Gearing Up For Fly Fishing

For some, fly-fishing for trout is an exacting science that requires skill with the rod—it takes practice to master the specialized style of casting—and knowledge of the many insects that make up a large part of the trout’s diet.

Hardcore enthusiasts study fly hatches, noting the date and time specific flies will be on the water, tie flies that imitate these insects as closely as possible, and then work to “present” the fly to the fish so that it looks natural. The commitment continues with top-of-the line rods and reels that can cost hundreds of dollars. Then there’s the specialized fly line, backing, and important accessories, such as waders and wading boots with special soles to prevent slipping while in the water.

For the uninitiated, it can seem a little intimidating, but it need not be. “You don’t need to spend a lot,” says Matt Grobert. “You can get a good starter kit for not much money.”

For fishing trout water such as the section of the Raritan River’s South Branch at Ken Lockwood Gorge, John Endreson of equipment dealer Tight Lines Fly Fishing recommends, “An 8 ½- to 10-foot rod designed to accommodate 4- to 5-weight line.” (The lower the number, the lighter the line.) “Beginners can work with basic techniques, fishing nymphs [flies designed to imitate larval insects as they rise through the water] under water. It’s a little easier than fishing with dry flies.”

The biggest hurdle for some is learning to cast, which involves lifting heavy line off the water, bringing it behind your head in something akin to a whipping motion, and gently laying it onto the water so that the fly—which is attached to a thin, transparent length of line called a leader—lands delicately. You must to do all this without getting hung up on the trees behind you or splashing the water in front of you, which will spook the wary trout.

“Taking lessons for just a short period of time helps add to the enjoyment and gets you catching fish,” says Grobert. He points out that Tight Lines and other fishing shops offer group and private instruction. “New fisherman should get away from the computer and go to one of these local shops,” he continues. “They’ll not only get what they want, they’ll learn something. Most of these places will take you outside and get you started with the basics [of casting] free of charge.”

Grobert also recommends checking out fisheries conservation organization Trout Unlimited at “They have regular seminars and meetings on all aspects of fly fishing.”

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