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WV Wildlife: Fly Fishing

WV DNR cold-water fisheries biologist, David Thorne, has been teaching and enjoying fly fishing for years. (WCHS/WVAH)

Learning how to fly fish is a good life lesson.

It requires patience and a lot of determination.

David Thorne, cold-water fisheries biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, understands this sport well.

He explains one of the main differences between fly fishing and spinner fishing.

"You're maintaining control of the fish with the rod, and on the line with your hands--rather than depending on the reel", said Thorne.

Recently, along Spring Run in Grant County, he tried to show me some pointers.

"Brief stop in the back--let that line load up again, and then throw it forward", Thorne explained to me after I tried a few times.

On the surface, it sounds simple--but the fly cast is much more technical than that; quite frankly, it's pretty difficult at first--and demands a lot of practice before you feel comfortable in placing your cast where you want it to be.

We decided to practice in a grassy field first. Thorne says practicing in a wide-open area, like a field, is a great place to gain some confidence in your casting.

I had a few decent casts.

"That was pretty good, because you just did it", said Thorne.

But overall, I needed a lot of help!

Thorne explains one of the most important fly fishing casts, the roll-cast. This cast is especially convenient when you don't have much room around you, like on a small stream.

"As soon as I start to push this line forward, it's going to flex and load up--and pull that line out with it. That's why a rollcast is very valuable, and you just do that--and the fly is out there where you want to be."

After this brief session and some practice, I was eager to try to catch my first fish ever on a fly rod.

I had some bites, but I simply struck out. I did catch a tree branch, though.

As for Dave, he caught a beautiful, wild rainbow trout.

It's not easy at first, but there are some advantages to fly fishing--like being able to pick a specific fly that looks like the fish's natural food and casting it farther. Much like life, though--success usually only comes with a lot of practice.

Thorne has a few suggestions if you want to fly fish and get better at it.

"If you want to succeed, you've gotta pick up your fly rod and you've gotta use it. Go cast in your yard--be that crazy neighbor that's casting out in the backyard and all your neighbors are looking out the window watching what you're doing. Find someone locally that fly fishes. There are fly fishing clubs. Find a group of people that are interested in the sport and aspects of fly fishing".

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