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#3989286 - 09/29/09 01:47 PM What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ
Txredraider Offline
TFF Celebrity

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 5705
Loc: Athens, TX
I asked Robin if we could have a sticky topic to help educate folks on what fly fishing is and isn't. My thinking is that we're missing some folks who aren't posting their questions for whatever reason, so I wrote the piece below to give people interested in fly fishing a general idea about terms and equipment.

My suggestion is that we leave this topic open for a couple or three days in order for most of us to read it and offer some constructive criticism and then make those changes and lock it to keep it as clean and concise as possible. As one of the leading threadjackers on this board, I will be on my best behavior in this ONE thread and I ask the same of you.

Please let me know how you think this could be better.

TXRR



So you’ve seen A River Runs Through It or a fishing show on TV that showed an angler making long, graceful casts with a fly rod and become intrigued. The whippy rod draws a very visible line through beautiful loops in the air as someone straight out of an Orvis catalogue carefully stalks a trout in a crystal clear mountain stream.

Truthfully, there isn’t much of that kind of fishing to be found in Texas anywhere outside of a few select clear water rivers in the hill country. The ugly truth is that most of us who fly fish in Texas rarely target trout in our home waters. The information I’ll present here will still be applicable to trout fishing, but will be aimed mostly at helping to answer some of the most frequent questions we hear about our weird sport and the way we target the warm water species here in Texas.

I will not cover casting in any detail here because that is something better learned in person and I am the wrong person to try to teach it. A certified casting instructor is your best bet to learn to cast a fly rod correctly and with a minimal amount of time and frustration invested. There are also opportunities to learn to cast at places like Cabelas or Bass Pro as well as your local fly fishing club.

How much does it cost to fly fish?

To a lot of us with families and significant others who closely watch what we spend in our pursuit of outdoor enjoyment, the subject of cost can be the most important. Sure you’d like to try fly fishing, but if it’s going to cost a thousand dollars just to get your feet wet, you’ll probably stop reading right here. The truth of the matter is similar to most hunting or fishing exploits: the cost is variable. I think it is certainly reasonable to get started for under $100 and purchase good gear that will last and do the job. A rod and reel combo with flyline can be bought for $50-75 from most of the online tackle stores and the rest of the money can go towards flies, leaders, and tippet material. If you want higher end gear, it certainly exists, but not everyone can jump in the deep end of the pool, financially speaking, when they start. Basically the cost of two nice meals at a restaurant with your spouse/significant other will get you going.

How does fly fishing differ from “conventional” fishing?

Fly fishing and fishing with a baitcasting or spinning reel actually aren’t that different. With both methods we’re trying to fool a fish into thinking the artificial bait that we’ve presented to it is a real meal.

One big difference you’ll notice immediately is the difference in how these baits are constructed. Modern manufacturing techniques mean that conventional lures are constructed of space-age materials specifically developed to mimic the look and or feel of the real McCoy. The artificial baits made for fly fishing are predominantly hand made from fur, feathers, and hair. When most people hear the term fly as it relates to a lure used to catch a fish, they think of tiny bits of feather and fur tied on a hook to precisely mimic some sort of flying insect that will be presented on the surface of the water. Although that is often the case for anglers who use fly fishing methods to pursue trout, it isn’t always true for warm water fly fishermen (and women).

A “fly” can mimic anything that a conventional lure can. Sometimes the conventional lure will work better in a certain situation and sometimes the fly will. There is a dizzying array of artificials that are suitable for using with fly fishing gear that can be presented anywhere in the water column to fool the fish in a variety of ways.

The other very obvious difference is the way the lure is delivered to the fish. In both cases we will use weight to transfer energy from our bodies to the lure delivery system to achieve a cast and put the bait in a position to present it to a fish.

With a conventional rod, the weight of the lure is used to load the rod with energy, which is then directed and released by the angler. The angler pulls the rod behind the vertical, stops, and then accelerates the rod forward, releasing the lure at the right time. As the rod launches the lure through the air, the weight of the lure itself exerts a direct pulling force on the fishing line still wound around the spool of the reel. The lure flies through the air pulling the line along behind it and unspooling line off of the reel.

The actual physics of the cast are similar in fly fishing, but the way the force is built up and delivered are different that the conventional scenario detailed above. When we cast using a fly rod, we don’t cast the weight of the lure; instead we cast the weight of the line. Understanding this tenant of fly casting is terribly important to your success as a fly caster. Instead of the lure loading the rod with energy, we use the fly line itself. A fly angler will typically pull line off of the reel and allow it to fall at his or her feet. They will then arrange the line in front of them on the water in a straight line and make what is known as a backcast. The backcast is what loads the rod with the energy generated by the weight of the flyline as it flies through the air behind the angler. The fly caster will then accelerate the rod forward and stop its motion at a predetermined point. This stop is what forms that pretty loop in the line and the loop is what pulls the lure towards the target, along with the flyline that was piled at the angler’s feet.

The description given above makes fly casting seem difficult, but in reality it is just a different set of motions than you’re probably used to making. The toughest part of fly casting for those of us who grew up with conventional gear is remembering that you cannot muscle a fly rod into doing your bidding. Trying to force a fly cast will only end in disaster and that is one of the most intriguing parts of our sport: learning the finesse and skill required to make the cast. I have heard this learning curve compared to golf, but I’d rather not sully fly angling with such a seedy comparison.

You can spend some time on YouTube watching casting videos, but I will caution you that teaching yourself to fly cast using videos and books is a daunting task. I learned to fly cast that way and my recommendation to find a professional instructor is based on the huge amount of frustration I encountered along the way. I did teach myself to make a decent fly cast, but I also integrated several casting flaws into my muscle memory that will take a long time to fix. Attempting to learn to cast without instruction is probably the reason so many fly rods sit unused in garages and attics across the country.

One last area of comparison would be the way the lures are retrieved. Conventional anglers use the reel to wind the line back around the spool after every cast. Fly anglers tend to pull the line in by hand, commonly referred to as “stripping” in the line. If a fly angler reeled the line in after every cast, they would have to pull it back off of the reel to prepare for their next cast.

What gear do I need to get started?

The basic equipment used in fly fishing is as follows: a rod, a reel, backing, flyline, leader, tippet material, and flies.

Fly rods, fly lines, and fly reels are usually classified by a term called “weight”. Weight doesn’t refer to how much the rod weighs, but instead to how much the first 30 feet of fly line weighs. Remember how the weight of the fly line pulls the fly through the air to the target? Larger flies or heavier flies require heavier fly lines to cast them properly. The larger the weight, or “wt”, the heavier or more wind resistant fly a certain fly rod or fly line will cast. It is important to note that you can always cast lighter flies on a heaver rod/line combination. Usually the wt of the fly rod and that of the fly line are closely matched.

The differences in brands, materials, sizes, and lengths of fly rods are staggering and best left to another discussion. My recommendation for an all around rod for use in fishing for panfish and bass in Texas is a 5 weight. A 5wt rod is heavy enough to cast bigger flies and fight a good sized bass without having to worry about wearing them down too much, yet light enough to feel the fight a good sized bream will give you.

Fly reels are probably one of the least important components in a warm water fly angler’s gear system. Most of us who fly fish in Texas rarely use the reel for anything but holding line. The great majority of the fish you catch will never use the reel to land them. The exceptions to not needing an expensive reel are striped or hybrid bass and saltwater fishing. I like to rig my fly reels so that the handle is on the left side, which allows me to operate the rod with my “dominant” right hand and the reel with my “weak” left hand.

Backing is a smaller diameter braided line, usually made of Dacron, which allows us to fight a fish that might pull out more line than the 90-100 foot length of most fly lines. Without backing, a big fish could pull the line off of the reel down to the spool and then break itself off, causing you to lose the fish. Backing also increases the diameter of the axel the fly line itself is wrapped around, giving you a greater mechanical advantage when fighting a fish from the reel. This larger diameter also reduces the effect of fly line coiling up once it is stripped off of the reel which is caused by line memory. As stated in the reel description above, the use of backing to fight a fish is rare in warm water fishing, but not using backing could put you in a bad situation if you ever caught a large fish.

