If you are reading this article, there is hope for you! Maybe you will be one of the lucky fly fishers who breaks free of the "party line" and truly begins to enjoy fly fishing. I hope so.
I was called a "crusader" by an editor one day, after having a less than mutually satisfying conversation with him about my love of catching fish with ultralight fly tackle. I was being regarded as a renegade -- one not following the "party line" on fly fishing. I was being castigated for NOT wanting to fish for bluegills, rock bass, small trout with a 7-weight -- under ANY conditions. Sorry folks. In the river of life, I have swum upstream, and I have fished that way most of my life, too.
A few years back, I had the fly fishing equivalent of an EPIPHANY -- in Webster's Dictionary: "a sudden, striking understanding of something". Since that moment I've had more fun fishing ultralights than the "party line" allows most anglers, so I'm not changing now. Maybe I am a crusader. You decide! Mostly I just want to see more fellow fly fishers enjoy fly fishing MORE.
In 2001, I met a local fellow fly fisher. Bob absolutely loves to fly fish, but unfortunately, his work schedule keeps him VERY busy. That of course interferes with his fishing passion. Passion is a great word to describe my feeling about fly fishing, and Bob exhibits exactly the same feeling about fly fishing. WE both would rather fish than eat -- that is serious in my case!
In a recent summer, we connected for a day of fly fishing. Bob showed up with his handy 4- and 5-weight, and boxes of flies ready to fish. We slipped my boat into the water, had a short chat about what to expect from the fish, readied our gear, and began. We cast some #14 sponge spiders at fat, hungry bluegills, chatted about fly fishing things, and got to know each other. As we fished around the lake, I asked Tom if he would be interested in trying out lighter rods. Soon he was comfortably casting my Thomas & Thomas 286 LPS 2-weight.
He was surprised at the power, light weight, and sensitivity of the rod. He tried out my Orvis 7½ foot Superfine 1 weight and found it very smooth! Then I handed him my Sage SPL Ought weight, loaded with Sage Quiet Taper 1 line.
After a little adjustment in casting, Bob was casting that Ought weight and putting my #14 water spider on the mark. He was catching fat bluegills weighing as much as 10 to 12 ounces (most people call these 1 pound bluegills), and having the time of his life, because he REALLY could enjoy their strength on the ultralight tackle.
After about an hour of fishing the Ought weight, Bob announced that he was going to go back to his 4-weight. I explained that I was happy to fish with my current selection, a Winston 2-weight 8 foot, 2 piece rod rigged with Sage Quiet taper WF1F line. Bob explained that if I didn't get that Ought weight out of his hands, he'd have to take it home with him. Just as it had done for me in the past, that day's experience changed Bob's perception of ultralight rods forever.
Sadly most fly fishers are convinced by the first personnel they encounter in a fly shop that ultralight rods are toy rods. They are "wimpy little rods that won't land a fish fast enough and kill fish". The other scenario is " oh, you have to be skilled to cast those rods". Then 6- or 7-weights are recommended. That is what I refer to as "the party line". We'll discuss that misconception in a future article in this section. I know a guide who fishes the Chattahoochee for 10-12 inch rainbows and browns with a 7-weight. I believe that he does it so he won't have to change his float boat position to work both shorelines. It certainly detracts from his customer's fly fishing experience.
I fish that river with an Ought to 3-weight. I've caught some 4 to 6½ pound rainbows in north Georgia and out west, but even in the windy canyons of the lower Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone River in Wyoming a 4-weight was plenty of rod.
During the course of the day, I showed Bob what one can do with an ought weight on a strong 4½ pound largemouth. I had NO trouble getting that fat bass to the boat in under 3 minutes for this photo, weighing, and quick release. Bob is still thinking about that one! The very pleasant trip ended with PLENTY of nice fish being caught and released, and a revelation about ultralight tackle for Bob. I was very interested in how ultralighting impacted his fly fishing.
The next time we spoke, Bob had discovered that the Sage SPLs were being discontinued, and had bought an SPL 2 weight. He was excitedly explaining to me how much fun he was having on that rod chasing trout with multiple droppers and what fun he had when a 10 inch trout would suck in a nymph. Not only was the fly fishing passion showing, his genuine excitement was coming through loud and clear. HE IS HAVING MORE FUN THAN EVER WITH HIS NEW 2-weight rod!
I decided that it would be a great time to fish again for a follow-up. This time he could give YOU his version of what it means to switch to ultralight tackle. Now, Bob is REALLY hooked on ultralighting. According to him "I rarely even pick up my 4- or 5-weight rods. I can't put the 2-weight down."
On our second trip we fished an assortment of small subsurface flies.
I fished some size-10 or -12 black or black/olive streamers. Tom fished a size-14 black suspending flies and had plenty of success, too. He found the size-12 and size-14 nymphs easy to cast on his Sage SPL 2-weight rod. These flies cast to slightly deeper water, counted down, and stripped back in short 2 inch strips allowed us to catch a large number of high quality fish on a day with unfavorable conditions. In spite of the weather, we had a great time and caught several nice fish.
I interviewed Bob following our trip and the following is questions and answers that may help you in deciding whether to try ultralighting or not. -- Bill Byrd.
Question: What impact has fishing ultralight tackle had on your fly fishing experience?
Bob: "I have a lot more fun fishing. The rod is lighter and is considerably easier to cast. There is less strain on my casting arm. I have more confidence in landing larger fish because the rod protects my tippet. I have caught several large trout (over 22 inches) on my two weight which I am not sure I would have landed with my five weight! In the past, I lost several large fish with the five weight."
Question: How do you compare fly fishing before your new two-weight to fly fishing with it now?
Bob: "I have much more fun using the 2-weight."
Question: What species do you normally fish for, and is your new 2-weight suited to catch that species?
Bob: "Trout. The 2-weight is PERFECT for trout fishing....absolutely PERFECT!!!"
Question: Will the 2-weight handle "normal" fly fishing presentations?
Bob: "Yes. With the 2-weight I can fish the smallest dry flies as well as weighted nymphs. Actually I have used two bead head dropper nymphs. I just have to be more patient in casting."
Question: Do you ever feel that you have too little rod to land large fish?
Question: What would you tell other fly fishers who have NEVER fished ultralight tackle about your experience?
Bob: "Try it, you won't like it......you will love it. You will be amazed."
Question: Do you recommend that others take the plunge and try ultralight fly fishing tackle?
Bob: "Definitely. My only suggestion is to go ahead and purchase a good ultralight rod with a fly line to match. A great surprise and much fun awaits the person who has not tried ultralight fly fishing."
While fishing on our second trip, Tom met a new species of fish, the yellow perch. This was the first yellow perch Bob had ever caught, and he caught it on his Sage SPL 2 weight rod.
If you haven't ever tried ultralight fly fishing TRY IT! You don't need to start with an Ought-weight. If your lightest rod is a 4-weight, try a 2-weight. Adjust to that change and see how it feels. When you buy a lighter rod, buy one at least 2 line weights lighter than your current lightest rod.
In Bob's case, he went from a 4-weight to a 2-weight. Once you've experienced the difference, you may want to go even lighter. Most manufacturers now have 3-weights in their rod selections. The major manufacturers have 2-weights in their rod lines. Orvis, Thomas and Thomas, and Sage build 1-weights, and only Sage builds the lightest rod currently available -- the Double Ought-weight. The Triple Ought weight will be on the market in 2007.
Should you want to cast and fish many different manufacturer's rods on the water to make a rod buying decision the ONLY right way, and to get a mini school on fishing the entire water column email me. I will be running a LIMITED number of guided trips and you may want to book one. -- Bill Byrd.
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