Beginning Fly Fishers Learn the Basics

Damon Spurgeon with fish

Misinformation may be the wannabe fly fisherman’s worst enemy. “It’s a rather common perception that fly fishing is difficult to master,” said fly fishing guru Damon Spurgeon of Rolla.

The growth in the fly fishing industry has been nothing short of phenomenal in the last decade, up 700 percent in fact. The sport’s popularity has grown rapidly among women as well.

Bri Butrey Hodge, a basketball coach from St. James, recently decided to give fly fishing a try. “It looks so graceful and enjoyabe,” she stated. “My husband, Justin, took up fly fishing not long ago and enjoyed it, so I thought I would give it a try as well.”

“I like to fish,” Hodge said. “However, I do get bored, if there isn’t much going on. Fly fishing keeps a person involved and I figured I could enjoy it more than standard fishing techniques.”

I made arrangements with the Hodges to meet Damon and me at Montauk State Park. After a hearty breakfast at the lodge, we headed to a grassy, open area for fly fishing lessons to begin. Damon served as the instructor and I ran the video camera. We filmed the class in the grass and further instructions on the water as an episode for Outside Again Adventures TV - Online.

Spurgeon covered the basics for the Hodges, including a few basic casts that they would use later while fishing, stance, form, lines, leaders, tippets and a few flies that are commonly used for Ozark trout.

“The information Damon provided was great,” Bri said. “The roll cast and overhead haul weren’t too hard to learn. Fly casting is essentially a matter of form and timing. I had it down fairly well in 15 or 20 minutes. It is easy to break the necessary form and rhythm needed. As soon as you do, however, you see the immediate results of a failed cast. And, it’s not pretty.”

“Ten and two is what ya do.” Spurgeon instructed, referring to the arc of the back and forth movement of the fly rod. “When you first bring your rod up and back from the starting position, you stop movement abruptly at the two o’clock postion, allowing the fly line to unfurl behind you. As the fly line uncurls, it also loads your fly rod with energy, which will in turn hurl your fly line forward when you make the orwrd cast.”

Few people begin gracefully when first attemtping to learn fly fishing. “Beginners these days have a distinct advantage over those of us who began decades ago,” said Jay Cook of J Cook Fly Rods in Salem. “The materials fly rods are made of these are far superior than what I began with so long ago. The newer rods store energy so well, a beginner can produce decent casts within the first hour of lessons. Then it’s a mater of simply remembering and practicing what you were taught. The learning curve to at least be functional with a fly rod is greatly reduced these days. Don’t fear fly fishing.”

Spurgeon lead the Hodges to the trout infested waters of the Montauk Springs branch to begin the in the field portion of their instruction. The trio chattered steadily as they took the short hike and made last second adjustmetns to their fly fishing equipment before wading into the chilly waters.

“Let’s begin with short roll casts,” Spurgeon said. “You are going to experience a new element in casting, far different from what you just experienced out on the grass. The power of flowing water will put some pressure on your fly line and will require a little more of your energy to pickin it up off of the waters surface.”

I chuckled as I stood behind the camera filming the Hodges’ new adventure. I remembered those days when fly lines seemed virtually uncontrollable.

“Lift your fly rod slowly and steadily,” Spurgeon instructed. “Bring it to your side, wtih the rod straight up and slightly cocked to the rear. As the length of fly line on the water slides toward you, flip your fly rod forward. If your timing is in sequence, the fly line will roll smoothely and unfurl, queitly landing your fly on the surface of the water. At that point, you ar ready for another drift.”

Bri caught on quickly. Perhaps being a coach herself helped her absorb the instructions. Justin’s timing was off on the first few casts. His leader wrapped around his rod tip in a jumbled up tangle of knots. He waded ashore, sat down on the bank and began the tedious process of tying on another leader.

Bri watched her float indicator drift downstream. It disappeared, but she didn’t respond, until it reappeared. A torut had taken her fly adn spit it out before she could set the hook. It’s a common falllacy among new fly fishermen.

She cast again and watched the drift intently. Spurgeon yelled for her to set the hook, but she had already beat him to the punch. Bri yelled with obvious satisfaction at having hooked her first rainbow trout on a fly rod.

“Look, honey, I got one,” she hollered upstream to Justin. He kept fishing. Having a fishing companion can be bitersweet at times.

Minutes later Justin’s fly rod arched heavily. He hooked his first fish. I overheard Bri whisphering, “Aah, shoot, I’ve got to get another one.” Coaches do tend to be competitive.

Damon Spurgeon expressed the satifaction he had received from giving the Hodges basic fly fishing lessons. “They loved it,” he said. “Anyone can learn to fly fish.

and it’s great to see couples learn the skills togher. It’s something they can enjoy together for decades to come. I just hope that Bri doesn’t beat up on Justin too much.”

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