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Art and Beauty

The Mystique of Fly Fishing – Lure of the Wild Rivers and Lakes

I’ve always wanted to learn how to fly fish. I admit, part of it was reading Hemingway when I was young and feeling the romance he described it with. Another part was being raised in California and Oregon mountain towns and just feeling that amazing feeling of freedom that comes from the isolation of the streams and rivers of the Northwest.  Yet another part was the beauty of the motion – fly fishing might be something anyone can do – I don’t know about that, yet, but it might be – but it doesn’t look like something anyone can do.
fly fishing
Fly fishing isn’t anything like traditional angling – it’s not a sport where you bait your hook, drop it in the water, and wait for the fish to hit – it’s not about getting in a boat and going out into the ocean – it’s about the dance. It’s about the motion, it’s about the art. Watch a fly fisherman and you can’t help but appreciate the grace of motion, you can’t ignore the vitality of the visual experience.

Then there is the art of the gear and tackle. Tying a fly is an art form. The most valuable flies sell for hundreds of dollars – these aren’t flies you would fish with anymore than you would smoke a cigarette rolled in hundred dollar bills – these are art and those who tie them are artists. Each fly represents meticulous work on specialized tools by artists who have studied the patterns and habits of game fish.

And it’s not just the flies that are valuable. Vintage cane fly rods go for thousands of dollars and a vintage #44 fly reel by BF  recently sold for more than $5000 on ebay – even the fly tying materials and tools are sought after as collectibles with a vintage fly tying vice going for anywhere from $100 to $3200.

It’s not the prices of the gear that have drawn me to this sport, but rather the sport has drawn enthusiasts who frequently claim that fly fishing is an addiction which will consume you completely – it is that enthusiasm which has driven the gear to such levels. That and the fact that this is not a mass produced sport that is suitable for the masses – there is something magical about it.

hand tied flies

Hook and sinker fishermen can often be heard saying that fly fishermen are snobs. Maybe they are right or maybe they just don’t understand the way this sport hooks into your soul.

In any event, I have always been drawn to it. Over the past several months, I’ve been quietly amassing a bit of fly fishing gear and trying to give myself the courage to try. It’s terrifying to contemplate something so beautiful and to wonder if one can succeed at it. It’s not a cheap sport to get into. I’ve managed to put together a relatively cheap rod and reel, some floating line, a bit of leader, some flies and even an old canvas creel (which is too fragile to use but which I hold as some sort of talisman.)

What was missing was the opportunity to have someone show me what the hell I was doing and to give an okay to my gear as a starting point. I never had a grandfather, father, uncle, or anyone else that took the time to teach me these things – maybe they didn’t fly fish or maybe the timing was wrong.

So, this past weekend, I saw a flyer about the Reedsport Fly Fishing Expo and there was no way I was going to miss it. I am so happy that I went.

I had the chance to meet fly fishermen, the chance to have experts evaluate my gear – which I’d hoped might be expensive and valuable but I was happy to learn is serviceable and a good starting point for me. Even better, I won a new fly rod in a raffle along with about fifty flies tied by the members of the Lower Umpqua Fly Casters – and then, really the ultimate I could have hoped for – I had the chance to learn from a legend.

92-year-old Frank Moore was offering free one-on-one clinics where he helped those who already and those who want to learn to fly fish. Frank and several other members gave me the guidance I needed to know how to cast. While there is a lot more to learn – suddenly I feel like one of my lifelong dreams is coming closer to reality.

Frank is the most famous fly fisherman on North America’s west coast. He stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II and has fished every river you can imagine to ask about. There is no greater authority of west coast fly fishing and I was humbled and honored to be able to get even a tiny bit of his knowledge.  Frank is an inductee in the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and an incredibly kind and gentle soul. A moment of hearing Frank talk about fly fishing and you might know why this sport calls me the way it does.