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updated: 1/12/2012 6:25 AM

A heartfelt rebuttal in defense of flyfishing

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As I was pondering whether to strip old lines from my reels or just relax and tie flies, I opted to check my e-mail.

Ben sent me one of his many opinions that triggered a rather lengthy response from yours truly.

"Over the last several years," wrote Ben, "I've noticed you talking quite a bit about fly fishing, and I can't understand why you'd focus on that dull aspect of our sport."

And once again I will restate my feelings and attitude about my love affair with the long rods and imitation creepy-crawlers.

Fishing for me is one of most relaxing avenues. It doesn't matter whether I'm wading a big river with spinning gear or quietly walking a small, narrow spring creek with a fly rod. I could be just off-shore with light tackle and 20-pound mono fighting a big tarpon, or feeling the warmth of the salt water while wading the flats in the Florida Keys. It really doesn't matter, or as my pal A.J. Paul put it, "I-D-M" (it doesn't matter).

As long as it's fishing. That's what counts, and the time I spend on the water is almost as precious as hugs and kisses from my grandchildren.

And in the last 20 years or so I found myself appreciating the pleasures of tossing a hairy looking creature to panfish and trout alike. I've learned to accept the frustration when a wily brown trout inspects the offering but moves off to find something that may be a bit more juicy and attractive for an afternoon meal.

I remember my first trip to the Yellowstone River and nearby streams that had drawn the famous, published fly casters as well as the average Joes in to the rivers' hypnotic attractions.

I hadn't a clue how to "attack" the water. My old fears of wading current came in to play. I didn't know a slackwater pool from a pair of slacks. I was extremely anxious that I would step into a deep hole and be swept away by the power of the river.

All that became academic when an elderly gentleman called out to me from the nearby shoreline.

"I've watched you struggle, trying to get a handle on using that big fly rod of yours," he commented in a quiet voice. "Allow me to show you a few tricks that could make it a whole lot easier for you."

And he then went about showing me where to cast and how to manage the line.

At that time I was using a Pflueger Medalist reel and a Fenwick fiberglass rod.

"Your gear should suffice when you hook a cutthroat trout," he instructed. "And when a fish grabs the fly just lift the rod and start stripping in line, always keeping tension on the line so the fish doesn't unhook itself."

Wonderful advice for a nimrod like me. In another 15 minutes I had my first cutthroat in the net.

And from then on I rapidly polished my skills on Illinois and Indiana ponds and streams.

If I've heard it once, I know I've heard it a hundred times: "Fly fishing is too difficult to master."

And when I would take the skeptics to a pond for instruction and they then learned that all the mental obstacles they had fabricated in their heads were just that, roadblocks that could be easily overcome.

I've said the following many times in this column. For me, fly fishing is the wonderful elixir that fuels my imagination. It is also the greatest over-the-counter tranquilizer I could obtain without an investigation by the DEA.

And the final, and probably the main reason I enjoy fly fishing so much is because I can tie a mayfly imitation or a leech lookalike and then catch fish with what I created in my basement and fly table.

That, for me, Ben, is the icing on my sugar-free cake.

• Mike Jackson can be reached via e-mail at His radio program is live-streamed at and can be heard 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM.