Monday, 3 July 2017

I “Used To” Think I Was a Good Fisherman

This past weekend I had the pleasure of fishing in FL (Tampa Bay area) with an experienced fly fisherman and friend Ken Anderson on his sweet ‘Hells Bay Professional’ technical poling skiff.

He told me that he was going to primarily be fly fishing and that I soon too would be sold on this method of angling. Being that I have never fly fished and am just beginning to master the art of inshore fishing on conventional rod and reel, I wasn’t quite sure he’d sell me on the idea.

I “Used To” Think I Was a Good Fisherman

It wasn’t long after we got on the water that Ken began to make me a believer in this challenging, yet rewarding method of fishing. When we spoke the day before about the Florida fishing trip he asked me if I knew how to pole?

I didn’t quite know how to answer the question because I had personally owned a flats boat in the past with a poling platform and had indeed used it to pole the flats to locate fish. I definitely didn’t want to let Ken down and surely didn’t want him to change his mind about taking me fishing so I told him, ‘Sure I know how to pole! I didn’t know there was a school or instructional academy for such a thing’.

Hind sight being 20/20, I know understand exactly why he asked me this question. Saltwater fly fishing in Florida is all about sight fishing. The purpose of poling is to be able to stealthily stalk a fish that the person poling helps you spot from his elevated location on the boat. The person poling must maintain the perfect distance that strategically keeps you from spooking the fish and also allows you to stay within effective casting range. This is NOT an easy feat if you combine this with the task of being the eyes for the person you’re poling for.

We were fishing a mangrove line and I was way too concerned with where I was placing the pole for optimal leverage over the direction of the boat along with being overly careful not to hit the pole on anything on the boat that would scare the fish off that might have been laying under the mangroves. The result was poor Ken having to site the fish for himself while patiently waiting for me to get my bearings on how to steer the boat effectively. Sorry Ken, I promise I’ll get better with more practice! While watching Ken fly fish, I began to see the incredible presentation a fly offers in the water.

I always thought the fly just landed on the top of the water and you waited for the fish to inhale it from underneath. The particular fly Ken was working is called a ‘schminnow’ and actually sank slowly and allowed for realistic action as he slowly retrieved it. The goal while we worked this mangrove line was to spot a snook and land a fly right in front of its face. The strategy being that as Ken slowly retrieved the fly, it would coax the snook out of its hiding under the mangroves and we could watch it inhale the bait start to finish. This sounds easy in theory, but then there’s casting to take into consideration! Casting a fly is an art.

I would say it’s comparable to poetry in motion because it involves so many moving parts all working fluently together. As you work the rod tip back in forth in air, you also have to pull the line tight in order to achieve the tension needed to gain momentum and propel the lure an effective distance. If you’ve always fished conventional like I have, you’ll quickly notice this is a VERY un-natural motion in comparison to what you’re used to when casting. Ken was nice enough to give me a quick lesson, but I struggled the entire time. This simply isn’t something that you pick up over night.

I understood his instructions conceptually, but my bodies muscle memory was flawed from casting conventional lures for so many years. You might be able to learn to open a cast net perfectly in a day while practicing in your front yard, but I think casting a fly is something that the best fishermen continually improve on throughout their entire lives. Making your own fly’s is an art too. Ken showed me several of the flys in his arsenal and explained that some worked the top of the water column while others suspended/sank in the water column as you slowly retrieve them. Imagine how rewarding it would be to see a 40+ inch snook inhale a lure that you made with your own bare hands, ingenuity and imagination.

After reading this article you’re probably thinking to yourself, ‘that sure does sound like a LOT of work for a fish’. Truthfully that’s exactly what this kind of fishing offers; the ultimate angling challenge. It’s a leveling of the playing field between you and the fish that rewards you with an indescribable sense of accomplishment that can only be achieved through ingenuity, stealth and a lot of skill. Fly fishing is what separates the best inshore anglers from the rest of the pack.


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