Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Sportsman’s Connection,” a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program

The fly rod for angling has gained significant popularity in recent years.  This is easily substantiated by the number of new fly fishing expositions.  No longer are outdoor shows just for hunters.  When it is announced the event is fly fishing only, tens of thousands attend.
When I was a youngin’ my father would take my cousin and me fishing to a local lake every Saturday.  I was seven and my cousin, twelve.  Our Mom’s packed our lunch and we were there for the duration.  My uncle would come pick us up in the dark.  We fished hard all day long.  The routine went on for years.
My uncle made more money than my father.  I was always playing catch-up with my cousin and all the new lures and equipment he would get.  My father’s purchases were very selective.  It had to be a “had to have” before he would buy it for me.
My cousin became bored with a rod and reel combo in just one season.  Every spring I had to endure his gloating over his new set-up.  I used my trusty ole Mitchell 300 reel and solid fiberglass Garcia rod for years.  When my cousin began driving, his new set-up for the year was the fly rod.  My face went pale with envy.  I just “had to have” a fly rod outfit.  Little do I know what I was I was getting into.  Wading and fishing a lake is difficult for the most experienced fly fisherman.  For me learning to fly fish was simultaneous with learning to swear.
With only my cousin’s limited knowledge and advice; we ventured out in our favorite lake with chest waders.  I would turn parallel to the shore and strip streamers along the bank.  I used poppers for bass.  The streamers caught everything from perch to bluegills, pickerel and bass.  An occasional trout would add to my amazement.
If I wasn’t hung-up in a tree, my streamer was in the water.  I wasted the first year learning to cast.  I vividly recall this learning curve and it is now over 40 years since I first picked up the fly rod.  I was determined to outcast and out-fish my cousin.  Incredibly, I went on to teach my father how to fly fish.  His favorite was using a rowboat and slowing working the shoreline with poppers.  Largemouth on a fly rod are more exciting than anything that happened on my honeymoon.
After a year, my cousin and I decided streams were the better place to fly fish.  By then, I had a little pocket money.  The addiction of buying dries, wets and streamers took hold of me.  I marveled at polished aluminum fly boxes filled with feathers and hooks.
Eventually, one should reach the conclusion that catching fish with worms or minnows is not a difficult task.  Graduating to spinners and spoons is only slightly more difficult and expensive.  With a little research and effort, fly fishing is neither difficult nor expensive.  Stick with the basic flies and streamers.  Keep your casts short until you master the timing.  On many days throughout the season casting those tiny morsels can be the most effective way to fish.
If you are flexible enough to try fly fishing, you will quickly find it gets under your skin.  It is unique in a number of ways.  The tapered leader at the end of your fly line offers very little water resistance.  Fish fight in a uniquely different way on a fly rod.  The long, limber rod absorbs the runs and jumps and is actually fun to watch as the fish does battle.  It is a kinder, gentler way to catch a fish.  You must be ever conscious that your tapered leader maybe 2 lb. test at the very end.  A boom and winch it is not.
I feel strongly that to be considered an accomplished fisherman you must be versatile.  There are situations where spinning or baitcasting equipment is the best.  Species and water conditions determine your methodology.  The fly rod is often the better choice.
I assure you that after one season with the long rod, you will embrace fly fishing as one of the greatest pleasures in your life.  Let us also not forget that graduation to the next level of sportsmanship is accomplished by the additional level of difficulty the sportsman imposes upon himself.

Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Sportsman’s Connection,” a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his Web site at www.outdoortalknetwork.com.