By CAPT. PAT DAMICO, CapMel.com Fly Fishing Editor
How many times has another fisher asked you this question? How do you answer? A short, yes, or no, is usually not in order. It can be one of those rare days when almost anything works, but more frequently an accurate answer would involve considerable detail. “Caught three browns on a size sixteen blue wing olive,” tells us something, and could be an acceptable response. In saltwater, “A size one deceiver in white over chartreuse is producing,” would sound typical.
Is this enough information to help the other fisherman get a start on a day of success? Is more detail needed? Should the first response be, “Luck has nothing to do with it, they are just sipping, had to use a nine foot 6X leader with a downstream presentation without drag, the leader close to the fly better be under water, stay out of the water as much as possible and make a very soft delivery a few feet above where the fish is holding, a right hand curve cast with a reach upstream will help present the cdc pattern that they seem to want in the surface film; as you can see, I’m wearing camo clothes to blend in with the trees on the bank, any vibration will send them scurrying.” Huh? When did you last get a detailed answer like that? And if you did, you were probably wondering why you asked the question.
One of the attractions in fly fishing is the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know, or a whole new series of interests is generated by a recent discovery. Fifty-five years of chasing fish with a long rod has made the sport more of a challenge that ever. When I first began, knowledge was not as readily available. A couple old wet fly fisherman took me under their wing and helped me get a start with some hand-me-down equipment.
Technical improvements in rods, reels, lines, leaders, and synthetic tying materials, are a few of the areas where we have seen an explosion of beneficial products to further fool a fish with a brain the size of a pea. The internet, books, and videos as well as personal instruction will give the beginner, or expert, a wealth of knowledge. Do we take advantage of this knowledge to improve our ability to catch fish, or are we in the same pattern of limited skill each time we venture out? Do we keep remembering the day when we could do nothing wrong, and hope it will reoccur? Or are we on a constant journey to improve our skills so that we become one of the ten percent who catch ninety percent of the fish? Do you have an attitude that I’m just out for the fresh air and catching fish isn’t important to me, or is that saved for fishless days?
Since I love all areas of fly fishing, I really enjoy this never ending journey. Recently, I spent a few weeks in my native Pennsylvania, doing some trout and bass fishing. As a saltwater inshore guide in Florida, I get a variety of clients who want to pursue the challenges of this type of fishing. Speckled trout, snook, redfish, tarpon, and jack crevalle are some of the species we target. Many clients have fished freshwater, and have little or no saltwater experience. While giving some clinics on the transition from fresh to saltwater fly fishing, I emphasize what some of the requirements are for success. I encourage questions and feedback, but usually have the impression from the audience that what I am telling them about success is something they are capable of doing. The moment of truth occurs on the bow of my flats skiff when their first sight fishing opportunity unfolds.
As a saltwater guide, who fishes mostly shallow inshore water, most of my contacts begin with a phone call, or an email. The growth of fly fishing has many new devotees who have varying degrees of experience and abilities. Fly fishers who have spent many years on the water can be well prepared for a trip, or can have poor preparation for a productive day of fishing depending on how well they have continued to grow in the sport. Unlike many other pastimes, age can be an advantage in fly fishing if we use our time wisely.
Capt. Pat Damico
CapMel Fly Fishing Editor
St. Pete Beach