An Introduction to Fly Fishing

Anglers fly fish for the same reason some deer hunters use longbows and arrows. By reducing automation, they make the sport more personal, more intimate and more satisfying. And, like an archer who makes his own arrows, a fly fishermen can create his own flies or build his own rods. The fun in that recipe can add 10 happy years to anyone's life.

Fly fishing is different from other kinds of fishing in a couple of ways. Most basically, the weight of the line propels the cast, not the weight of the bait or lure. A tiny fly is very light, but it is possible to present it to a fish 40 feet away by using a fly line.

Most anglers come to fly fishing after a long apprenticeship in other kinds of fishing, be it with live bait, bass lures or deep sea tackle. I spent many hours plastered to the seat of a boat dangling minnows over the side or sitting on a mud-slick creek bank trying to outwit catfish before ever holding a fly rod.

When I first started fly fishing, I spent a lot of time on streams full of greedy sunfish and small, naive bass. Casting colorful woolly worms and little popping bugs, I waded in cool waters for hours on end catching lots of small, feisty fish while learning to keep a fly line airborne.

Fly Rod

Missouri anglers can start with one fly rod that will maximize the fun in catching sunfish, small stream bass and trout. Most fly rods today are made from graphite and, sometimes, a combination of other materials, such as fiberglass. This is good, resilient stuff that can be turned into a light, sweet-casting rod. The least expensive rods will probably contain less graphite and more fiberglass.

Experienced fly anglers select a rod based on the "line weight" the rod is rated for, the rod action and the length of the rod. Rod "actions" are rated fully-flexing, medium, medium-fast and fast. As rods progress from the most flexible to the fastest, they become stiffer.

Short, light fly rods suitable for sunfish use feather-weight lines, while longer, more muscular rods used for bass fishing require heavier lines to tease the leverage out of them. A new fly caster should look for a rod in the medium range. It will "load" (flex the rod) with its matched line at short to medium ranges, making casting easier at the distances