Let’s Talk History – Fly Fishing Pt. 1

Fly fishing is an angling method in which an artificial ‘fly’ is used to catch fish. The fly is cast using a fly rod, reel, and specialized weighted line. Casting a nearly weightless fly or ‘lure’ requires casting techniques significantly different from other forms of casting… Fly fishermen use hand tied flies that resemble natural invertebrates or other food organisms, or ‘lures’ to provoke the fish to strike.

Below are a few Hand Tied Flies –

North Americans usually distinguish freshwater fishing between cold-water species (trout, salmon, steelhead) and warm-water species, notably bass. In Britain, where natural water temperatures vary less, the distinction is between game fishing for trout or salmon and coarse fishing for other species. Techniques for fly fishing also differ with habitat (lakes and ponds, small streams, large rivers, bays and estuarys and open ocean.)

In fly fishing, fish are caught by using Artificial flies that are cast with a fly rod and a fly line. The fly line (today, almost always coated with plastic) is heavy enough to send the fly to the target. The main difference between fly fishing and spin or bait fishing is that in fly fishing the weight of the line carries the hook through the air, whereas in spin and bait fishing the weight of the lure or sinker at the end of the monofilament or braided line gives casting distance. Artificial flies are of several types; some imitating an insect (either flying or swimming), others a bait fish or crustacean, others attractors are known to attract fish although they look like nothing in nature. Flies can be made either to float or sink, and range in size from a few millimeters to 30 cm long; most are between 1 and 5 cm. Artificial flies are made by fastening hair, fur, feathers, or other materials, both natural and synthetic, onto a hook. The first flies were tied with natural materials, but synthetic materials are now popular and prevalent. Flies are tied in sizes, colors and patterns to match local terrestrial and aquatic insects, baitfish, or other prey attractive to the target fish species.

Many credit the first recorded use of an artificial fly to the Roman Claudius Aelianus near the end of the 2nd century. He described the practice of Macedonian anglers on the Astraeus River:

…they have planned a snare for the fish, and get the better of them by their fisherman’s craft. . . . They fasten red . . . wool round a hook, and fit on to the wool two feathers which grow under a cock’s wattles, and which in color are like wax. Their rod is six feet long, and their line is the same length. Then they throw their snare, and the fish, attracted and maddened by the color, comes straight at it, thinking from the pretty sight to gain a dainty mouthful; when, however, it opens its jaws, it is caught by the hook, and enjoys a bitter repast, a captive.

In his book Fishing from the Earliest Times, however, William Radcliff (1921) gave the credit to Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis), born some two hundred years before Aelian, who wrote:

…Who has not seen the scarus rise, decoyed and killed by fraudful flies…

The last word, somewhat indistinct in the original, is either “mosco” (moss) or “musca” (fly) but catching fish with fraudulent moss seems unlikely.

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The traditional Japanese method of fly-fishing is known as “Tenkara” (Japanese: テンカラ, literally: “from heaven”). The first reference to tenkara fly-fishing was in 1878 in a book called “Diary of climbing Mt. Tateyama”. Tenkara is the only fly-fishing method in Japan that is defined by using a fly and casting technique where the line is what is actually being cast. Tenkara originated in the mountains of Japan as a way for professional fishermen and inn-keepers to harvest the local fish, Ayu, trout, char for selling and providing a meal to their guests. Primarily a small-stream fishing method that was preferred for being highly efficient, where the long rod allowed the fisherman to place the fly where the fish would be.

In the United States, fly anglers are thought to be the first anglers to have used artificial lures for bass fishing. After pressing into service the fly patterns and tackle designed for trout and salmon to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass, they began to adapt these patterns into specific bass flies. Fly anglers seeking bass developed the spinner/fly lure and bass popper fly, which are still used today. In the late 19th century, American anglers, such as Theodore Gordon, in the Catskill Mountains of New York began using fly tackle to fish the region’s many brook trout-rich streams such as the Beaverkill and Willowemoc Creek. Many of these early American fly anglers also developed new fly patterns and wrote extensively about their sport, increasing the popularity of fly fishing in the region and in the United States as a whole. One such man was Charles F. Orvis, who through his actions helped to popularize fly fishing by designing and distributing novel reel and fly designs. His 1874 fly reel was described by reel historian Jim Brown as the “benchmark of American reel design,” the first fully modern fly reel. The founding of The Orvis Company helped institutionalize fly fishing within America and supplied angling equipment and accessories to the homes of millions of Americans. His tackle catalogs, distributed to a small but devoted customer list in the late 1800s, are now highly collectible as early forerunners of today’s enormous direct-mail outdoor products industry. The Junction Pool in Roscoe, where the Willowemoc flows into the Beaver Kill, is the center of an almost ritual pilgrimage every April 1, when the season begins. Albert Bigelow Paine, a New England author, wrote about fly fishing in The Tent Dwellers, a book about a three week trip he and a friend took to central Nova Scotia in 1908.

Participation in fly fishing peaked in the early 1920s in the eastern states of Maine and Vermont and in the Midwest in the spring creeks of Wisconsin. Along with deep sea fishing, Ernest Hemingway did much to popularize fly fishing through his works of fiction, including The Sun Also Rises. It was the development of inexpensive fiberglass rods, synthetic fly lines, and monofilament leaders, however, in the early 1950s, that revived the popularity of fly fishing, especially in the United States.

