Where do people learn to fly fish? In a class? On the lawn practicing? Or through the school of hard knocks?
I'm sure most folks would agree that it ain't book learning that moves you up the competence curve - it's applied experience. But, fly fishing is much harder to learn and master than spin or bait. For one, you have to squint hard to thread something called a tippet through the hook hole. And then deal with all sorts of other unique tools and jargon - floatant, leader, dry fly, wet fly, terrestrial, Xink, floating line, sinking line, sinking tips... it just goes on and on.
In fact, it's enough to cause somebody to just give up. I know that from experience. My current venture into fly fishing is the third time I have tried this journey. This time it stuck and I am terminally addicted. So, what's different about this foray into the sport?
Surprisingly, the answer comes easy. It's feedback. Fish feedback. Catching stuff. Anything, anywhere, anytime. Fishy feedback that you are not an idiot, maybe you did something half right and that there is hope for you in the future.
Thank God for the bluegill.
Bluegills don't care about much about technique, approach, or what you look like. You can be noisy, sloppy, poor presentation, wrong fly, wrong technique, wrong size tippet, no natural drift - they just don't care. A bluegill will slam anything that hits the water near him without a second thought. The smaller and more insect looking the better, but it really does not matter. They are in the game to eat and will eat pretty much anything that floats their way. You can go to any bass lake in the country, work the shore and wear our your arm shaking off the bluegills as they beat back the bass in their aggressive attack on your fly. To a bluegill, a fly is a snack attack!
When learning fly fishing, the new fly guy needs positive feedback. Not the kind that comes from a guide, an instructor or a buddy commenting on their casting technique, but the real feedback that can only be felt in the adrenalin rush of a yank on the line amplified by the call of "FISH ON". Heck, it don't matter it's a just a 'gill. It's a fish! In making its sacrifice, the bluegill communicates the excitement of fly fishing; the harder, stronger feel of a fish fighting on a long rod - something that you would miss on spin gear. With spin tackle, all you do is haul it in; no danger of a tippet snap, no risk of losing the fish. With fly gear, every fight is a real fight. There are no gimmies in fly fishing!
Once the new fly guy hooks a few fish - any fish - the addiction creeps in, winds deep in the soul and within a fish or two, you are lost and damned forever... or... maybe it's lost and blessed forever.
I'm not going back. Thanks, Bluegills!