Fly lines can be even more confusing than fly rods. I recommend a weight forward floating (WFF) fly line that matches your rod’s wt rating. Weight forward refers to the fact that the majority of the mass of the first 30 feet of line is toward the tip of the line, resulting in a line that is easier to cast. There are many other types of lines for every application under the sun, but a WFF line will be the right choice for the great majority of warm water fly fishing.

A leader is the connection between the fly line and the tippet and is usually constructed of monofilament or fluorocarbon and varies in length between 5 to 9 feet. Most leaders are tapered to be large where they tie into the fly line and gradually become smaller in diameter on the tippet end to efficiently transfer the energy of the cast down their length to allow the fly to turn over and lay out straight in front of the fly line.

Tippet usually refers to the end of the leader that is tied to the fly. As you change flies or lose them, you cut the tippet section of the leader shorter and shorter. This changes the taper of the leader and it also changes the visibility of your connection to the fly. Once the leader is cut shorter than an angler may prefer, they will use tippet material to tie on the end of the leader and allow them to use it almost as efficiently as before. With all that being said there are a good number of warm water fly anglers who fish with standard monofilament fishing line as their leader and tippet. Using monofilament as a “level” leader doesn’t allow the most efficient transfer of energy to the fly during the presentation portion of the cast, but it is economical and pretty effective on bass and panfish.

Flies are what we use to fool fish into biting the hook so that we can feel that all important tug on the line. Dry flies are what most people think of when they hear the term fly fishing. Dries are fished on the surface of the water and most commonly imitate an insect landing on the water. Poppers constructed of wood, foam, or deerhair are also technically dry flies and are used to simulate a struggling baitfish or amphibian. Wet flies, or streamers as they’re often called, are fished under the surface of the water to mimic insects, invertebrates, and baitfish that a game fish would normally consume. Think of flies just like you would think of conventional lures. If the fish are feeding on top, a dry fly or a popper might be just the thing, however if they’re feeding below the surface, a streamer is probably a better bet.

Fly selection, like the rest of fly angling, can be as complex or as simple as you want to make it. A few good patterns to get you started would be: woolly buggers (with or with out bead heads) in olive, brown, and black; Clouser minnows in white and gray; and a few poppers in colors that mimic frogs and baitfish in the environment you’ll be fishing. I would suggest a range of sizes of these basic “flies” in the area of hook size 6-12 (smaller numbers mean larger hooks).

My last suggestion would be to try to buy your equipment in person which would allow you to rely on the expertise of the folks in the fly shop to help you with any difficult decisions with respect to gear selection. They can probably also make some good suggestions about what flies are currently working on what fish and some new water to try as well.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, you probably have the patience to learn to fly fish. I hope I’ve illustrated that it isn’t that difficult, expensive, or time consuming to learn. You probably won’t catch more fish with a fly rod than you did with conventional gear, but once the bug bites you, you’ll find it difficult to go back to being “normal”. Good luck and welcome to the fly fishing section of the Texas Fishing Forum. If you have any points you need to have clarified or other questions, feel free to post your question in the forum as a new topic and we will do our best to help you.


Edited by Txredraider (09/29/09 09:12 PM)
_________________________

"The best trips are not planned."
Written here, and used by permission of, SBridgess.

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#3989432 - 09/29/09 02:09 PM Re: What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ [Re: Txredraider]
Bug_Slinger Offline
Extreme Angler

Registered: 06/07/08
Posts: 2337
Loc: Arklatexoma
I have always had this question but I was afraid to ask. What weight rod is the best for bass?

Nice writeup!

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#3989882 - 09/29/09 03:19 PM Re: What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ [Re: Bug_Slinger]
kelkay Online   content
TFF Guru

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 23866
Loc: East TX
Txredraider, great write up! Windknot, if you want to cast bigger bass bugs you will need an 8wt. For regular bass fishing a 6-8 weight depending on the type of flies you cast will be sufficient. If you want a good all around rod, and can only afford ONE ...a 5 or 6 weight rod is just fine. I used a 5wt most of the time, and it was a great rod. Some people prefer a 6wt for all around fishing. If you mostly fish for bass...or only bass...a 7-8 wt is what I would recommend. I get tired casting an 8wt too long, but I am a woman. That is one reason I prefer the 5wt...it does not bother me to cast it at all.
_________________________
The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution." Thomas Jefferson

You Don’t Love Something You Want to ‘Fundamentally Transform’ Mark Levin






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#3989892 - 09/29/09 03:20 PM Re: What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ [Re: Bug_Slinger]
Txredraider Offline
TFF Celebrity

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 5705
Loc: Athens, TX
Thanks, Cole.

