White River

Phases of fly fishing

Posted by John Berry on September 12th, 2013
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From the very start of my love for fly fishing, I went through several phases. Each one was distinct from the others.

At first, I just wanted to catch a fish. It didn’t really matter what or where. Towards this end, I took fly casting lessons so that I eventually had a respectable looking cast where I could control about twenty five feet of line. I realized that I had to master a couple of knots so that I could become more independent. Otherwise I had to fish close to my brother, Dan, in case I lost a fly. I also had to learn to rig my own fly rod. My gear was all borrowed and not always reliable. The technique, of choice, in this phase, was to fish a woolly bugger. It was fairly simple and effective. I fished them constantly and eventually got good enough to catch a limit of trout on every fishing trip.

My next phase was that I wanted to catch a lot of fish. I embraced the concept of Catch and Release. I bought my first good rod, an eight foot five weight Sage and a nice set of Simms waders. I learned new techniques like fishing dry flies, soft hackles and nymphs. I attended seminars presented by Dave Whitlock, Gary Borger and Lefty Kreh. I read every book on fly fishing that I could land my hands on. I traveled out west. I fished in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Oregon. I even fished the Smokey Mountains. I spent every free weekend on the White or Norfork River. I would literally fish all day long. I would begin at sunrise and fish till dark no matter what the weather. I took up fly tying and filled all of my fly boxes. I was always on the lookout for the secret pattern that was guaranteed to catch fish. I was driven!

My next phase was that I wanted to catch large fish. I bought some really big rods, seven and eight weights with floating and sink tip lines. I attended seminars presented by Trey Combs on fishing for steelhead and Chico Fernandez on salt water fly fishing. I traveled to Oregon and fished for steelhead on the Umpqua and Deschutes Rivers. I went to Florida and waded back bays looking for redfish, snook and sea trout. Closer to home, I began fishing for big browns at night. I even fished over spawning browns. I must admit that I regret doing that and discontinued the practice over two decades ago. Here again I would fish long hours in dicey weather. I finally got it all out of my system.

Now I am in the final phase of fly fishing. I just want to catch a fish! For me it is the process of going fishing. I just like to be on stream. I must say that I now prefer fishing dry flies to rising trout. Big fish still excite me but I am not nearly as driven to catch them as I once was. Numbers are not as important as they once were. In fact, after I have caught ten or twelve trout, I will frequently quit fishing and sit on a large rock or log and watch my wife, Lori, fish. I get just as excited when she catches one as when I land one. I choose my days to fish more carefully. I want pleasant conditions and a bit of isolation, if I can get it. When my old yellow lab, Ellie, was still alive, we would often sit together on the bank and just enjoy being there. Now that my new puppy, Tilley, is starting to get bigger, I have a future of fishing with her by my side.

No matter which phase you are currently in, you will eventually end up just wanting to catch a fish.

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