BY TRACY HOUSE, M.A.
“In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.” A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean.
Fly fishing has a Zen-like rhythmic motion – the graceful tug and pull of the rod as you cast your fly into just the right spot is a serene feeling. This once male-dominated sport is now becoming a favorite pastime for women who enjoy being close to nature, playing outdoors, reconnecting with family, or for those who simply appreciate a few reclusive hours of personal time.
Whether you’re releasing a carp in northern Lake Michigan, angling an Alaskan Steelhead in Alaska, or scooping trout into a net from Lake Mead in Arizona, fly fishing is a sport that is relaxing, rewarding, and eco-friendly.
Grace and Solitude
Cinda Howard, fishing manager at Orvis in Scottsdale, has been fishing since 1991. “It is very beautiful. We teach 7-year-old kids, and we teach 90-year-old women. It is a sport that doesn’t require any strength to cast the rod,” Howard said.
Taking up fly fishing is a wonderful excuse to see some of nature’s beautiful places and make some new friends.
“The amazing friendships and conversations developing on a women’s trip when you are out in the most beautiful places imaginable defies description. Whether staying in the most deluxe lodge, or camping by the side of a roaring river, the learning is awesome,” said Betsy Donley, with Camelback Odyssey Travel.
“There is a lot of solitude. It is a very relaxing sport,” Howard agrees. “The thing that I hear from a lot of people is that fly fishing takes their minds off of their worries, and work, and their other problems.”
“Catch and Release”
According to Howard, very few fly fishermen keep the fish they catch. It is really a “catch and release” sport. She says fly fishing is more about conservation. “It entails taking care of a stream, making sure there is good moving water, keeping things clean and well-kept.”
“I love fly fishing because it’s outside in nature; it’s rhythmic and beautiful making the fly line float through the air; it’s conservation ‘catch and release’. It’s eco as you learn about the water ecology and the hatches above and beneath the water,” Donley agrees.
Quite possibly one of Arizona’s best-kept secrets is the abundance of locations available for fly fishing. Whether you go out for a few hours in the morning, or camp for an entire weekend, there are plenty of fly fishing destinations in Arizona.
Near Phoenix, Saguaro Lake, Lake Pleasant, Roosevelt Lake, and even golf course ponds are great options, suggests Howard. For weekend getaways, miles of streams in northern and eastern Arizona await. From Payson to the New Mexico border, thousands of miles of wild trout streams and trout lakes draw fly fishermen from all around. Lee’s Ferry, at the Colorado River out of Lake Powell near Page, Arizona, is another popular fly fishing destination.
Arizona does require a fishing license and, if you’re going after trout, a trout stamp is required.
The Perfect Cast
Orvis offers free lessons, with basic equipment provided, for beginners to learn about the sport. Howard said, “The biggest reason people quit fly fishing is because they can’t cast well.” She recommends getting lessons for the correct technique, “A casting lesson with an instructor is the best thing you can do.”
With a basic tool kit─rod, reel, lines, and flies─you can get started. Howard suggests two books about fishing in AZ─Fly Fisher’s Guide to Arizona by Will Jordan and Arizona Trout Streams and their Hatches by John Rohmer.
Fly fishing is easy, accessible, and fun. “It really is about having a good time, being with nature, and catching some fish,” Howard said.