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Fly-fishing lures all sorts of people

  • Story Highlights
  • Fly-fishing is sport of presidents and the guy or gal next door
  • Fan says fish makes decision about what gets caught
  • Common practice to catch and release fish
  • Intricately built replicas of flies as bait from 75 cents to $10
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By Linda K. Harris
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(LifeWire) -- Fanny Krieger of San Francisco probably has more fly-fishing tales in her repertoire than Ernest Hemingway.

Fanny Krieger of San Francisco displays a 30-pound brown trout that she caught in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, in 2001.

Krieger, in her late 70s, helped found the Golden West Women Flyfishers -- a group that spawned more than 40 other clubs across the country.

Her biggest catch, she says, was a 30-pound brown trout bagged in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, in 2001. She struggled for 30 minutes to win that battle.

The trout "was more in control than I was," recalled Krieger -- an experienced fly-fisher and the wife of noted fly-fishing instructor Mel Krieger.

"That's the fun of fly-fishing: You never know what you're going to catch. It's the fish that makes the decision, not you."

As it does every year, that sense of mystery and excitement is drawing fly-fishers and others with rod in hand to U.S. rivers, lakes and seashores. Photo See presidents and others enjoy the sport »

Fishing's popularity

At last count, there were 29.9 million anglers (16 years old and older) in the United States, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2006 report, issued this May. Although the number of anglers fell by 12 percent from 2001 to 2006, the report notes that "expenditures for fishing equipment (rods, reels, etc.) and fishing trips increased 5 percent and 7 percent, respectively."

The Wildlife Service estimated that fishing was a $40.6 billion industry in 2006, and a 2004 Harris poll identified it as the fifth most popular leisure activity in the country, ranking just below movie watching and just above computer-related activities.

William C. Bullock III, executive director of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, maintains that more books have been penned about fishing than all other sports combined. The museum boasts 3,000 titles, he said, containing all manner of information and philosophical musings.

Fly-fishing has a particular mystique, being a sport of presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower, writers such as Hemingway and artists such as Winslow Homer. Their rods are among the collection of 1,200 on display at the museum.

President Herbert Hoover said the pursuit of happiness cited in the Declaration of Independence "obviously includes the pursuit of fish," according to his presidential library. He also mocked his predecessor President Calvin Coolidge for preferring worms to fly fishing.

The sport's wrist-flicking casting technique and use of intricately built replicas of flies as bait, call for a bit more finesse than dropping a worm in the water.

But Bullock says its aristocratic image shouldn't discourage people from taking up fly- fishing.

"There's an elitist edge to fly-fishing that everybody has to get past," he said. "Fishing is such a great sport for family togetherness. The nice thing about fly-fishing is, there's no better time for the next generation. You could get a fly-rod outfit for under $100."

Getting started

Dave Teufel, a former spokesman for outdoor equipment and clothing retailer L.L. Bean, agreed that anyone can begin to fish.

"If you wanted to get a stick and tie some line and a bobber and a hook and a worm, that can be very effective for sunfish," Teufel said, speaking of the generic name for a dozen species found in brooks and streams. Or you could spend $1,500 or even more for the rod, reel, bait and other accessories needed for fly-fishing, Bullock said.

A local tackle store or fish store will be happy to teach you what to do with the equipment, Teufel said, or you can find help online.

Hiring a teaching guide can be useful for novices as well as seasoned fly-fishers who are trying out new waters, Bullock advised. A guide who will wade with you in the water usually charges $250 to $300 for two people for a day. For two people on a boat, the cost is usually $500 to $750, he said. Or you could take a lesson on land at a fly shop for $20 an hour.

The flies can be hand-made or bought. You can buy them for 75 cents to $10, Bullock said. The types of flies are seemingly endless.

"If you find something that fish eat, you'll find a fisherman that makes that fly," he said. "There's every possible permutation of making flies." Find fly tying classes through shops or online.

Once you're out there, wear a hat and eye protection to guard against the hook when you cast the line. Some fish have spines on their dorsal fins so be careful of small cuts, Teufel said.

Also, you'll want to wear waders to keep the lower half of your body dry when you're in the water and felt-soled wading shoes to keep you from slipping, Bullock said.


Don't worry if you don't have a clue about how to scale a fish for eating after you've landed your catch. When Fanny Kreiger brought in the 30-pound brown trout in Argentina, she threw it back. That's common practice these days, known as catch and release.

"I think that's what attracted women" to fly-fishing, Krieger said. "It's no longer a bloody sport. It's not catching them and killing and seeing them bleed." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

LifeWire provides original and syndicated lifestyle content to Web publishers. Linda K. Harris is a freelance writer and former lifestyle editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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