BY CATHY DYSON/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Only people interested in fly fishing would encourage others to tie one on at 9 in the morning. There wasn’t any alcohol involved, just golden hooks decorated with various colors of threads and feathers.
Volunteers with the Friends of the Rappahannock and the Falmouth Flats Fly Fishers—say that three times fast—showed others the basics of fly tying, making knots and casting during an introductory session Saturday at old Cossey Pond in Fredericksburg. Jean Falvey was one of several people who said she’d always wanted to learn how to fly fish, so she took a seat at a table under a tent near the pond.
“Half of my family is from Montana, and I feel like it’s my duty to learn how to fly fish,” she said.
Instructors said they were glad to see females in the group.
“I like to emphasize that ladies can fly fish, too,” said Woodie Walker, a community conservationist with FOR. “It’s not just for boys.”
Pete Adams chimed in that the best students are 7-year-old girls.
“Their hand–eye coordination is better, and they listen better than boys.”
Likewise, the sport of fly fishing is more about finesse than brawn, said Charles Naples, an FFFF volunteer.
“Casting is about leverage and timing,” he said, demonstrating how to cast to Cheryl and Doug Orr. “Guys screw up because they try to overpower it. It’s not about that at all.”
Saturday was the fourth annual workshop presented by the two groups. First, participants created flies whose feathery and colorful movements are meant to serve one purpose in the water: to attract fish.
“It’s supposed to look like food,” said Ross Horton, adding the food might be minnows, insects or their larvae.
Fly fishermen are all about trying to “match the hatch,” Walker said. That means they want artificial ties that look exactly like what fly or insect is hatching at the time because it’s usually what the fish are biting. The volunteers had several stations set up with devices specially made for tying flies. A clamp gripped a golden fish hook and an arm supported the thread used to loop around the head and body of the fly. Participants used different colors and textures to give their bugs different looks. After the students made what looked like insect heads, they were given a special material—nail polish—to seal the knots. Clear polish is a favorite, but the men also used black, red or shades with sparkles.
“Those of us who tie a lot of flies have a pretty large collection of fingernail polish,” Adams said, “probably more than our wives.”
At another station, Craig Conover, president of FFFF, sounded like a magician as he gave step-by-step instructions on tying knots with names like “perfection” and “surgeon’s loop.”
“I’ve got two lines,” he said, holding the strands in front of his face. “I’m going to overlap them.”
Falvey compared the surgeon’s loop to double-tying shoestring, and Conover said that was exactly right. When students moved on to casting their lines into the grass—because they weren’t ready yet to hit the water—Walker reminded them to keep the wrist moving and the action fluid.
He said fly fishing was perfect for the Rappahannock River region because there are so many different types of fish to catch with the technique—and because the basic technique works with so many different types of fish.
“This is the shad cast, the striper cast, the salmon in Alaska cast,” he said.
As he showed Ben Raterman, a fellow volunteer at FOR, Walker compared casting to learning the guitar.
“You can learn three cords and you can play today, but you can spend the rest of your life perfecting them,” Walker said. “Fly fishing is the same way.”
Thank you to the Freelance Star for this content. For more information and additional publications please visit their website here