As soon as the loop flashes into your peripheral vision, you know you may have just stumbled into perfection.
The hum of the line racing through the guides sends a vibration down the pole and through your arms that electrifies every vain in your body right down to your toes. Your fly lands without even the hint of a ripple. It has all finally come together, you have reached Zen.
Before you have time to congratulate yourself, however, a watery explosion causes your line to go tight and the entire process is reversed. It becomes a dizzy swirl of strip, strip, keeping that tip up, strip, strip and strip some more. Once your heart rates comes back down into triple digits and you remember to breathe again, you can bend down to release that crimson checked beauty back into the river of life.
Now you can sit down and regain your composure. Get ready, though, because it is all going to happen again.
With fly fishing, it happens every time.
I must admit I do get a smile on my face every time I read an article about this new fangled fad of fly fishing. Many societies claim to be the birth place of fly fishing. It dates back to just a bit more than 2,000 years ago.
From the late 1800s to the early 1900s trout was king in the Poconos and the maternity ward for fly fishing in the United States was the legendary Brodhead Creek located right here in our wonderful Pocono Mountains. The Brodhead Creek was once a tremendous brook trout fishery that became a destination spot for any angler flinging fur and feathers. Fishing lodges sprung up along the Paradise and the Brodhead with the most famous being the Henryville Hotel. The guest list at the Henryville included such dignitaries as Presidents Grover Cleveland and Teddy Roosevelt, Governor Gifford Pinchot and many stars of stage and screen.
It was the place to be and the history was rich and deep. The first split bamboo fly rod was devised by Samuel Phillippe, a gunsmith and violin maker from Easton. There is a historical marker at South Third and Pine Streets in downtown Easton to commemorate his contribution to the sport.
Unfortunately, with 40-fish daily limits and the onslaught of timbering, mining and the pollution they bring, fish populations decreased. The brotherhood of brook trout devotees split into two groups, with half heading north to the Catskills and the other half to the limestone creeks of South-Central Pennsylvania. Both destinations are on bucket lists of any angler that ever slipped on a pair of waders. If you have the opportunity to visit either location, the surroundings and history of each spot will make catching fish secondary to the experience itself.
Even though some credit the Brodhead and Paradise streams with being the parents of fly fishing in the United States, it dates back much farther.
The indigenous native nations along the Eastern half of the country were astute fly fisherman. An illustration from the 1700s shows an indigenous fisherman casting a line with a fly, like they had been doing for some time. Cherokee favored the yellow hammer fly. It used deer hair and feathers of the yellow-shafted flicker. They were wise enough to use the yellow tail feather in their design to match the yellowish stoneflies that inhabited their waters. The Sioux and Kiowa also paid attention to their surroundings, using crow or wood duck feathers to resemble their local stoneflies. Florida is known for bass, and the Seminole had a long history of casting homemade poppers in hopes of catching dinner.
Pennsylvania has the largest population of fly fishing women and men of any other state. We also have 15,000 miles of designated wild trout fisheries so there is room for everyone to enjoy this new fangled sport. Now you don’t need to break the bank with online orders to Orvis or Simms. Just start out small with a beginner’s set up and a few basic flies and you’ll soon be hooked faster than a wild Brookie. But a tip to the beginner. If you decide to buy a fly rod at a yard sale or flea market keep a measuring tape in your pocket. Read the legend on the pole and if it says that it is a 9 foot pole but it only measures out to 8 feet 9 inches then you know that the other three inches end up on the outside of a closed car door and the tip has been replaced.
So as your line tightens and you forget ever thing that you every read, you will suddenly realized that you have just outsmarted one of the most finicky prizes in the fishing world. As your heart rate comes back down into triple digits and you remember to breathe again you can then bend down on one knee to release that crimson checked beauty back into the river of life. Now my friend you can sit down and allow yourself to feel proud. You deserve it.
RICK MIKULA of Hazleton is an author, lecturer and butterfly breeder who has been fishing for more than 65 years.
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