Al Campbell, Field Editor

June 17th, 2002

Flyfishing is like Baseball
By Al Campbell

Last week a young boy asked me why I fish with flies. I told him I enjoyed flyfishing more than the other types of fishing. Then he asked why. I told him it was more challenging. I asked him if he had tried flyfishing. He said no. I asked why. He said it was too hard. We danced around like that for a few minutes until I noticed the way he was dressed.

The boy was wearing a baseball outfit and was obviously a member of a team. I asked him if he thought baseball was too hard for him to learn. He said no; it wasn't too hard. I asked if he hit a homerun the first time he tried to hit a baseball. The answer was obvious; no, he didn't. We started talking about how hard it was to learn how to hit the ball, but also how rewarding it is when you do hit the ball. In fact, he agreed that everything associated with baseball takes practice; and a lot of plays had to be learned before he could play the game right.

That's when I dropped a bombshell on him. Flyfishing is like baseball. You have to learn a few things like casting that require hand-eye coordination. You need to learn a few plays to be very successful at the game. Nobody picks up a fly rod and casts well the first time out. Both sports require practice and a certain type of learned coordination. Both sports are challenging, but the rewards are great.

I've been chasing fish with a fly rod for more than 38 years. I didn't start out in a pretty way. My casting lacked, well, everything. I knew nothing about the insects, how they lived, how they hatched or what their names were. I tied knots I'm sure I couldn't duplicate today, and most of them failed. I did just about everything wrong, but I still caught fish once in a while.

As time went on, I learned. With practice, I became fairly capable in the casting skills department. I didn't hit a lot of home runs; but I hit fairly regularly, and some of those hits were homeruns. I learned the plays of the game; places where fish feed and hide, a general knowledge of the insects, what flies matched those insects and the most useful knots. I didn't learn all there is to know, but I learned enough to have consistent winning seasons.

I still don't know the names of all the insects. Just when I thought I had a fair grip on the Latin names of the insects most common to my region, some group of bug guys renamed and re-classified them. It doesn't matter all that much; I can still identify size, major species and color; and from there, I can match the hatch with a fly that fits that description. Who cares if I don't remember the new name for what was called a pseudocloeon emundsi a few years ago? I can still find fly patterns to match that small mayfly with gray wings and an olive/yellow body, and that's what counts if you want to catch fish.

We all have our learned skills, and some of us are better at certain aspects of this sport than others. Some guys cast better than others. Some guys tie better flies, and some guys are knot wizards. You have strong points and weak points. Concentrate on both areas; the strong to keep them strong and the weak to strengthen them. Eventually it all becomes a coordinated response and you become successful in areas that once were points of failure.

Just like a baseball player, you need to practice to hit the ball consistently. You can't expect to hit a fast ball the first time to the plate, but in time and with practice, you can expect to hit the ball regularly. Flyfishing isn't hard; it's just a matter of practice and learning the plays. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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