The bowfin, once a bucket-list fish on the fly.
When I stared fly fishing, it was solely an endeavor I saved for trout. In fact, I thought fly fishing for anything but trout was foolhardy.
Then I started really soaking up the information put out there by the magazines of the day. Old Rod & Reel magazine (later to become Fly Rod & Reel) might have been my favorite for gleening new species and new locations to fly fish. Later, the Saturday morning TV programs that highlighted saltwater fly fishing for everything from stipers to bonefish captured my imagination. Then it was bass and pike.
I led a sheltered fly-fishing existance, living in the heart of the Rockies, and it took me a while to branch out and really discover that just about any fish an angler could catch with conventional gear could be caught with fly gear, too.
Now, for a guy who has worked for Trout Unlimted for nearly 13 years, I’m obsessed with the non-trout. Don’t mistake that statement—I love everything about trout, from where they live to how they take a fly to how they show off their beauty and tenacity. But the first time I hooked a saltwater fish, I knew I was in trouble. They aren’t “better” than trout, per se, but it is a different experience.
Then, almost 20 years ago, I hooked a carp—on purpose—with a fly, and I was instantly won over. What once was a trash fish unworthy of my time began to absorb my spring and early summer fishing. They were strong, smart and, after a fashion, appreciatively appealing (don’t laugh until you’ve seen your bare spool during a fight).
Last spring, I caught my first bowfin, a preshistoric beast of the southern swamps, and now I find myself drawn to black water to chase them some more.
There will be others, I’m sure, just as I’m sure you have “bucket list” fish you’ve yet to catch.
What fish are on your fly fishing bucket list? What fish haunt you? Where will you go to find them?
— Chris Hunt