I'd also like some of our newer fly flingers / lurkers to critique a little as well. I'd be interested in hearing their perspective.

I got a PM earlier that it was a bit wordy. No need to PM your suggestions, I'm not that sensitive, but point well taken. What if I wrote a shorter executive summary type piece with the recommendations included and included the more detailed part for those that wanted to read it?

I didn't want it to be that long, but it's tough to condense the information that's important down into a couple of paragraphs.
_________________________

"The best trips are not planned."
Written here, and used by permission of, SBridgess.

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#3989907 - 09/29/09 03:22 PM Re: What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ [Re: Txredraider]
kelkay Online   content
TFF Guru

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 23866
Loc: East TX
I think you got it right that if they read all that, they are gonna be able to have the patience to learn fly fishing. It was a little wordy, but I enjoyed reading it.
_________________________
The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution." Thomas Jefferson

You Don’t Love Something You Want to ‘Fundamentally Transform’ Mark Levin






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#3990000 - 09/29/09 03:35 PM Re: What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ [Re: kelkay]
StevenNDallas Offline
Extreme Angler

Registered: 03/03/09
Posts: 1710
Loc: SW Richardson
this is probably gopnna be the greatest thread EVER - TxRed - did Long Haired Dave put you up to this ?
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#3990048 - 09/29/09 03:42 PM Re: What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ [Re: StevenNDallas]
Txredraider Offline
TFF Celebrity

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 5705
Loc: Athens, TX
I suppose it's true that no good deed goes unpunished. smile

Steve, just remain calm and back slowly away from the keyboard with your hands in plain sight.

If Dave had put me up to this it would have been the "Choosing The Right Color Woolly Bugger" thread.

Kelly, thank you for your actual input.
_________________________

"The best trips are not planned."
Written here, and used by permission of, SBridgess.

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#3990335 - 09/29/09 04:11 PM Re: What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ [Re: Txredraider]
JRGOCARDS Online   content
Extreme Angler

Registered: 01/03/08
Posts: 1638
Loc: Carrollton, TX
Tx - how long did it take to write the above masterpiece? Very Impressive!!

To anyone reading and interested in getting into fly fishing, I would recommend checking with their local Bass Pro or Cabelas for free (yes free) casting instruction. Also most fly shops will offer lessons too.

Just remember, it's not as hard as it looks. You absolutely don't need to be a skilled caster to catch fish.

JR











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#3990390 - 09/29/09 04:16 PM Re: What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ [Re: JRGOCARDS]
Horn_Identity Offline
Pro Angler

Registered: 06/05/09
Posts: 691
Loc: Montejas
This ought to cut new thread post in half. Good.



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#3990540 - 09/29/09 04:31 PM Re: What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ [Re: Horn_Identity]
Txredraider Offline
TFF Celebrity

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 5705
Loc: Athens, TX
JRGOCARDS, it took a whole lot less time than my thesis, I can tell you that. smile I'll add something about the casting lessons, that's a good suggestion.

Horn_Identity,
Well, I don't want the new posters to not post, I was thinking more along the lines of giving them some information to help them with the lingo, hows, and whys of fly flinging. I really do think there are a lot of people who would like to learn more about fly fishing, but who don't want to post for whatever reason. We're still wide open for a Ford vs. Chevy or Sage vs. TFO thread. smile
_________________________

"The best trips are not planned."
Written here, and used by permission of, SBridgess.

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#3990840 - 09/29/09 05:19 PM Re: What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ [Re: Txredraider]
preast Offline
Angler

Registered: 11/28/05
Posts: 386
Loc: Austin, TX
Don't forget the trout vs. carp thread. wink

I agree--good start. Could be condensed but it's a pleasant enough read as it is.

