How fly fishing works fooling a fish with bits of feather

Fly-fishing requires a flexible rod 7 to 9 feet long, a fly-casting reel affixed behind the handgrip, fly line and leader, and the knack of thinking like a fish. It is not enough for the lure to look like a mayfly, mosquito, grub, or minnow; it must act like one too.

Dry flies float, resting on fine filaments (hackles) that dimple the water as an insect’s legs do. Wet flies go underwater. Those that look like grubs, nymphs, or drowned things are simply called wet flies; those that look like minnows are streamers or bucktails.

To cast a fly, first strip about 20 feet of line from the reel with your left hand (if you are right-handed). Hold the line lightly as, with a flick of the right wrist, you bring the rod to just past vertical. The instant the line extends straight behind you (1) flick the rod ahead (2)-again, with wrist action. After several such “false casts” in which you keep the fly in the air while playing out more line, bring the rod forward (3) aiming at the target, and let the fly drop lightly onto the water.

Place a dry fly just upstream of where you think the fish is. Let it drift with the current or breeze for a second or two while you keep the line out of the water; then cast again. Place a wet fly a little farther upstream and let it tumble freely past the fish. Place a streamer or bucktail a little downstream and pull it against the current in slight darts and dashes. Do not jerk a wet fly out of the water.

A fish may leap from the water to take a dry fly, or the fly may just disappear. With a wet fly, you will feel a sudden tug on the line. In any case, the hook must be set quickly, with a firm and gentle pull, before the fish realizes that its mouth is full of feathers. Play the fish by manipulating the line with your left hand; the reel is for storing line, not for fighting fish.