Learning To Fly Fish

Cindy Blair of Durham receives instruction on fly fishing from volunteer instructor Rod McLean at the Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville. PHOTO BY CAROLINE GILMORE

Caroline Gilmore

My first exposure to fly fishing was watching Brad Pitt’s effortless and rhythmic fly casting in the 1992 movie “A River Runs Through It.” In fly fishing, a weightless artificial “fly” or “lure” is used along a weighted fly line to catch fish instead of weightless line and weighted bait or sinker.

The use of artificial flies to catch fish has been around since at least second century when the use of artificial flies was first described among Macedonian anglers on the Astraeus River.

Approximately 48.7 million people fished in the United States in 2016. In North Caro­lina, 1.2 million people fish annually. Even though the Research Triangle Park (RTP) area is not a known for its fishing, there are some great areas to fly fish locally. We have large lakes, multiple rivers and tiny creeks, and since we are in the middle of the state, relatively easy access to the coast and the mountains.

I grew up doing some bait fishing with my father during summer vacations to the Outer Banks. A few years ago, I received some fly fishing instruction at a NCWRC Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) weekend. In March 2017, my friend, Cindy Blair and I attended a six-hour, women-only fly-fishing workshop that was hosted by the BOW program and held at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Cen­ter in Fayetteville.

The 28 workshop participants ranged from 19 to 70 years; most were in their 50s or 60s and had some fishing experience. Participants hailed from as far east as Wilmington and as far west as Winston-Salem.

We received hands-on instruction on the basics of fly fishing from lead instructor Jean­ette Gallaher and 12 instructors. After learning the roll cast techniques in the classroom and practicing casting without flies on a casting pond, we tested our skills by fly fishing for largemouth bass and bluegill on a stocked pond at the center. I didn’t catch a fish, but several participants did.

BB Gillen, NCWRC’s Outdoor Skills Co­ordinator commented, “It’s a great opportunity for women to learn how to fly fish in a fun, no-stress environment with instructors who are very knowledgeable and patient.”

For fishing instruction, women can attend a BOW clinic; others can contact local retailers like Great Outdoor Provision or Orvis about classes.

After you learn to fly fish, you’ll need a place to fly fish. A section of the NCWRC web site (www.ncwildlife.org/Fishing/Where- to-Fish) provides information on more than 500 publicly accessible places to fish in NC. You can find information on the location of publicly accessible fishing piers, boat ramps, and canoe launches, as well as places that provide bank and wade fishing opportunities. Locally, you can fly fish on Jordan Lake via boat, canoe, kayak or wading for Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Common Carp, Crap­pie, Pumpkinseed, Bluegill, Redbreast Sun­fish, Redear Sunfish and Striped Bass.

Falls Lake offers fly fishing opportunities for Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Com­mon Carp, Crappie, Pumpkinseed, Bluegill, Redbreast Sunfish, Redear Sunfish.

In Orange County, fishers can try their luck at OWASA lakes Cane Creek and Uni­versity Lake for Largemouth Bass, Sunfish, and Crap­pie, or you can try fly fishing the Eno River. Fly fishers also can fish for Largemouth Bass, White Bass, sunfish and catfish on the Haw River.

If you are 16 years of age or older and will be fishing on something other than a private pond, you will need a fishing license. Short-term fishing licenses run for 10 days and cost $7 for inland fishing and $5 for coastal recreational fishing for NC residents.

Annual fishing licenses costs range from $15 to $25 for NC residents and are valid for 12 months from the date of purchase. You can purchase a license for immediate use by ordering through a wildlife service agent, or online (www.ncwildlife.org), or by phone or by mail, or in person at the NCWRC offices or by mail.If you want to find someone to fish with, Triangle Fly Fishers (TFF) (www.triangleflyfishers.org) serves fly fishers from the RTP area east to the coast and is dedicated to conservation and fly fishing. The TFF Meetup group (www.meetup.com/triangleflyfishers/) has over 1,000 members and meets monthly at the Durham County Wildlife Club. I attended the February meeting of the TFF Meetup group, was welcomed by the meeting attendees and heard a presentation by Chad Thomas of the NCWRC on Striped Bass.

Everyone I have met through fly fishing has been friendly and supportive. I am looking forward to spending some peaceful time on the water with a fly rod and reel.