: a stream, usually found in valleys, that is spring fed and slow moving with a lot of vegetation
  • Complex Hatch: the simultaneous hatching of several types of species of insects
  • Compound Hatch: the masking, or hiding, of a hatch of smaller insects by a hatch of larger insects that occurs on the same day
  • Cutthroat Trout: a true trout that is found mostly in the western part of the United States
  • Dapping: a fly fishing technique in which the fly is repeatedly bounced on and off of the surface of the water
  • Down Eye Hook: a hook that has the eye bent below the shaft
  • Dropper: the secondary fly that is attached to the leader in a cast of flies
  • Emerger: a term that is used to describe any insect that moves up towards the water’s surface preparing to hatch into the adult stage
  • Feeding Lie: where a trout goes in order to actively feed
  • Flat-butt Leader: a fly used in fly fishing where the butt section is formed into a ribbon shape
  • Freestone Streams: fast moving, tumbling streams with rock covered bottoms
  • French Snap: a small clamp, often used by a fly fisherman to attach his net to his vest
  • Holding Lie: where a trout generally remains when not actively feeding
  • Leisenring Lift: a technique used in nymph fly fishing where the line is lifted, causing the imitation fly to move upwards, right in front of the trout’s suspected lie
  • Midge Rod: a short, light weight rod
  • Natural – a living insect, as opposed to an artificial, or man-made, insect or fly
  • Nymphing: any of the various fishing techniques in which the fly fisherman presents an imitation of the underwater stage of an insect
  • Presentation: the method of placing a fly where the fish is most likely to see it; includes the manner in which the cast in completed and the method in which the fly is fished
  • Rise: the act of the fish taking an insect from the water’s surface
  • Run: a term used to describe a particular stretch of moving water
  • Shooting: a casting technique
  • Spate: high water
  • Stripping: quickly retrieving line or pulling line from the reel
  • Terrestrial: of or relating to an insect whose life cycle is completely spent on land or in plants
  • Waders staff: a sturdy rod about as high as the armpit of the person fly fishing used for support in heavy water

There are many words and terms that are unfamiliar to most people but not to those who enjoy fly fishing.

Catch and Release

Image of man holding up fish

Once you make the decision that you want to become part off the world of fly fishing, you have to then decide if you are going to keep your catches or release them back into the water safe and sound. Some fishermen keep all the fish they catch, others release all that they catch, and some choose to use a combination of the two.

These fly fishermen keep only what they are going to eat, or give to other people to eat, and release all of the other fish they catch.

If you decide to practice fly fishing using the catch and release method, it is very important that you crush the barb of the hook you are going to use. The other choice is to use a hook without barbs. This is done to avoid any unnecessary injuries to the fish. It is also important to keep the fight as short as possible so the fish does not become overtired. At the first opportunity, bring the fish to hand but do not take it out of the water. While holding it under the water, remove the hook using a pair of fishing pliers.

If the fish seems to be too tired to swim away, hold it gently just under the surface of the water with one hand around its caudal wrist, which is just ahead of the tail. With the other hand, support the fish under its belly. Rock the fish gently back and forth making sure that the water enters its mouth and flows over its gills. Using this method, the fish should gain its energy back quickly. When you feel the fish try to pull away, gently release your hold on it. Using the catch and release method of fly fishing can be very rewarding.

Often fishermen believe they should release the smaller fish that they catch and keep the larger ones. They might not be aware that the larger fish usually represent the more genetically suitable spawners. They are the ones that are the most valuable fish for keeping a healthy species. It is wiser to keep the smaller fish to eat and release the larger ones back into the water.

Some people while fly fishing, feel that it is all right to catch as many fish as possible as long as they release them all. However, catch and release is not foolproof. Many fish are injured during the process and some even die. At times, even though the fisherman doesn’t keep any of the fish he catches, the overall fish mortality rate for that day is higher then if he had caught and kept the legal limit. Most fish, even if they are not physically injured, will sulk for a while after they have been released because of the trauma of being caught and released.

Catch and release fly fishing can be a wonderful way to experience the sport. Every release of a fish contributes to the conservation efforts that ensures the future of having future stocks of fish.

 

Fly Fishing Etiquette

Fly fishing can be enjoyed by everyone. It transcends all the boundaries associated with age, status, or wealth. Stream fly fishing is known as a gentle sport and that should be reflected in our stream manner and etiquette. For the most part, the rules of stream etiquette are nothing more than good old common sense. However, they might entail things that have been forgotten, or that a beginner might not think of while fly fishing.

Image of man and woman fly fishing

  1. One of the most important things to remember is not to crowd another fisherman.  Sometimes the temptation is very strong to fish the same water where someone is catching a lot of fish, but that is as rude and inconsiderate as someone cutting into a serving line at a restaurant buffet. If you come upon a spot where someone is fly fishing and having a good catch, the proper thing to do is stop far back from the edge so the fish don’t stop eating. You may watch for awhile, both because fly fishing is a beautiful sport to watch and perhaps you will learn something. If the person that was fishing moves further along the stream, it is acceptable to slowly and quietly enter the water where he had been fishing. Otherwise, move well beyond the fisherman to another point of the stream
  2. Fly fishing casts a common bond amoungst all people that love and appreciate the sport. It is important to be friendly to other fishermen that you may come across. If you meet another fly fisherman who is outside the stream, take a moment to be friendly. Sometimes a little chat will give you insight as to what patterns are working best that day, or you could give some tip that will help him to have a better day. If you come upon a fly fisherman that is in the stream a friendly nod or wave is sufficient. Be friendly to all fishermen, not just those fly fishing. You never know, sometimes a few minutes spent talking with a non-fly fisherman, could result in his wanted to give the sport a try.
  3. Taking care of the environment is essential in stream etiquette. Stream fly fishing is done in some of the most beautiful areas of the country. It is essential that we do everything we can to keep it that way. No one should ever litter. The environment should look exactly like it did when you have finished fishing for the day as it did when you started. It is not uncommon to see someone who is fly fishing picking up any litter that they come across on the stream banks, or in the water, and carrying it out with them. It only takes a moment to clean up after yourself and that will keep the area beautiful.
  4. While fly fishing a stream, always remember to respect the trout. Trout have been blessed with the natural instinct and temperament to make them a real challenge to a fly fisherman. Only keep what you intend to eat, release any others.The basics of stream etiquette for fly fishing are very simple.  By following them you will ensure that you are doing your best for the environment and you will always be a welcome stream companion.

Best Fly Fishing Spots in Arkansas

It was 1995 when the Arkansas State Legislature changed our state nickname from “The Land of Opportunity” to “The Natural State.”  This new nickname fits the natural beauty you will find, along with an blend of mountains, woodlands, valleys, plains and crystal clear stream full of wildlife.  The biggest issue with fishing in Arkansas is choosing which awesome spot to go fish.

Here are links to websites with great information on Fly Fishing in “The Natural State”:

Fly Fishing in Arkansas

Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher: Guided Fly Fishing Trips

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and The Arkanss Fishing Report

Take Me Fishing

FISH TALES – Bella Vista Fishing Community (Facebook)

Summary

Fly Fishing has a long and rich history around the world and within the U.S.  Arkansas has plenty of Fly Fishing enthusiasts who love our state’s natural beauty and wildlife and its great fishing opportunities.  This is Part 1 of a 2 part series of posts on Fly Fishing for Dummies (Arkansas version).  Part 2 will be published soon.

Meanwhile, The Bella Vista Online Mall has a special “FISHING SHOP” that you can visit and check out the various products we have researched.

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I love to receive questions and comments from site visitors, you can leave yours below. -Shirley

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