Norman Maclean’s excellent novella “A River Runs Through” may have popularized fly fishing. But it did little to dispel the myth that this quiet sport is essentially a gentleman’s pursuit.
According to myth, bluebloods spend thousands of dollars to catch dainty trout on dry flies while wearing ties and sport coats and smoking pipes. Perhaps once upon a time this description had some passing resemblance to reality. But that was then and this is now. Today’s fly anglers come in nearly every shape, size, and color, and you can fly fish for nearly anything that swims. And Texas anglers, from new to expert, have a bounty of resources to hand, often on their doorsteps.
Why Fly Fish
Casting a fly rod is nothing at all like casting a spinning or “conventional” rod. Conventional anglers throw a weighted lure, and their line goes along for the ride. By contrast, fly anglers throw a weighted fly line, and their lures—called fly patterns or flies because they are tied to “match” what’s “hatching” on the water that day—tag along. There are exceptions, of course, such as when you need significant weight to drop a fly down several feet in deep water or swift current.
Fly casting is good exercise and a great deal of fun; fly casting really well takes practice and concentration and is something of an art form. In fact, I find I enjoy making a good cast nearly as much as I do catching the fish. I will reiterate that practice makes perfect. The best way to master the cast is to take a casting class from an expert who can watch you cast and give you pointers to improve. Where do you find this casting guru? The best place to start is at the fly shop that sold you your fly rod.
How To Fly Fish
Chris Johnson, owner of Living Waters Fly Fishing in Round Rock, Texas, has guided the Hill Country for well over a decade, applying what he has learned to every aspect of his work as a proprietor, casting instructor, fly designer and angler educator.
“More than just a retail store, Living Waters is a place to learn and connect with the greater fly fishing community,” says Johnson. “Many of the individuals who walk through our doors are brand new to the sport. We specialize not just in helping people select the right gear for their lifestyle and fishing goals but also in educating them on how, when, and where to use it.
Madison Scarborough of Dallas-based Tailwaters Fly Fishing Co. believes that “conquering your fear of walking into a fly shop for the first time is often the biggest hurdle.” Scarborough recently launched the first Ladies Fly Fishing Club at Tailwaters to get more women into the quiet sport. In fact, she sees fly fishing as a natural fit for women. “Fly fishing isn’t about strength or catching as many fish as you can. It’s really about proper technique and enjoying the moment and connecting with the outdoors. I find it very relaxing and a great way to make new friends—friends you fish with. How cool is that?”
“Most folks have no idea of the tremendous fly fishing opportunities we have right here in Texas,” says Jerry Hamon, owner of River Crossing Fly Fishing School & Guide Service. Hamon, who guides on the Brazos River out of a kayak, admits that he has fly fished all over the state. “When folks think of fly fishing, they tend to think trout. We do have good trout fishing in the Guadalupe River, but I fish primarily for bass—and they can be found all over Texas.” Bass and trout not enough for you? “Try your hand at landing redfish and other saltwater species along the Texas Coast,” suggests Hamon. “Heck, this is Texas: You can fish a different piece of water nearly every day and never fish it all.”
The Fly Angler Community
So you’ve learned to cast and even caught fish. Now step up your game by joining an outdoor community of conservation-minded fly anglers like Fly Fishers International or your local Trout Unlimited Chapter. These organizations are particularly helpful to beginners and can make them aware of the pressing outdoor conservation issues.
Finally, don’t be disappointed if you aren’t casting like that guy in the “A River Runs Through It” movie right away. Or ever. If fly fishing were easy, everyone would do it. Remember that fly casting is an art form. Practice it. Enjoy yourself, and don’t let anyone talk you into spending a fortune to get started.
This event hosts over 60 vendors including fly shops, guides, rod manufacturers, clothing manufacturers, breweries and lodges from to-die-for locales like Montana, Colorado, Alaska, Canada and Belize. Plan to chat up Chris Johnson, Madison Scarborough and Jerry Hamon, all of whom will be teaching classes at this year’s festival. For more information and to register visit www.txflyfishingfestival.org.
Cover photo courtesy Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival