The challenge of creating your own flies and catching fish with them is the ultimate outdoor experience for many anglers.
Fishing enthusiasts spend countless hours tweaking their handmade artificial flies and practicing their presentations on the water. They replicate what actually happens in nature when a trout stands up for an insect floating on the water.
Top fly anglers and fly tyers gathered at Champion on Thursday for a get-together to share stories, tips and their products at Highlands Sporting Clays.
Ben Furimsky, 50, Chairman and CEO of The fly fishing fair, said that he has enjoyed this sport since he was a child and has taken him to fish in many states and countries around the world. He grew up in Rockwood, Somerset County but now lives in Crested Butte, Colorado.
“What I really love about fly fishing is the places it can take me. Anywhere we do it’s a beautiful place,” he said. even in some fairly dense urban areas. But you learn a lot more about the environment in those urban areas and things that you really didn’t know existed in the city center. Personally, that’s the challenge. It’s a more active way to fish.
Although he is fortunate to have fished in many places, most recently in Belize in Central America, he is always eager to try new places. When asked where he would like to go next, he replied, “All the places I haven’t been to yet.”
He plans to fish in Mongolia soon and would eventually like to go to Greenland to fish for Arctic char. He was told that fishing in Greenland would be like fishing in a primitive environment in Alaska 100 years ago.
However, you do not need to travel to fly fish.
“One of the things I learned in Pennsylvania was how to nymph fish really well. We have a long heritage in Pennsylvania of our nymph fishing techniques going back to George Harvey and especially Joe Humphreys,” he said, “I also learned how to fish in very technical waters. When the waters get low and clear here, it’s tough. And that’s where you can excel with a fly rod by compared to other techniques.
When it’s low and clear and you cast a lure, these fish get alarmed and leave. This doesn’t always happen when using small, natural food-mimicking flies.
“I definitely learned to fish technical trout in Pennsylvania. When I moved to Colorado, some of the hardest known waters were the easiest for me. I had to learn to fish whitewater, deep water heavy, deep water that I didn’t know how to fish from here.
Pennsylvania is an extremely diverse state with more miles of waterways to fish than any other state except Alaska. He has fished striped trout, bass, pike, bluegill, trout and rainbow trout in the Commonwealth.
His passion for the sport developed when he was a kid fly fishing for bluegills, and he sought out the bigger ones. “To this day, I love sight fishing,” Furimsky said of seeing a fish and trying to get it to hit one of his flies.
“You hunt and watch them come and take it; it’s the ultimate,” he said.
It is a sport where participants always learn and hope for a record day, regardless of their age.
“If it was easy, we’d get bored and move on,” he said of a sport “where you’re never going to be perfect or you’re never going to surpass it.”
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Fly fishing attracts people for a wide variety of reasons. “They can get into casting, they can get into fish, I like catching different species on the fly rod, which is one of the reasons I like to travel to fish,” he said. declared. “Other people can get into entomology. . . But ultimately we’re trying to mimic natural fish foods. So you have to learn that.
Evolution of fly fishing gear
The fly fishing industry has evolved over the past few decades with new synthetic materials for tying flies. While people have always used fur and feathers, there are now synthetic materials, threads and hooks to make more diverse end products for anglers.
“Synthetics make them more durable,” Furimsky said. New products add variety to the range, shine and action of materials and glues.
“There are thousands of types of rubber feet,” he said as an example of the range of options to refine your designs. In the old days, he says, it was common for anglers to use the elastic from their old underwear to tie flies because they didn’t have the choice they have today.
Furimsky has his own variety of flies that are sold commercially and the one that stands out is his BDE, a general mayfly pattern. “It stands for Best Dry Ever,” he said of its application to many waters; you just need to choose the size and color to start succeeding. He also makes caddis flies, ground flies and streamers.
Another proven fly fisherman is Tom Baltz, 70, of Mount Holly Springs, Cumberland County.
“I probably started tying when I was about 10,” he said. “The trout is #1, but the smallmouth bass is awesome. Any fish you can catch is fun. They are all fun. I don’t pass up a chance to catch anything.
He became a professional fishing guide in 1974 and is now an Orvis-approved fly-fishing guide through his company, Angling Adventures, in south-central Pennsylvania.
“They love it,” he said of teaching kids and adults how to fish and they soon start catching fish.
He fishes with a variety of gear, but “flying is what interests me the most”.
“You’re investing a lot more into it than going to a sporting goods store and buying spinners,” he said of the total satisfaction that comes with tying your own flies. He pointed out that he likes to use lures and other tackle and that he doesn’t want to take anything away from this type of fishing.
He enjoys the satisfaction of designing new flies and catching trout in them. Fly fishing is a sport with a long history. He believes there are more books on fly fishing than any other sport like baseball, football or bass fishing. “It tells you something,” he said of the intrigue and interest.
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For those looking to start fly fishing, he suggests visiting orvis.com online and checking out the learning center which provides the basics of the sport. He said that once someone learns the basics, they can improve dramatically by spending time with a guide.
“I like to take people who have done a little fishing and want to improve,” Baltz said. “That’s where the angler who hires me gets their greatest value. I can cut their learning curve by a year, usually. If you’re new and a beginner, that’s fine too. … Everyone everyone learns something from their day on the water.
Experience can be the biggest teacher, according to Baltz.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “it’s about the time you spend with your feet in the creek.”
Brian Whipkey is the outdoor columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at [email protected] and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter via email on your website homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.