Updated: Feb 5
FLY FISHING HAD PASSED ME BY FOR MOST MY LIFE. But late this fall, after reading a couple books and watching an Orvis video, I was inspired to begin considering this revered approach to catching fish.
This newer focus came after a lifetime of angling episodes that started early for me with worms and a bobber. In my childhood, during summer vacations, my brothers and I would get up at the crack of dawn to join a very pumped-up father. He had learned fishing from his father and prided himself in knowing the best places to drop a line on Glen Lake. His technique consisted mostly of working drop-offs. With little technology to assist him, he depended solely on the color of the water to locate fish. He was very good at finding them. Starting the Mercury outboard was another story.
In my college days, I would fish the Boardman River during my summer mowing jobs. I had my trusty Shakespeare and small lure tucked away in the trunk of my car and delighted in catching pesky brook trout. I didn’t keep the fish for fear of being caught slacking off on the job. I wonder if this might have qualified for “catch and release,” which appears to be one of the cornerstones of fly fishing? At that point in my life, it was not for conservation reasons, I can assure you.
My oldest son really helped move this newer interest along. He kept sending photos of speckled fish he had landed from his trips into the Colorado Rockies where he held them under water in his hand. The fish were simply gorgeous. I kept sending him various recipes on how to prepare them, but darn if he didn't keep releasing them back to the streams. We were on different wavelengths, but only in the beginning.
This really became the tipping point for me.
During my fall reading, I learned of the Adams Fly (no relation) was a favorite among serious anglers world-wide. Its birthplace occurred in the early twentieth century on the banks of Mayfield Pond near the Boardman River. The library in Kingsley has a small corner display devoted to its history and has keepsakes from the two men who made this fly famous - Adams and Halladay.
An epiphany came to me as I realized that I could begin to fly fish right in my own backyard. How nice that the Boardman, Platte, Betsie and Manistee rivers are within an easy day trip off our scenic M-22 highway in NW Michigan. These Lake Michigan tributaries have become legendary for trout and salmon. It’s amazing how one can miss these opportunities if you are not open to new experiences.
Today, I want to learn from masters (this includes my son), who have aligned with nature using their copycat flies to catch fish. Mimicking action from aquatic insect hatches is purported to bring fish to a feeding frenzy. I'm told that color and wing configurations are the key to a successful fly, but this I've got to see for myself. And, I will.
Hey, if I can occasionally shoot a birdie at golf, I’m confident that my arm and wrist action will someday qualify me as a competent fly fisherman.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
Robert Bruce Adams
Photo: Betsie River in Thompsonville.