Get Started: Fly-fishing really reels you in

Latest in series on starting a new sport

Get Started: Fly Fishing

BEND, Ore. - I've fished with a spin caster since a young age, but I've always wanted to test fly-fishing. So I went to Fly and Field Outfitters in Bend to learn how to get started in the sport.

Retail manager and guide Dave Merrick took me to Tumalo Creek in Bend to teach me about the new sport.

"The first thing we're going to do is get you a little used to handling the fly rod," he said.

We started with the cast, just line, no fly. 

"Most people think that, that's a fly cast right there. Kind of an up and back, but there's actually two," said Merrick. "There's a back cast that has to fully complete, and a forward cast that has to complete before we go either direction."

Sounds simple, right? Well, there is a lot more to think about than just moving the rod back and forth. 

"Be prepared, because I'm going to give you 40 things to think about all at once, and if you remember a third of them, you'll do great," said Merrick.

And the tips began.

"You should always have a tight line all the way from the hand to the rod. Pause between your back cast and your forward cast," said Merrick. "Try to keep the wrist, it needs to be relaxed but someone stiff."

It really was a lot to remember.

"You're not quite the expert caster we want you to be just yet, but it will come."

Okay, so it didn't come naturally. But Merrick has lots of patience, something you need to be a successful angler.

Finally, after a lot of practice in an open field, I got it down. 

"Much better!" Merrick said as he watched me practice casting. "See how that line's turning over and laying up in the air like that? That's beautiful!"

There was one more step before we took to the water.
"With any luck, we're going to hook something out there," said Merrick. "So we need to talk about what in the heck happens when we get a fish on."

It's called setting the hook: Getting pressure to the fish by lifting up the rod, and tightening the line.

After catching my instructor, it's time to hit the creek.

I needed a little help crossing the river. I was getting used to walking in waders and boot, and against the current.

Once Merrick got us to some calmer water, it's time to test my skills.

The fewer casts, the better -- and the more power in your stroke, the more efficient it will be.

Another key tip is, once you cast, let the fly float down the river. Merrick says it looks more natural, and the fish will rise to it.

I had many close calls during my more than two hours on the water. 

But my poor "setting the hook" skills kept me from actually bringing any of them in.

It wasn't until my last cast of the day, farther down the river, that my luck changed. 

"You got a fish!" Merrick said.

Although the little guy was small enough to be a goldfish, I'm hooked.

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