Fishing on the Fly

by | Feb 1, 2012 | Features

The icy current of the river pushes against the wading angler on this mid-winter afternoon. Though the air temperature is a balmy 55 degrees, the only thing standing between a pleasant day on the water and hypothermia are a pair of insulated waders.
Like the arm of a metronome, the fly rod swishes back and forth with practiced rhythm. As the line shoots forward, the fly gently kisses the clear water and slowly sinks. As the feathered lure tumbles along with the current, the angler gives a short sweep of the rod. The varnished bamboo telegraphs a jolting strike. With a lift of the rod, the hook is set and the fight begins.
This scene, which could be straight out of the movie, “A River Runs Through It,” is something few River Valley anglers experience. Fly-fishing is something that requires discipline and practice. It hovers on the line between utility and art. One can collect the prime ingredients for a shore lunch with any old fishing pole, but a fly rod enables you to do it with style.

All that being said, anyone willing to try can learn to do it. The members of the Caddis Fly Fishing Club experience magical moments like this on a regular basis and the club is always looking for new converts to teach. The only thing standing in the way of your own personal fly-fishing adventure is the will to learn.
The CADDIS in the Caddis Fly Fishing Club (CFFC) is an acronym. It stands for Central Arkansas Dead Drifters Icthyological Society. Yes, that is quite a mouthful but it’s a clever acronym too. Caddis fly larvae imitations are favored-fly patterns for trout and other fish.

Founded in 1996, the CFFC started in Morrilton. Most members called Russellville home so within a couple of years the club moved west. Club secretary Ron Schwartz recalled that the desire to educate others was the first step towards the organization.
“A guy named Larry Clark started a class on fly fishing at Vo-Tech in Morrilton. The roots of the club started here. Just a guy that wanted to teach others about a sport he loved.”
Those educational beginnings still beat at the heart of the organization. The CFFC, in conjunction with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Russellville Parks and Recreation Department, held the Basic Trout Fishing Clinic on November 29, 2011. The clinic was free and included a free rod and reel voucher for the first 50 kids to register. The clinic was held at the Hughes Center. “A total of 119 folks showed up, more adults than children this time, which is a first” beamed Schwartz, “we were happy to see that kind of turn-out.”
Club President Jerrold McKaughn talked about some of the club activities and what the CFFC is.
“Our primary fundraiser is an annual banquet, I think this is our 15th year for the banquet. We donate to Arkansas Tech for Scholarship programs and we’ve been a part of the Stream Team here in Arkansas. The ‘Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs’ program is also something we’ve been involved with. Teaching others about fly-fishing, conservation, and getting kids involved is what we do.”
McKaughn pointed out that the CCFFC is always looking for new members that share these ideas.

“We have meetings on the third Monday of each month at Western Sizzlin’ in Russellville. Guests are always welcome at these meetings but we don’t have them in July or October… we’re all gone fishing.”
The CFFC was instrumental in bringing Trout Day to Russellville as a way to introduce others to the simple fun of fishing. It also offers an opportunity for River Valley anglers to pursue a somewhat “exotic” species.
Trout are cold-water fish, they can’t survive in temperatures warmer than about 60 degrees. The River Valley doesn’t have any water that can maintain this cool temperature year round. This is typical for most of Arkansas. It makes the trout an ideal winter fishing species for the Arkansas Game and Fish to stock in community ponds all around the state. Cold-water temperatures that cause other fish to slow down their metabolism are ideal for the trout.
The year 2011 marks the seventh year for trout stocking in Russellville. Club member David Snellings saw an opportunity to help introduce others to trout when he learned of the winter trout stockings conducted by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

“My thinking was, why not bring it here, to Russellville? It’s been a great event these past years, we average about 200 people for Trout Day, the official opening of the pond to anglers.”
CFFC works with the AGFC and Russellville Parks to make the event happen every year. The trout are stocked in a pond at Pleasant View Park, just behind the softball fields.
“This year we even got an official proclamation from the mayor,” exclaimed Snellings, “December 3, 2012, was Trout Day in Russellville Arkansas.”
The club members present at Trout Day were all quick to point out that the fly- rod and the trout aren’t exclusive to each other. Of the 200 River Valley anglers in attendance at Trout Day 2011, not one of them was using a fly rod. The smile on their faces as they fished was evidence that fly rods weren’t required to have fun.

On the flip side, club Vice-President Grant Ehren started listing the native warm water species that could be caught on a fly rod here in the River Valley.
“Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, all of them are a blast to catch on a fly rod.” As the sounds of successful anglers filled the air and the cold December sunshine reflected off the pond, Ehren had that far- away look in his eye. A memory sparked by his very words seemed to flash through his mind and he spoke as if talking to himself.
“A warm spring afternoon, bluegills in shallow water, and a fly rod in my hand. Well that’s just a little bit of heaven here on Earth.”

‘Match the Hatch’

Fly-fishing is at once both science and art, a combination of the primal search for food and a display of aesthetic principles. Like the beautiful patterns on the deadliest of snakes, the visual appeal is a by-product of increased efficiency. The rhythmic waves of a fine bamboo rod place the fly with precision, within striking distance of the fish. The artisan quality of the hand-tied fly ensures a strike from the fish.
Tying your own flies goes hand in hand with fly-fishing. Most fly-tiers start out as only anglers, but they soon look for more involvement. Some become so engrossed with the craft that angling becomes an accompaniment to it. Some start out as builders first. Jerry McKaughan, President of Caddis Fly Fishing Club, actually started fly-tying before he started fly-fishing.
While many creations from the tying bench are veritable works of art, there is a method to the madness. The fly must “match the hatch” so to speak. The purpose of the fly is to entice fish by imitating natural food. The driving force behind the fly-tier is to create a fly that does this consistently. So, while those of us looking from the outside see creativity and artistic expression, the tier sees a tool; a beautiful tool, the epitome of form meeting function.

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