What with hardly anyone fishing a single fly these days, this is a (semi-serious) call for reconsideration of such, at least in the Yellowstone area.
Of the numerous pleasures fly fishing offers, the act of fly casting rates high on my list. There is a many-faceted joy to be found in casting, related to (of course) but separate from other elements of fishing. This joy resides in the rhythms of the casting stroke and the smooth arcing bend of a fine fly rod. We feel it in the taut suspension of the line during its smooth, graceful flight. It’s there, too, in the crisp delivery of a fly, accurately and delicately and perhaps at distance, to exactly the spot where a fish is lying.
But the various pleasures yielded by casting don’t come without—pardon me here—a catch. And this catch is that they can’t be truly secured except by fishing a single fly, unweighted. Attach anything else to the leader—anything—and those pleasures are decidedly compromised.
Because I thrill to fly casting, I favor the use of one fly, unweighted, in my own fishing. I do this whenever it’s reasonable (meaning, when I still have a good chance to catch fish). Around Yellowstone, that’s most of the season. That’s because this area is rich in aquatic insects; virtually all the waters have abundant, reliable hatches. Local trout spend substantial time feeding on or very close to the surface.
All of which is to say that fishing one fly, wet or dry, unweighted, isn’t just an affectation. It’s a core tactic. Often it’s the best tactic. For anglers inclined to fish in this manner, that’s a beautiful thing. We get to have our cake and eat it too. We reap the pleasures offered by the single fly, without sacrificing our chances for success.
I don’t wish to sound didactic on this matter of tactics. To the contrary, I think one of the beauties of this sport lies in its variety of techniques, any of which we’re free to employ as suits our fancy. And around here, plenty of other techniques will take trout. Nevertheless, I remain reluctant to cede the enjoyment that comes from casting one fly.
After all, isn’t it the casting that really separates fly fishing from other forms of angling? If we can’t have fun with that part, if we can’t value the process at least somewhat equally to the fish we put in hand, why fly fish at all? There are other, more efficient ways to get a bag.
So next time you fish Yellowstone, take a moment to consider (if you haven’t done so lately) freeing up your line and leader. Fish one fly, unweighted. At least for a little while. If you find there’s no appeal in it—to you or the trout—that’s quite alright. But I think you might be surprised. And not just about how much you enjoyed the casting.