May 18

Flyfishing 101: The Differences

In this installment of FlyFishing 101, we discuss what’s different about Fly-Fishing compared to other forms of angling.

Fly-Fishing is different in 2 major ways:

1) The lure is not actually fish food  (as opposed to ‘bait’ fishing like with worms or powerbait or salmon eggs).  It just *looks* like fish food.  If you see a sign saying “Artificial flies and lures only”, they are talking about fly-fishing as opposed to bait fishing.

2) The lure is delivered using a heavy weighted fly line that is pulled and pushed through the air, and then ‘floated’ down onto the target.  This allows for very precise ‘dry fly’ fishing.  You can drop a fly on *top* of the water, and precisely guide it down a moving stream.  You can also ‘nymph’, which is guiding a fly *under* water with the rod.

Other than any sort of snobbishness around fly-fishing being more challenging, more of a ‘sport’, the main advantage of  fly-fishing comes when fishing fast-moving, small water.  You can fly-fish in any water, but it excels where precise guiding of a visible, or semi-visible lure is required.

A big lazy river or a lake or bog can be fished with a spinning rig, because you are just trying to get the bait out to where the fish are cruising around, and hope that they swim past it.  If you are using bait, the smell of it might draw the fish in.

On fast water however, the fish hide behind rocks, and wait for the flow of the river to bring food to them.  They rarely go cruising around.  So, unless you can place your lure to go past them in the same way that the river would bring it to them, they won’t ever see it.

Enter the fly rig.  It can very precisely drop a lure in a pinpoint spot on the water, and then guide that lure along the water to mimic an insect being carried along with the current.  The bulk of the line is heavy, and brightly colored so as to be easy for you to see.  The end of the line is tapered monofilament, which is hard for the fish to see.  The reel is simply there as storage for the line…unlike a spinning rig, the reel has little to do with delivering the lure to the fish, and often little to do with reeling it in (though it keeps you from getting tangled in the line).

A fly rig is much more like a coach whip than anything else…a stick with a whip on the end.  Learning to control the whip portion with precision, as opposed to snapping your fly off and sending it sailing into the trees is what fly-fishing is all about.

Needless to say, this is all a lot more challenging than trolling along dragging something that stinks of food.  It’s even more challenging than dropping a bass popper on top of a lake and twitching it around.  So why do it?  Well, see last weeks post for that…. 😛



May 07

Fly Fishing 101: The Whys

So, you are interesting in fly-fishing.  As well you should be.  But why?  What is the lure (heh) of this ancient form of catching fish?  Why not buy a bass boat and go out on the lake?  Why not go to Larry’s $9.99 Trout Pond, put a piece of corn on a hook, and yank a fish into your basket in 2 minutes flat?  Why not go to the grocery store and buy a trout, all cleaned and ready to eat?

Why?  Because, fly fishing is an excuse to wander around in a beautiful setting with purpose.

An excuse?  Who needs an excuse to wander about in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park or the canyons of Salida?  Or the banks of the Firehole?  And a purpose?  How about relaxation, isn’t that purpose enough?

Well, for those of us who lead busy, brain-intensive lives, the glancing beauty of these places is not enough to roll back the defenses of the mind; to push thoughts trained to constantly run the the foreground and background of our cortices away for a time, and let us really relax from our usual tensions.

When hiking or driving through such places, one can appreciate their wonder, but until you have some activity that really narrows your focus, that challenges your brain to really understand what’s going on in the terrain in a way wholly different from your usual kind of concentration, you really won’t come to know nature much more than you would from postcards.

Sometimes camping can get you close, but I think camping is more about getting to know the people you are with, rather than the place you are in. I think that bass fishing in a boat is very similar to camping. It’s about the cozy, secluded boat or campsite being a retreat from some people, and a way to be closer to others.  It’s a nice thing, but it’s not the same frame of mind as fly fishing.

So when people say that fly fishing is a ‘zen-like’ activity, I agree –
although you typically go with someone else, the majority of your time
is solitary.  They rhythm of casting does become hypnotic over time,
assuming your fly doesn’t get caught in a tree, or under a rock, or in
your waders.  It’s easy to lose track of time when fly fishing, even if you aren’t catching anything.

