The Fry Fish Class

By Sylvia Beene

A friend from the community college waved a flyer in my face. She excitedly asked if I knew how to "fly-fish." My ears deceived me: I heard "fry-fish."

"Of course," I responded, then told her how to saute fish.

She said it again, less excitedly. Face flushed, I admitted "fly-fishing" was not a talent of mine. Scenes from "A River Runs Through It" flashed in my mind--and halted as I saw myself entangled in fishing line.

I thought about it, urged on by a seasoned fly-fisherman who reasoned that I would be missing out on the "big-one-that-got away" story time at the local eatery, not to mention having my picture--with fish--proudly displayed at the local store.

So I filled my evenings going online to discover the new items of this sport, and with a few clicks of my mouse I visited a world of lightweight graphite rods and other gear. I was told the shorter the length the more you have to work at casting. Being a 5' woman facing a 9' rod, I was daunted; but the Home Waters Fly Shop owner in Eugene assured me I would become accustomed to the rod. I was also told the price does not have to be expensive, as fly-fishing is "technique-based, not price-based."

I found the flies to be the most delightful of my selections; they appealed to my fashion sense. I was naturally attracted to the magenta and hot pink flies, but when I considered what a fish might be attracted to I decided that the natural color of a flying bug (browns and blacks with some green tossed in) would be more delectable to fish. To please me and also allow me to watch my casting, the owner put some pretty hot-pink fuzz on the end of the leader.

On the first night of our class the instructor, Gene Walz, showed us a rod he found at a garage sale, proving that an inexpensive rod and reel can be used and further attesting that technique, not money, is what catches fish.

I brought my new items home, took them out and tested the weight and feel of the whole ensemble. But I found I was lacking some more items. I already had fishing vest, net, pliers and other goodies but shivered when I thought of getting in the cold water! But Mr. Walz informed me this item is not totally necessary, and that at this point I can stay on shore or get in a boat where I'll stay dry unless I accidentally tip the canoe . . . Best I stay on land for now.

After five classes taught at the indoor gym, I was ready to cast on a private pond. I was one of five women and several men who took the class. This was the most women, Mr. Walz has ever had in a single class, so I believe women are finding this sport can be relaxing and rewarding. With patience and humor he helped develop my casting. I learned how to tie the knots that attach the flies, and finally how to relax and recognize the sweet spot all rods have. The proper rhythm and hum of the line sailing out onto the water brings a sigh of contentment from me every time.

On graduation day, my baptism into the fly-fishing sport was to land two largemouth bass that I thanked personally for the experience, and then released back into their watery home.

I now carry my gear in the car just in case I have an opportunity to wade in, with hope of a fish-fry to follow.

Sylvia Beene lives in Drain, Oregon, and fishes on the North Umpqua River.