Fly fishing gear

Salomone: The fancy stick |

Angler Scott Peterson extends his dry fly casting on the Eagle River.
Connor Koenig/Courtesy Photo

My youth was spent in Ohio. I don’t remember when I started fishing. It has always been part of life. As a result, the fish I chased were warm water species like largemouth bass, bluegills, and catfish. There was no fly fishing in southern Ohio. I became very adept at using a spinning rod for all species.

When I moved to Colorado I kept spinning fish – that was all I knew – but I kept seeing people fly fishing and found myself staring. How does the line stay up? The long stems looked like “fancy sticks” to me.

The author prepares his rod along the shore of the Eagle River.
Connor Koenig/Courtesy Photo

I had watched Norman Maclean’s iconic film, “A River Runs Through It”. I had seen the magic of Brad Pitt. The whole experience seemed within reach, but I found myself intimidated. My spinning rod consistently produced hits.

Why change?

Then I felt the weight of a forward fly line flex a rod. Wow. It seemed to click from the start. I started collecting fly fishing gear. My gear choices were rudimentary and mismatched. Still, I waded into the river holding my fancy stick high.

Nothing I had done before compared. Compared to jigging for panfish, worming for bass, or plunging heavyweights into the depths for catfish, fly fishing was at the opposite end of the pool. And dare I say, “sexy”.

I watched LaFontaine – my favorite (still is) – in the videos. He and others planted a seed that grew into a decades-long career guiding fly fishermen in Colorado. The fly rod became my only means of fishing.

I took my love for the Salt Fancy Stick in 1997 for the first time. On a rocky point on the southeast side of Paradise Island, Bahamas, I watched the silver lightning in the electric turquoise waters eat my clouser. Since then, I have been addicted to saltwater fly fishing. This led to multiple trips offshore in blue water with a fancy stick, chasing Atlantic sailfish on the fly but returning with mahi-mahi and tuna. I’ve never let this happen before, but an Atlantic Sailfish on the fly became my jinx.

I tell my clients not to wait until their next Rocky Mountain vacation to buy a fly rod. A 4wt or 5wt rod and some top water poppers for bass and bluegill can be a laugh-filled fishing adventure anywhere across America. They look at me and say, “Can you fish for bass with a fly rod?” I always tell them: “Yes! Bass and more…so much more.

Customers are already feeling it. Just like I did so many years ago. The flex of a fly rod is more of a sensation than a technical convention. A fisherman who smells a fly rod will cast better. There are things that can be done to enhance this feeling, make it more visible and easier to tap into.

At the end of a guided trip, a high percentage of anglers will want to invest in their own gear to continue this new sensation on their home waters and be more proficient with a fly rod for next summer’s trip. It is especially young fly anglers who will want to adopt their own rod and continue to fly fish.

When new fly anglers realize the potential of applying their newly developed skills close to home, the pull becomes even deeper for the fancy stick. Begin to understand all the many ways fly fishing can be applied to almost any type of fishing and the level of enjoyment increases.

Don’t let the intimidation of fly fishing stop you from embracing a new love affair. Watching people swing a fly line through the air can defy logic. It is best to seek professional help to establish a solid foundation from which to develop your fly fishing skills.

The author gives some fishing tips.
Connor Koenig/Courtesy Photo

Contact Vail Valley Anglers to book a fly fishing trip and learn for yourself. Feeling a fly rod flex and deliver gives concrete meaning to the movies you’ve seen and the anglers you watch on the river. You never know, you too might fall in love with the fancy stick.