To be successful at fly fishing, you have to train your mind to understand the way that water interacts with the terrain around it.  You have to understand what fish eat, why, where and when.  You have to understand how water currents carry that food, and how they might carry you away if you aren’t careful.  It’s one of the few activities I’ve ever found that is a fair balance of mental calculation and physical activity.  It’s like martial arts, without all the ego play.

Some people would say that martial arts is more humane, as at least there you are hurting other people and not innocent fish.  I’ve wrestled with this some.  Since fly fishing is primarily catch-and-release, as opposed to catch-and-eat, you are deriving no nutritional benefit from hurting the fish, it’s only for your own pleasure that you catch them.  So, is it wrong?  Should we not do so?  In our modern world, is it appropriate to treat a natural creature in that way?

Yes.  Because bottom line, we only have the luxury to think such thoughts because of the massive infrastructure that pumps food into our stores from around the world.  It would be much harder to be a vegetarian (especially in Colorado) if the only vegetables you could eat were ones that could be grown locally.  And I think that the visceral process of catching fish reminds you of how the food gets to your table on a daily basis – it’s not painless, it’s not spotless, and it’s not clean.

That said, fly fishers tend to have a great reverence for fish.  Most treat the fish very carefully when reeling it in and releasing it.  Many at least silently thank the fish for taking their lure.  And those that practice catch-and-release understand that the fish is a part of nature that needs to be nurtured, and not taken.  It is a reminder of our unique place in the food chain as both predator and caretaker.  This reverence is the reason that going to Larry’s Trout Pond isn’t appropriate.

There is something decidedly spiritual about standing in a stream in the dim light of early morning, mist rising off the mountains all around you, your eyes laser-focused on a bit of fluff floating down the water, and then suddenly hearing the adrenaline-inducing cry of wolves somewhere in the distance.  Rather than standing in the woods, letting your mind wander through well-worn canyons of thought, your mind is focused on nature, running over the bumps and valleys of a stream, a bank and the world around you, bringing nature into yourself, not just yourself into nature.

We fly fish because it is an excuse to wander around in nature with a purpose – the purpose of bringing some of that nature into ourselves, and forcibly pushing our regular lives out of the way while we do so.

May 07

Wood Project Photos

Medicine Box
Incra Bookends
Well, I completed my bookends project, and I’m 90% done with my Medicine Box project.  Just needs to mortise in the hinges into the top, decide if I’m doing an inlay, and then apply the finish…

Check out the pics at right!

May 04

Woodworking Mania

Been out in the shop quite a bit lately.  Working with the new router table.

The router table is way in the back, so even if this was a recent photo, you probably couldn’t see it.

Anyway, I have an Incra jig for the router table, and it’s working well.  I’m not thrilled with the vertical holding jig part of it, but I think it’s more a me thing than an it thing.

I’m making a bookends project from the Incra projects and techniques book.

It’s turning out quite nicely so far.  I’m using the finish recommended by David Marks, which is General Finishes’ “Seal-A-Cell” and “Arm-R-Seal”

I can see why he uses them, they are amazing.

Pics of the project soon!

May 04

Thoughts on Cash

Is cash really easier to spend that using a credit card?  Easier in both terms of acceptance/speed of transaction at retailers, and ease of spending freely as a consumer?

I ended up having no cash this week for various reasons (I am expecting a big ACH withdrawal from my mortgage company due to my builder messing up my initial escrow account).  I found myself spending *more* total $$ than I usually do with cash, but I spent it on better things.

Not counting the fact that I rode the bus (since I already have bus tickets I purchased in January) instead of driving, I spent more on food since I couldn’t eat out of the machines here.

But, it was better food, like yogurt, juice, as opposed to pop-tarts.

I also find that with cash, I can see from looking in my wallet how much money I have, and that controls my spending.  With credit cards, I have a feel, and I check my balance 2-3 times a week, but it’s not quite the same.

I need to invent a device that lets you see your bank and credit card balances inside your wallet…