February 22, 2014

Beginners have chance to learn art of fishing on the fly

The Fly Fish Texas Program is available in Athens.

There’s no question about it; fly fishing has a rhythm of its own.

It is an artistic way of fishing, an almost zen-like method that seems to give all the advantages to the fish.

Most of us admire it from a distance and in our mind’s eye we see ourselves resplendent in waders and a fly-studded vest but in reality we see tangled lines and unattainable targets.

That’s just the way fly fishing goes; you don’t cast a lure, you cast your line. You don’t throw at the fish; you must gauge the flow of the water, the bend in the river, the flora and fauna and place a tiny fly where it might just drift past an alert fish that won’t recognize it as an artificial bug.

I’ve been told that if you’re good enough, you can roll, bend, or somehow will your line to a certain spot. But like an intricate golf shot, you cannot muscle it.

No wonder many of us hang on to our casting reels and weighted lures.

But the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a program designed to help. Granted, it takes an army of volunteers, but if you’re willing to drive the 80 or so miles from Fort Worth to Athens and the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, the department said it will teach you to tie a fly, cast that fly, and catch a fish all in one day during its Fly Fish Texas program at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.

It is a bold promise, but this is the 15th year for the event and while there are no statistics to prove the success rate, the longevity itself is enough to make it enticing.

“It is really designed for people who have never done any fly fishing before,” said Jim Booker, the event coordinator, “we get a good amount of kids, but it’s for people of all ages. We supply all the equipment, the instruction and the chance to catch a fish. To tie a fly, use it and catch a fish all in one day is kind of our slogan.”

This will be Booker’s sixth year with the program, but he said there are devoted fly fishermen and fishing clubs from around the state that have been involved from the beginning.

“This event is a collaboration of fly fishing clubs and instructors from all over the state. They come to spend the weekend with us and they run everything from casting practice, a fly-tiers roundtable, a speaker’s forum … some 15 or more stations where visitors can sit, watch and learn,” he said.

Booker said there are an average of 600 participants in the event and about 100 volunteers. It makes, he said, for a good ratio of student to teacher.

Among the volunteers, he added, will be military veterans who have used fly fishing as a therapy to help shake off the stresses of combat.

These fly fishermen turned to several fly fishing organizations designed to help veterans, and now the veterans have an opportunity to return some of that help.

“These vets are an important part of the volunteer group and they really enjoy being here,” Booker said.

The sessions run all day and cover a range of subjects, beginning of course, with “basic fly fishing — care and feeding of your equipment.”

There will be instruction on fly fishing for several species; not only trout, but also redfish, speckled trout and carp. For those looking for a place to ply their newfound skills, there will be speakers representing several areas including the Llano River, the gulf coast and Colorado.

But the heart of the event, the real reason for being, is the opportunity to collect aquatic insects for the center’s streams, tie a fly to look just like it, and learn to cast it upon one of the center’s stocked ponds or streams.

“There is no extra charge for this event,” Booker said. “We’ll still have the regular scuba divers feeding the fish in the auditorium; the tram tours. All of it will be available with regular admission.”

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