By Paris Wolfe
The pandemic has sparked new hobbies amongst Northeast Ohioans, from puzzles to photography. As the weather warms, it’s time to put down indoor activities, go outside and dabble in a new pursuit that offers social distancing by its very nature – fishing. But not just any fishing, the gentle art of fly fishing.
“If fishing is a religion, fly fishing is the high church.” – Tom Brokaw, broadcast journalist and angler
Fortunately, Northeast Ohio has more than its share of locations for Brokaw’s “church services.” Part of Steelhead Alley, which stretches from Cleveland to Buffalo, Northeast Ohio may not have the traditional trout population, but it has an active and exciting fish population.
“This area offers so many options for the fly angler,” says Dan Pribanic, owner of Chagrin River Outfitters in Chagrin Falls. Founded in 2006, the specialty shop has rods, reels, flies, waders and so much more sold by experienced fisherman who are happy to share their knowledge. The shop also offers free learn-to-fly-fish classes in Spring and Summer. Information is available at www.chagrinriveroutfitters.com.
“We have a great diversity of waters to fish. The Lake Erie tributaries are popular for steelhead, bass, and carp. Local ponds, lakes, and reservoirs are popular for bass, pike, musky, and panfish. Lake Erie is popular for bass, steelhead, walleye, sheepshead, and carp on the fly,” says Pribanic. “There are many opportunities for the fly angler in this area if they are willing to think outside the box.”
For the rookie, fly fishing equipment is decidedly different from the traditional spin casting rod and reel. At the risk of sounding pretentious it requires an elegant combination of light-weight rod, tapered line, and artificial fly. Good flies are artful compositions of feathers and fur that resemble aquatic insects and other prey sources. The most successful flies lure fish.
Certainly, fly fishing is more challenging than other fishing, but just about anyone can do it with a little practice. Pribanic encourages more women to take up the sport and enjoy its peaceful benefits. He says, “It takes time to become an efficient caster and some time on the water to become consistently successful.”
He learned fly fishing from his older brothers when he was just 12 and is passing his love of the sport to his 11-year-old son. Not everyone is lucky to have family members that fish. But that is no excuse for avoiding the sport.
Sans family or friends to teach you, a local outfitter shop can help. There you can discuss gear, test-cast a few rods, and use the staff as a resource. YouTube videos can be helpful, just seek a reputable source. Better yet, take a lesson or join a guided trip.
Sports outfitter Orvis – which has two stores in Northeast Ohio – has a series of basic to advanced videos and podcasts in its Fly-Fishing Learning Center at howtoflyfish.orvis.com. And myriad magazines, blogs and podcasts are available online.
No matter how many podcasts you hear or lessons you take, learning never ends. Pribanic says, “We can get you up casting, tying on a fly, and catching a few fish in a day. To truly learn all the nuances and intricacies, different, casts, different techniques, knots, and more, truly takes a lifetime. There are always new things to learn, new flies to tie, new places to explore.”
Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. – Henry David Thoreau, philosopher and writer.
“For many fly fishing is about more than the fish. A large part of the appeal is it provides that connection to nature and the natural world that so many people are looking for,” says Pribanic.
“When you are fly fishing, you really think of nothing else, because it demands complete attention from the angler and all of their senses as well,” he muses. “It’s fun to do with family and friends. And it’s fun to do alone. You can fly fish in the city, or you can fly fish in the most remote corners of the world.”
If fishing isn’t enough, take your new obsession or hobby one step further with fly tying. “Fly tying is a great way to deepen your connection with the sport and the fish you are targeting,” says Pribanic. “There are few things more rewarding than catching fish on flies you have tied yourself.” Chagrin River Outfitters sells all the supplies.
To go fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men – for all men are equal before fish. – Herbert Hoover, 31st president and author of “Fishing for Fun: And to Wash Your Soul.”