Getting hooked on fly fishing
By Émile David, angling a-fish-ionado
Fly fishing has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. What was once seen as a bit of an oddball activity for old fuddy-duddies has begun to attract a whole new generation of anglers in waders eagerly casting their long lines into the clear waters of the province’s lakes and rivers. So, what’s driving interest in this elegant aerial ballet of dancing flies?
Let’s take a look at some of the different techniques, practices, and philosophies surrounding this increasingly popular sport.
What exactly is fly fishing?
A “fly” is the name given to the bait used in this type of fishing. Flies can be made to resemble a flying insect, baitfish, or other small critters.
What’s different about fly fishing is that you use the weight of the line to load the rod and propel the fly. By comparison, with conventional spin fishing, it’s the weight of the lure that loads the rod and transfers its movement to the line, making it an easier technique to acquire (in the same way it’s easier to throw a ball than to throw a rope!).
With fly fishing, good casting requires a precise and synchronized movement which, admittedly, takes a little practice. The upside is that this technique allows for a very natural presentation of lightweight flies, which are highly effective for attracting all kinds of fish.
What’s all the buzz about?
I started fishing with a spinning reel and rod at about the same age I learned to walk. It wasn’t until I turned 12 that I tried my hand at fly fishing. And since I grew up by the side of a lake, I had plenty of opportunity to experiment. But I’ve got to confess that, back then, I caught a whole lot more fish with worms than I did with flies. For beginners—young and old alike—fly fishing can take a while to grow on you.
So, my fly rod continued to gather dust in the basement. Then, over the years, as I gained more experience, the opportunities for fly fishing kept cropping up. In the beginning, I would run and grab my fly rod when the mayflies hatched, causing the surface of the lake to shimmer. Later, I discovered river fishing, where a fly rod was extremely effective for systematically working the pools. And with time, I began to appreciate the more subtle aspects of the sport, like the one-on-one contact with a fish as you play it or hook it, and the finesse required to present the right fly to the right fish. Gradually, I found that casting a spoon lure was kind of on a par with throwing stones… not that there’s anything wrong with that: I love skipping stones, mind you the fish aren’t so keen on it!
But what makes fly fishing so unique isn’t these details; it’s the challenge of acquiring the technique. Perfecting your cast and learning to read the currents is a fascinating journey in itself, one that can last a lifetime. That said, once you’ve mastered the basics, it doesn’t take long before you’re pulling in some nice catches. After all, whether you’re an expert or just starting out, at some point, a cast is just a cast!
But the fact remains that most anglers will tell you that when it comes to fly fishing, forget about the fish and all the rest of it; it’s all about the movement. It’s a highly contemplative activity: easy enough that it allows you to get into a groove and relax, but still challenging enough to keep you in the here and now. Even when you fish as a group, each person is immersed in the moment, just themselves, their rod, and the river. The catch is just icing on the cake. By comparison, conventional fishing—which doesn’t require nearly the same level of concentration—is more conducive to a festive atmosphere with friends or family, where catching fish is key to the experience.
Fly fishing is closely tied to your state of mind, and can be a remarkably soothing activity. I especially enjoy the sense of serenity that comes over me after a few hours of fly fishing. Even so, I always bring along both kinds of fishing gear because, sometimes, I just feel like hooking my walleye limit. On those occasions, I love the straightforward aspect of a spinning reel that lets you go where the fish are, without any fuss.
Where do I start?
When it comes to gear, it’s possible to purchase a kit that includes a rod, reel, line, and leader (a shorter length of line to which the hook is attached) that will provide you with years of enjoyment. A No. 6 (or 6-weight) fly rod is versatile enough for bass, trout, and walleye. With a No. 7, 8, or 9 rod, you can fish for pike and salmon. The number refers to the strength of the rod: the smaller the number, the more flexible the rod. A higher-number rod will therefore be stronger and better suited to larger fish.
As for flies, there’s a dizzying array of models out there. Here are some of the ones you’ll want in your fly box:
Streamers (made to imitate small fish)
- Wolly Bugger
- Clouser Minnow (with lead dumbbell eyes)
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Royal Wulff
- Purple Dun
- Blue Winged Olive
- Copper John
- Nymph (Hare’s Ear and Pheasant Tail)
- Ant Fly
Whether to help you choose the right fly or to improve your technique, I strongly recommend you seek out a fishing guide, a casting instructor, or an experienced friend or family member. Without someone to provide guidance, you may find your first attempts frustrating, and that could turn you off fly fishing altogether, which would be a real shame! The experts on hand at Sépaq destinations are happy to share their tips and tricks about the best spots, the right flies, and other professional advice.
Fly fishing is an activity like no other. With its unique technique, gear, and atmosphere, it lies somewhere between sport, art, and meditation. And every now and then, where those three spheres intersect, there’s a surge of excitement as a fish goes for your fly!
In a nutshell, there’s no time like the present to get hooked on fly fishing.