I have been a fisherman for as long as I can remember. Only about 7 years ago, I started fly fishing. An old friend of mine showed me pictures of himself fishing in British Columbia and New Zealand, and I was deeply intrigued with his travels. I now know that both of those destinations are some of the best trout fishing in the world. Just by looking at those pictures, I knew that I wanted to learn to fly fish, and that there were many opportunities for fly fisherman right here in the midwest.
Seven years later, I have many fly rods in my quiver, and it is my favorite thing to do. I still have all my spinning reels from years past, but all they do now is collect dust. Living in the midwest, it is much more common to be a bait fisherman than a fly fisherman. So you can only imagine how many times that I have been asked…why do you fly fish? For some reason, it doesn’t matter how I explain the experience or illustrate how much fun it is to land a fish with a fly rod. They just don’t seem to understand without experiencing it for themselves.
A large majority of people that live in my community and it’s surrounding communities would consider themselves outdoorsman. I do not intend to dispute that perception, rather put things into perspective. Hunting is a popular activity or pastime in all areas of the world. One of my responsibilities in public service is to instructor hunter education classes in the community. One of the sections that we teach is the Five Stages of Hunter Development. There is no order to the stages, and an individual could be found in multiple stages as a hunter. The following stages are what we teach in our classes.
- Shooting Stage – The idea behind this stage is to shoot. It does not matter if the shot is safe or thought out. You just want to shoot.
- Limiting-Out Stage – In this stage there is one focus…killing the bag limit of game no matter what it takes. Numbers are everything in this stage.
- Trophy Stage – This stage is most prominent with big game hunting. Hunting for horns or the biggest specimen are two examples.
- Method Stage – This stage focuses on process of hunting. Ex. the difference from hunting deer with a shotgun vs. archery equipment.
- Sportsman Stage – this stage focuses on everything from the experience, atmosphere, camaraderie, and the process.
When I explain this to my hunting friends and students, they tend to understand a little better. I compare fly fishing to archery. As a fly fisherman, I feel like that I am in the method stage or the sportsman stage. I originally started out fishing with spinning gear as a bait fisherman. I am still an angler, but I have shifted my methods to a fly rod and reel or tenkara rod. This is much like a whitetail deer hunter that starts off hunting with a shotgun or rifle. Many hunters will transition from a gun hunter to an archery hunter. This experience is completely different for the hunter. Archery is not necessarily easier, but the experience is what drives the hunt.
I dont necessarily catch more fish on a fly rod, but the experience that I have is by far more satisfying to me than catching fish on spinning rod and reel. The entire process of fly fishing is all part of the experience. I enjoy tying leaders, tying flies, making casts, enjoying the waterways that I fish, and hopefully catch some fish here and there.