Whatever label you give it, fly fishing is considered a sport by many. For others, it is a hobby. Many see it for what it is — an art form. Fly fishing is a pleasurable way to spend a day outdoors, whether you are walking the edge of a pond or wading a stream. The fish you pursue are beautiful and can miraculously fill you with energy that life’s daily toils seem to slowly drain from your psyche.
Fly Fishing Isn’t Just for Trout
For those interested in trying a fly rod, the sport offers not only a refreshing escape from the daily rigors of everyday life but a plethora of fishing opportunities. There is no wrong time or place to use a fly rod, as long as you abide by state regulations. A good philosophy is: if it swims and eats anything bigger than plankton, it can be caught on a fly rod. Trout are just one species of fish that are fair game for a well-placed fly. Imagine a 5-pound channel cat ripping across a farm pond taking line out fast enough to make your reel smoke!
Here in Missouri, we are blessed with not only several cold-water trout fisheries, our state also abounds in cool-water fisheries, too, that are well suited for species like smallmouth bass. Ounce for ounce, you would be hard pressed to find a more formidable fighting fish. We also have over 900 publicly managed warm-water ponds and lakes statewide. If you haven’t had the thrill of a 9-inch bluegill on the end of a fly line, you are missing out on some great fishing action.
Fly Fishing in Columbia
Right here in Columbia, Cosmo-Bethel Park partners with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to provide an exciting trout fishing experience for Columbia residents — without having to drive to the popular trout parks nestled in the Ozark a couple of hours away. MDC stocks the park’s lake with trout early in November for catch-and-release fishing. February 1 marks the end of catch-and-release and the opening of the catch-and-keep portion of the winter trout stocking program. Statewide regulations apply and a fishing license and a trout permit are required. Once the water temperature rises, you can change flies and fish for bass, catfish or a stringer full of bluegill in the same lake.
Fly Fishing Rod Basics
The single most important tool to a fly angler is the fly rod. Its job begins with casting fly line, leader and fly to the fish. Once the fly hits the water, the rod is used to control the line and the fly. This is referred to as “mending.” When a fish picks up the fly, the rod’s job changes again. The rod is now used to set the hook. The role of the fly rod changes once again when the fish is hooked. It is then used to keep a constant pressure on the fly line so the fish cannot pull off or slip the hook. At the same time, it is being used to play or tire out the fish so it can be landed. A good all-around fly rod for Mid-Missouri fishing is a 5 or 6 weight 8½- or 9-foot long rod. This will also be suitable for fishing in any of Missouri’s rivers and streams.
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Connect With Other Anglers
There is no substitute for hands-on training with a seasoned fly angling instructor. Most people who attempt to teach themselves a proper cast will opt for a different style of fishing out of frustration. Connect with your local fly shop or a club like Mid-Missouri Trout Unlimited for a class. One additional element is just as important to your fly-fishing success. You must fish and you must fish with a fly rod. Leave your other poles at home. Remove the temptation and grow in the sport.
Follow contributing writer Mark Van Patten’s Feather Cutter Farm School of Fly Fishing on Facebook.