Here is Hemingway – Unlike other casting methods, fly fishing can be thought of as a method of casting line rather than lure. Non-flyfishing methods rely on a lure’s weight to pull line from the reel during the forward motion of a cast. By design, a fly is too light to be cast, and thus simply follows the unfurling of a properly cast fly line, which is heavier and tapered and therefore more castable than lines used in other types of fishing. The physics of flycasting can be described by the transfer of impulse, the product of mass and speed through the rod from base to top and from the transfer of impulse through the fly line all the way to the tip of the leader. Because both the rod and the fly line are tapered the smaller amount of mass will reach high speeds as the waves in rod and line unfurl. The waves that travel through the fly line are called loops. Determining factors in reaching the highest speeds are the basal frequency of a rod and the transfer of the speed from the tip of the rod to the fly line. At the moment the rod tip reaches its highest velocity the direction of the cast is determined.

The type of cast used when fishing varies according to the conditions. The most common cast is the forward cast, where the angler whisks the fly into the air, back over the shoulder until the line is nearly straight, then forward, using primarily the forearm. The objective of this motion is to “load” (bend) the rod tip with stored energy, then transmit that energy to the line, resulting in the fly line (and the attached fly) being cast for an appreciable distance. However, just bending the rod and releasing it to jerk the fly line forward (like a bowstring or a catapult) will not propel the fly line and fly very far. More important is the movement of the rod through an arc acting as a lever, magnifying the hand movement of the caster (of about a foot) to an arc at the rod tip of several feet. Here the rod acts as a lever. In fact, one of the Class 3 types of lever, where the The force is applied between the fulcrum and the load (like tweezers). The fulcrum in the fly cast is below the caster’s hand gripping the rod; the load is at the rod tip; between the hand exerts the force. The caster’s “stroke” backwards and forwards, for the backcast and the forward cast, operates the rod as a (slightly flexible) lever. Casting without landing the fly on the water is known as ‘false casting’, and may be used to pay out line, to dry a soaked fly, or to reposition a cast. Other casts are the roll cast, the single- or double-haul, the tuck cast, and the side- or curve-cast.

Back Cast –

Dropping the fly onto the water and its subsequent movement on or beneath the surface is one of fly fishing’s most difficult aspects; the angler is attempting to cast in such a way that the line lands smoothly on the water and the fly appears as natural as possible. At a certain point, if a fish does not strike, depending upon the action of the fly in the wind or current, the angler picks up the line to make another presentation. On the other hand, if a fish strikes, the angler pulls in line while raising the rod tip. This “sets” the hook in the fish’s mouth. The fish is played either by hand, where the angler continues to hold the fly line in one hand to control the tension applied to the fish, or by reeling up any slack in the line and then using the hand to act as a drag on the reel. Most modern fly reels have an adjustable, mechanical drag system to control line tension during a fish’s run.

Spey casting is a casting technique used in fly fishing. Spey casting requires a longer, heavier two-handed fly rod, referred to as a Spey rod. Spey casting is essentially a large roll cast, developed on the Scottish River Spey where high banks do not allow space for the usual back cast. Spey casting is used for fishing large rivers for salmon and large trout such as steelhead and sea trout. Spey technique is also used in saltwater surf casting. All of these situations require the angler to cast larger flies long distances. The two-handed Spey technique allows more powerful casts and avoids obstacles on the shore by keeping most of the line in front of the angler.

Diagram of  a Spey Cast –

Fly fishing for trout is a very popular sport, which can be done using any of the various methods and any of the general types of flies. Many of the techniques and presentations of fly fishing were first developed in fishing for trout. There is a misconception that all fly fishing for trout is done on the surface of the water with “dry flies.” In most places, especially heavily fished trout areas, success usually comes from fly fishing using flies that were designed to drift on the bottom of the water. A trout feeds below the water’s surface nearly 90 percent of the time. Trout usually only come to the surface when there is a large bug hatch (when aquatic insects grow wings and leave the water to mate and lay eggs). There are exceptions to this rule, however, particularly during the summer months and on smaller mountain streams.

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I’ll start this off with this post and follow-up next time with Different Rods as well as Different Weather Fishing techniques… Thank You.

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TROVE GENERAL EST.2010 Trove General, located in Paoli, Pennsylvania, is a men's and women's clothing and accessories store, with a curated collection of home wares, books and apothecary. Stocking brands that value quality and craftsmanship, Trove merges aesthetic and authenticity with heritage brands such as Belstaff, Pendleton, Woolrich, Filson, Blundstone, and Dubarry, while also aiming to constantly introduce fresh brands and ideas suited for an outdoor lifestyle. Harkening back to the days of the original general store, Trove is rooted in it's location and community.. A place meant to make life simpler and more enjoyable. Welcomed feedback or inquires please email info@trovegeneral.com. 19 Paoli Shopping Center Paoli, PA 19301 Monday-Saturday: 10-5 Sunday: 12-5 P~ 484.320.8626
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2 Responses to Let’s Talk History – Fly Fishing Pt. 1

  1. you should update more often great read, also like the theme of the page.

  2. Pingback: Tips to Help You Learn How to Bass Fish | Bass Fishing Tips Today

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