I think some some rules of thumb about casting would be helpful. Definitely never hurts but I don't think it's completely necessary to get instruction. Folks are always asking those questions like "why does my cast slap the water?" and such. Knowing just some basic rules of the physics of a cast like "keep you rod in a straight line", "stop short at the end of the front and back cast" can get a beginner a very long way. I'm just talking about those things any instructor would tell you to be mindful of, and then some common problems and how to correct them.

Maybe there's already a place for this but you could also add some links for things like knots, entomology, line weight/hook size charts, etc.

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#3991098 - 09/29/09 06:40 PM Re: What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ [Re: preast]
Bass Bug Offline
TFF Guru

Registered: 02/08/08
Posts: 23156
Loc: East Texas
Bass on the fly

Fly (ie;Lure) selection is the number one consideration in choosing a fly rod for bass in my opinion. I would recommend making your choice based upon the fly(s) you plan to use...for those familiar with conventional bass fishing you already know that there hardly any lures deemed too big for bass & its the same with a fly rod except that at a certain point the method & equipment limits you...I cast large flies in the 2/0 to 3/0 range quite successfully on a 9 weight rod over lined with 10 weight bass taper line & while you can go a it bigger thats about the top limit unless you have a bionic arm...on the other side I used a 5 weight the other day for bass & many people like the challenge of a smaller rod & smaller flies...I think it may come down to a personal decision and that is often developed over a period of time...the so called "standard" for bass is a 7 or 8 weight and either of these would work quite well for most situations and they can be uplined (ie using a size or two larger such as a 9 or 10 line on an 8 weight rod) to gain a bit of distance, cast into a heavy wind or use large lies (bass bugs)... I liken my fly rods to a bag of golf clubs, sometimes ya need to putt & sometimes you need a driver, no one rod will do it all, there is a compromise somewhere, but hopefully this thread along with further research online & most importantly in person at your local fly shop will get you off to a nice start.

Fly Selection for Bass
Poppers, poppers, poppers...this is the bread & butter of a successful bass fly fisherman, whether foam, deer hair, plastic doesnt matter but cast a popper to likely bass cover in shallow water, and commence to making it pop & sputter in a randam struggling manner, I often wonder "do they think its a bird, or a mouse, or a fish?", doesn't really matter though when they attack it for a meal, that startling split second of a bass explosion is what I love most about fishing, yea they put up a decent fight for a few seconds & often grow to nice size but even a small 1 lb'r can jumpstart yer heart if it catches you off guard....other bas offerings you may want to investigate are Dahlberg Divers (another type of topwater bug) various baitfish patterns & even some sinking bottom flies such as rabbit strip leeches an others (although in water more than 5 foot or so strike detection is pretty tough with a fly rod unless they are super aggressive)...
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#3991122 - 09/29/09 06:45 PM Re: What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ [Re: Bass Bug]
Txredraider Offline
TFF Celebrity

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 5705
Loc: Athens, TX
I asked Bass Bug to post that since he is our resident guru for big bass on the surface with poppers. I think anyone else that would like to contribute a post detailing some part of fly fishing in more detail would be welcome to do so.
_________________________

"The best trips are not planned."
Written here, and used by permission of, SBridgess.

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#3991849 - 09/29/09 08:55 PM Re: What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ [Re: Txredraider]
Horn_Identity Offline
Pro Angler

Registered: 06/05/09
Posts: 691
Loc: Montejas
Txredraider, just to be clear, I think you've done a very good thing. I've thought about a thread like this for a long time but I know I wouldn't have the patience that you have to write it. I'd simply tell someone to buy a book or something along that line. Well done my friend.

Now, what's the difference between a tippet and a regular mono and is there such a thing as a"Frog Hair" and where can I get a furled frog hair anyway? bolt



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#3991861 - 09/29/09 08:58 PM Re: What You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing, But Were Afraid to Ask - A Fly Fishing FAQ [Re: Horn_Identity]
Txredraider Offline
TFF Celebrity

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 5705
Loc: Athens, TX
No worries, Horn. I figured you were thinking along those kind of lines.

Must.....not....post....about.....threadjack.
_________________________

"The best trips are not planned."
Written here, and used by permission of, SBridgess.

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