Fishing opener at Convict Lake (Photo: Henschel)
From the outsider’s perspective, fly fishing is a mystifying sport. There is angler, standing thigh-deep with waders in running water, completely oblivious to the world around him or her.
“Why would anyone want to spend all that time simply trying to catch fish?” they ask.
While there are plenty of non-angling folk who perceive it as mundane and humdrum, there exists a small number of spectators who wish to try it out at some point, purely out of curiosity’s sake, but they don’t know which direction to step towards to start.
I do hear from the occasional person who exclaims, “Man, that looks cool!” And, it is. To me, it is a spiritual practice. What whirling dervishes experience in Egyptian mosques, hemp-smoking yogis in Hindu temples, and powder junkies skiing off Chair 22 on a stormy day, I find on moving water. It is so unbelievably absorbing, standing in the river for three-and-a-half hours, naïve to everything else. The only thing you truly think about, is, catching fish. It is my professed religion.
However, it is not my intention in this week’s report to proselytize. I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other that everyone out there who hasn’t fly fished, needs to cast a rod. Probably better if not, or the rivers would look like the 405 freeway. But, in all fairness to the world, I do believe that the words found here can serve a useful purpose: I wish to clarify ten of the greatest misconceptions about fly fishing. This is one of those “don’t judge it until you try it” lessons. Here listed, running in hierarchical order, as I believe, from the least important to the most extreme, are the ten greatest misconceptions about fly fishing:
10. Trout can “outsmart” an angler. This is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard. We hear that statement from bait, spin, or fly fisher, after getting skunked. “They outsmarted me.” No, they didn’t. Trout have brains the size of a green pea. The angler malfunctioned somewhere along the path of selection of: fishing hole, fly choice, test size, etc. Some guides in town argue about who can put their clients on more trout. That’s like demanding the blue-ribbon for winning the 4th grade spelling bee competition.
9. A fly angler must have a fly box filled with fifty different patterns. Nope. As the late Sherwin Anderson stated in The Curtis Creek Manifesto, “Any crafty angler can catch a trout with a size-16 Hare’s Ear.” Yep. Add an Elk Hair Caddis, Parachute Adams, Woolly Bugger, and Scud to that list, and you will catch plenty of trout. Fly anglers generally just like to overcomplicate the very simple.
8. Small flies only catch small trout, and big flies catch big trout. Very large fish feed on very small insects. Harry Blackburn explained to me a few years back that a large trout is better caught on a tiny size 26 or 28 fly, since the hook is so small that it cannot cut a larger hole in the mouth of the trout thus allowing the fish to spit the hook. Less is more, especially in The Eastside.
7. Don’t talk because you will scare the fish. It is so totally obvious where this one came from. One day, a father took his two boys to the river after work. He was tired, and didn’t want to think at all. So, when his boys started asking him questions, he turned to them and said, “Don’t talk because you will scare the fish.” All he wanted was peace and quiet.
6. Fly fishing is a “sport.” Nordic skiing is a sport. Soccer is a sport. Basketball is a sport. You must break a sweat, in my opinion, for an activity to be actually classified as “sport.” Golf? You didn’t make the cut either.
5. Fly fishing is only for retired white dudes who earn $350,000 annually on their dividend payments alone. Yes, it is true that fly fishing isn’t free. You need gear, and flies retail for generally two bucks a pop. But it’s not expensive, either.
4. All fly anglers practice zero limit. Let’s be realistic here, the term “catch and release” can be better applied in my walk-of-life to refer about former girlfriends, than trout. I throw back about 99% of the trout that I hook, but, I will occasionally eat one, and, enjoy it. I am all in favor of catch and kill if DFG regulations allow. It is the cycle of life. Fly angling generally starts with bait angling.
3. Fly fishing is a waste of time. No, it isn’t. As good friend and resident of Bishop Ron Oriti once told me, “The good lord doesn’t count time in field and stream against you.” So, it is not a “waste” of time, it is all “free” time that is tacked on the other side in the end. You have to experience to understand.
2. If I fly fish, I will save money on meat. Holy cow. I spent a grand alone on my gun safe alone which houses fifteen firearms which are in the garage because I once said the same thing about duck hunting. How many fly rods do I have? Not enough, maybe twenty. As another good friend who lives in Bishop, Bob Wallace, once told me, “You can accessorize yourself to bankruptcy fly fishing.” I’m not there yet, but have worked hard trying to get there. I have an Orvis Visa Card, and a Cabela’s Visa Card.
And, that brings us to our last, and greatest, misconception about fly fishing: 1. It’s relaxing. No, it isn’t!!! Inside the mind of every fly angler is the hysteria of thousands of questions one asks oneself in three minutes alone: “Is my fly the right size???!!!” “Is that toad I hooked yesterday in the same hole today???!!!” “Why is my 5X tippet constantly breaking???!!!” “If I reach the rod enough with the forward cast, can I get just enough slack to create a two-second delay before the current takes the line downstream???!!!” If you think fly fishing is relaxing, you haven’t tried it. It is sadistically nerve-racking and can send anyone to the loony bin.
Hence, that mostly concludes our “fish report” this week. What do I have to report of practical applications?
Hot Creek is fishing very well. Usual tiny nymph patterns. Scuds are taking trout. BWO’s. Even the occasional terrestrial. The Upper Owens is murky and brown. A sink line with a streamer will hook trout though. Rush Creek? Parachute Adams. On Rock Creek, toss Royal Coachmen. The word on Crowley from opener is that Whiskey Creek is the place to be. Go forth, and spread the truth!
A more detailed report can be found at http://kittredgesports.com/fishing_report.php. Leonard guides for Kittredge Sports. Call 760.934.7566.