Anglers would benefit from tips from pros

Posted: Friday, June 04, 2004

POCATELLO, Idaho Bill Bowman made his trademark brass minnow as a junior at Utah State University to catch brown trout in the Logan River.

In those days, Bowman was convinced the only way to fish was with spinners, and the only lure worth using was the one he made himself.

His minnow worked so well, he made several copies for friends and attempted to patent it but learned someone had already patented a similar design in 1938.

It was about 20 years ago when he first tried fly fishing. He was working as a sales representative for a fly fishing products company, and he figured he should know about the products he was selling.

He was hooked after about two years of fly fishing, and he hung up his spinning rod. His old fishing buddies are still shocked to see him pulling in trout without his famous brass lure.

''I thoroughly enjoy getting out on a river or lake and just casting a fly rod,'' said Bowman, a manager at Pocatello's All Seasons Angler. ''The fishing is secondary.''

He believes he would have caught on to fly fishing quicker had he taken a lesson. Bowman said many fishers don't give fly fishing a try because they buy into a myth that it's a difficult and expensive art to learn. Not so, he said.

For about $90, beginning fishers can buy a good rod, and he said most novices can cast well enough to land fish about 30 minutes into a two-hour lesson offered through All Seasons Angler.

Women with no fishing experience often have the least difficulty learning fly fishing, he said.

Unlike casting lures or bait, fly fishing requires fishers to keep their wrists locked when they cast. Fishers with no experience don't have to break the habit, Bowman said.

Buck Goodrich, of Shelley, teaches the beginning fly fishing class, usually to groups of between three and five people. The class costs $30 and covers everything from what to buy to how to cast.

Goodrich's students begin the class with a casting pantomime before attempting to cast with actual rods.

By contrast with spin casting, in which the weight of the lure propels the line, in fly fishing, the weight of the line propels the fly.

Goodrich explained to cast properly, accelerate on the back cast until your forearm is vertical and your rod is at 1 o'clock, then stop. Pause until the line is nearly horizontal and cast forward. The more line a fisher attempts to cast, the longer the pause should be.

When you stop your forward cast, release the slack and shoot your line upstream. Hold your rod and line high while casting.

''The whole purpose is to load the fly rod up correctly. You do that with timing, not power,'' Goodrich said. ''If you go back too far, you can't cast into the wind. You want a nice, tight loop (with your line on the back cast).''

Goodrich recommends fishers practice casting their fly rods at home.

While fishing with dry flies, flies which float above water, Goodrich said it's important to mend your line putting slack in the line so the fly floats more naturally. To mend a line, a fisher should reach forward toward the intended location of the cast, which makes a bow in the line.

For fishing in a tight space, Goodrich said the roll cast is useful. Bring your reel up by your ear and move your rod in a chopping motion. Point the rod tip toward where you want the fly to land.

The cast lifts the fly off of the water and whips it upstream.

''When you're just starting, it's good to go to Twin Lakes or some of the little reservoirs south of Pocatello and catch blue gills,'' Goodrich said. ''You don't have to worry about your backcast.''

When fish aren't rising to the water's surface, it's time to switch to a wet fly, a fly which sinks and imitates a minnow or an insect during an underwater stage of its life cycle.

Wet flies can be streamers, which resemble minnows or stone flies, or nymphs, which imitate aquatic insects.

Streamers should be cast upstream at a 45-degree angle. When the fly lands, point your rod down with the tip touching the water. Slowly lift the rod tip as the nymph floats until it's directly across from you and then start lowering your rod tip as it floats downstream.

When the fly starts to drag at the end of your line, cast again.

Goodrich said the motion keeps nymphs from getting tangled at the bottom and maintains a dead drift.

To make a streamer appear lifelike, slowly strip your line as it floats.

Understanding Xs and insects is key to fly fishing.

The strength and width of fly leader is measured in Xs. Bowman said the smaller the number of Xs, the stronger the leader is.

Flies also get smaller as their size numbers get larger a size three is extremely large, a size 16 is about average, and a size 22 is tiny.

Typically, fish bite on smaller flies in the spring, larger flies in the summer and smaller flies again in the fall, Bowman said.

Popular flies include Caddis flies, Parachute Adams, Blue Wing Olives, Pale Morning Duns and Woolly Buggers. Local fly shops post charts with fishing conditions and which fishing flies are hot.

''The best thing to do on a river is roll rocks over, and you'll see bugs and try to match them with flies,'' Bowman said.

Some insects can be spotted by the way they move. Caddis flies, for example, dance around the water's surface erratically.

Currently, the Henry's Fork of the Snake River, near Island Park, is hot and has a Salmon fly hatch, Bowman said. He said the South Fork of the Snake River and Black Canyon, where the Bear River flows through Grace, are also hot.

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