One of my favorite things about living in Minnesota is the changing of the seasons. While technically these changes occur everywhere, there are very few places where it is as apparent as in the Midwest. The dry, cool, crisp air that I wait for all year long gives the signal that summer is coming to an end and fall will quickly begin. As the weather begins to change, so do the people; shorts and t-shirts are traded for jeans and sweatshirts and fishing equipment gets substituted for hunting gear.
Over the course of this summer I was able to learn a lot about fly-fishing. I submersed myself in it by reaching out and asking questions to those with knowledge and also researching best practices myself. I took what I learned and applied those techniques on rivers and in open water. I studied and experienced the sport enough to have a good base knowledge, but also enough to know that I have just scratched the surface for what this sport offers.
As with anything, the devil is in the details and in fly-fishing the details matter. Walking a river with someone who knows what to look for is an experience in itself. Seeing and learning the way to read the river flow and where the fish are most likely to be feeding can be the difference between a taught line and coming up empty handed. Understanding the way that fish eat insures that you wet a line with a purpose. When fishing for finicky trout or salmon, every cast needs to be deliberately placed where fish would most likely be. Learning to accurately throw a fly line becomes very important. Placing the fly in the correct spot without a lot of top water disruption is essential for success. Once you get an idea for where the fish are most likely located, you need to find a fly and presentation that will be the most appealing. Watching and noticing what bugs are hatching at the different times of the day will help to find an appealing fly. Assuming that you are able to find the correct bait, you need to present it and fish it in a way that does not seem suspicious to the intended target; with moving water this can be more difficult than imagined. The current below the visible water surface can quickly change how the bait is seen by a fish. With so many variables, a successful trout fishing excursion is really something to celebrate.
The difference between targeting a wary fish like a trout compared to a natural predator like a pike offers a completely different type of fishing. The trout fishing becomes a game of cat and mouse where the knowledgeable, diligent angler will find what he is looking for; predator fishing on the fly involves enticing the natural instincts of a predator to thrash your fly. Throwing an efficient cast helps to keep your fly in the water, cover a greater area and increases the chances of landing a predator. In fly-fishing, the fly becomes an extension of your body. When a fly is smashed, it’s as though it is directly connected to your adrenaline, as your heart rate quickens and a fight ensues. Fighting these fish on a fly rod truly is something to experience.
Spending time on the water has always brought a sense of comfort and relaxation. The sites and sounds of a river flowing or the waves hitting the side of a boat can keep me deep in thought all day long. Fly fishing for a summer gave way to a summer of firsts. These landmark moments were made during trips in which everyone could be a part of. Whether it was landing my first fish, a buddy landing his first musky, or floating waters for the first time, we were all able to enjoy the excitement that came with it. Like all of the adventures that go along with the great outdoors, they bring people together. They create a genuine excitement not only for personal accomplishments, but the accomplishments of others around you.
My summer on the fly will soon be over and give way to chasing birds, but my experiences were enough to change my perceptions of the sport. With all of the details that go into a single fly-fishing excursion, fly-fishing is more than a sport, it is an art. From tying flies, to throwing the line, to reading rivers; there are too many details hanging on the balance of the tippet that can be the difference between landing a fish and just enjoying a day on the water. Through my experiences I was able to target a variety of fish in a variety of locations. Just as the seasons change, so do the hobbies that go along with the weather. I see the summer on the fly not ending but as a starting point for the future. With an unlimited number of waters to fish I plan on adventuring further with my fly rod to find new waters and new fish. I look forward to the many more summers on the fly and the prospect of what they will bring.