As a pre-teen, outdoor magazines exposed me to wonderful fishing experiences I could only dream about. Growing up on a small farm in rural McDuffie County, I was familiar with bream and bass, but catching trout and salmon was a thrilling idea. And my cane pole paled in comparison with fly rods and the whole mystic of fly fishing.
I tried to imitate what I read. I would take the smallest bream hook I could find, some of mom’s sewing thread, and a few chicken feathers and tie flies. In my mind they were masterful creations that sometimes fooled small bream and horny head creek minnows in Dearing Branch.
My “fly rod” was a short end of a broken cane pole and my fly line was any kind of fishing line I could find. I spent many wonderful hours dabbling those home-made flies in the branch, trying to catch anything that would hit.
When I was in high school I got a real fly rod for Christmas – a generic rod with a spring loaded reel. I loaded it with cheap fly line and had fun catching bluegill on little popping bugs and bass on bigger bugs. I also used it like a cane pole, with cork and jig, for catching crappie around button bushes at Clark’s Hill in the spring.
After we got married, Linda and I fished a lot. I told her a fly rod was too hard to learn to use but she insisted on trying it one day, and within minutes she was putting the little rubber spider near bushes and landing bluegill. She was hooked, and I had to buy her a fly outfit of her own the next week so I could get mine back!
Fishing with a fly rod is different because you cast the line, not the tiny, light-weight lures used in fly fishing. You can fish a fly the size of a gnat, if you can see well enough to get the line through the eye of the hook, and catch fish that won’t hit anything else. But for fishing around here you don’t need fancy gear and tiny flies.
You can get a cheap fly rod and reel like the first one I used for about $25 locally at Berrys Sporting Goods. For a decent line, the most important part of the outfit, you will spend about $15. That will get you started, or you can go with a good outfit that will serve you for many kinds of fishing for under $100. Add a few rubber spiders, popping flies for bluegill and big popping bugs for bass and you are ready to fish.
When you start using your fly rod, you will want a lot of room behind you for the back cast. For that reason, fishing from a boat or fishing a pond where you can wade out from the bank is best. As you learn to use your outfit better and learn to do roll cast you can fish tighter spots without catching a lot of limbs.
The Flint River is a great place to use a fly rod. You can fish from a canoe or jon boat or wade the shoals. Cast a hellgrammite (rock worm) imitation into pools and shoal bass will give you a fight with lots of jumping. They are the closest thing to smallmouth we have in this area. There are some grown bluegill, pumpkin seed, and shellcracker sunfish in the river that will eat your rubber crickets and popping bugs, too.
High Falls is another good place to fish with fly outfits, but you need a boat. The lake is full of bluegill that will readily eat just about any bug you cast to them, and you will hook a bass that will stretch your string when they hit.
Big lakes can be fun, too. Jackson Lake has lots of bluegill in the coves around logs and brush, and you can catch all you want on a rubber spider. You definitely need a boat to access the bigger lakes but you will catch fish. Most of the fish in bigger lakes have never seen a rubber spider or popping bug so they are easier to catch.
Don’t be frightened by fly fishing. Give it a try and you may be hooked for life.