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Fly fishing doesn’t have to be hard

Owen Strogen hiding behind a willow bush on Tonto Creek as he works his fly downstream. He is able to work both sides of the creek with his 9-foot rod.
Jim Strogen photo.

By Jim Strogen

I loved “A River Runs Through It.” I had been fly fishing about 30 years before I saw the film, and appreciated the artistry in Jason Borger’s casts — Borger was the “double” for Brad Pitt, and he’s the one casting in the movie.

When I see new fly fishers getting started, it seems that they must have seen the movie, too, and believe that is what one must do to catch fish with a fly rod. After multiple false casts, and water slaps within a foot of the final target, they get frustrated when they don’t catch any fish.

Owen Strogen dancing a two-fly rig (humpy and unweighted hare’s ear) downstream in front of a shaded rock across the creek on Upper Canyon Creek, Ariz. Jim Strogen photo.

I love to cast a long line, but it doesn’t happen often. If I do, it is ideally with no false casts. The longer my fly is in the air, the more likely it will be caught by a bush. Fewer false casts also means my fly is in or on the water in front of fish longer.

Many of my casts are less than 30 feet, and truth be told, most are less than 20 feet. Small-stream fishing is best accomplished with the roll cast or the slingshot or bow-and-arrow cast. I like to use a 9-foot rod in small stream situations. This length rod allows me to turn over my roll casts effectively. It also is a big help in fishing the current along the opposite side of the bank that I could not reach with a smaller rod.

An aspect of fly fishing that I love is the ability to critique each cast and work on making the next one better. But instead of picking up a cast from the water that didn’t land where you wanted it to, let it work through the pool as if it was placed exactly where you wanted it. I can’t begin to count the number of fish that I have caught with a bad cast.

Jim Strogen is the youth education coordinator and conservation chair for the Gila Trout Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Payson, Ariz.