What is fly fishing? Why do we fish? A very short introduction

For as long as humans have lived near rivers and oceans, we’ve fished. And I’d argue that fly fishing is the closest to how our ancestors did it.

What is fly fishing? Why do we fish? A very short introduction
Photo by Zach Betten / Unsplash

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Inside this entry

  1. Fly fishing, defined
  2. What fly anglers do differently
  3. The many facets of fly fishing

For as long as humans have lived near rivers and oceans, we’ve fished.

And I’d argue that fly fishing is the closest to how our ancestors did it.

Fly fishing defined

A formal definition of fly fishing might go like:

A style of fishing wherein the weight of the line propels an imitation of an insect as a lure.

And that wouldn’t be wrong. It wouldn’t account for everything. But it’s a good start.

Comparing angling styles: gear and fly

Here’s another unscientific comparison:

Gear Fly
Rod Short and stiff Long and flexible
Line Straight Different dimensions
Casting power The weight of the lure The weight of the line
Live bait? Sometimes Never
Casting style Low-key Look-at-me
Stereotype Common Snobby

Let’s add another dimension:

What fly anglers do differently

We make fake bugs, from fur and feathers and thread and hooks. Some fake bugs—we call them flies—are so tiny you could fit three of them on a dime without touching each other.

We then tie those flies to lengths of line—that start as small as the thickness of a human hair and work their way thicker and thicker—together until they get to a plastic fly line.

Then we us our long, flexible rods to lift the bugs off the water and set them down in a place where we’ve seen fish feeding, or we think they’ll be likely to eat. And we try to keep hold of them when the hook sets in their mouth.

But here’s the thing: in the many years humans have fished, fly fishing is the norm, not the anomaly.

Humans have been documented fishing this way for a very, very long time—thousands of years. Other than how the equipment is made, there’s very little that’s different now than depictions of angling in the Roman empire.

Why do we fish?

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. - Henry David Thoreau

Spoiler alert: It's not always about catching fish. When you start out, you want to catch fish. That's great.

As you progress, you realize it's not everything. To me, fly fishing is a doorway to explore the things we're most curious about in life, through this corridor of water, and being wild and free in the outdoors.

Fly fishing is a passion of relationships.
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Ask yourself
Fly fishing can transcend angling to become a doorway to explore the things we’re most curious about in life.

What are you already passionate about?
How might fly fishing enhance that?
Where might your journey lead you?