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Fly Fishing: It's Not Just for Experts Anymore
on Thursday 16 April 2009
by Tammy Sapp

Fly Fishing: It's Not Just for Experts Anymore
By Tammy Sapp  


Judy Nugent enjoys a day on the water with radio show co-host Dan Small.

Already a veteran of catching panfish, my dad taught me how to fly fish on a trout stream in north central Wisconsin when I was about 10 years old. During that same time, my dad learned something, too - how to retrieve my dry fly from tree branches that were impossibly high. While my first attempts were clumsy, I don't think it ever occurred to either of us that fly fishing was the domain of people who spent hundreds of dollars on their reel or were fluent in pretentious jargon. It was just something fun my dad and I wanted to do together.

Judy Nugent, an outdoor radio and TV personality who shares her expertise at seminars throughout the Midwest, wants to change the perception that fly fishing is costly and hard to learn, because it may prevent would-be enthusiasts from trying it.

"Let's demystify fly fishing, first," Judy said. "Start off by buying a cheap combo kit with the rod and reel that comes pre-spooled. For about $60, you'll get everything you need."

While there's a plethora of rods and reels to choose from, Judy's top pick is a middle of the road 5-weight rod.

" A 2-weight would be super light for very little fish while a 9-weight would be for catching gigantic steelhead. The 5-weight is good for catching 8-inch to 15-inch trout or bluegills."

Regarding the reel, sure you can spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars, but why when all it does is hold your line? Unlike other types of angling, you hand strip line from your fly fishing reel. Considering anglers used tin cans to hold their line in the old days, Judy's advice is to go with a standard reel.

Fly line isn't all that complicated either once you break it down. There are three components to fly line, Judy explained. There's the clear monofilament tapered leader at the end of the line, the brightly colored, waxy feeling weight forward line and backing, which is typically braided line that connects the weight forward line to the reel.

While the weight forward line often looks pretty enough to use in your next craft project, its job is to provide enough weight to let you cast a lure that weighs virtually nothing.

"When you're casting with a spoon, the lure is heavy enough to pull line out of the reel," Judy said. "However, a fly is so light you need the weight forward line to cast it."

There's other gear you may wish to consider, but much of it is optional. Judy suggests that you keep it simple.

"You can spend $500 on a pair of waders, but you can also go with just a pair of socks, shoes and quick drying nylon pants. If you want to get waders, though, you'll need neoprene if you're fishing cold water and a breathable material if it's hot."

While the catalog fly fisherman is always decked out in a fancy vest, they are not a necessity for carrying your line, flies and other odds and ends. A big pocket or fanny pack will do just fine.

Finally, while some anglers don't use a net, others swear by them. It's a personal decision, though Judy urges that you skip a nylon net, which can bite into and harm fish. Fin saver nets provide more gentle contact with fish.

Some miscellaneous items you'll need include dime store nail clippers and hemostats or small pliers for holding or removing hooks. Judy also advises that anglers invest in polarized sun glasses. A hat and bug spray also can greatly add to your comfort level.

Now that we've covered the shopping basics, Judy will walk us through practicing your casting, selecting flies and reading the water in next week's Women's Outdoor Wire.

You can catch up with Judy before that by visiting

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