Maclean brothers experiene the art of fly fishing

by Stephanie Fellenstein Published:

The 1992 movie "A river runs through It" gave us more than just a long-locked Brad Pitt. It introduced us to the "art" of fly fishing, the common interest of two very different brothers. Sitting quietly on the shores of the Blackfoot River in Missoula, Montana, the Maclean brothers were able to enjoy the great outdoors, trying to outwit a bevy of trout and bonding over their common challenge. And so it goes that for generations fly fishing is the ideal combination of sport, quiet contemplation, and human-to-human and human-to-nature bonding. Norman Maclean said, "To my father, the highest commandment was to do whatever his sons wanted him to do, especially if it meant to go fishing."

Several local fly fishing enthusiasts have started their own group of waders-wearing, line-casting anglers and hope to invite new members by sharing their knowledge and love of this peaceful sport.

According to Herbert Hoover, "to go fishing is the chance to wash one's soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men -- for all men are equal before fish."

Let's not forget, when one is fly fishing, it is also about outsmarting the fish, hoping and praying that the fish will believe the little lie that is hooked onto the end of the line, the one that says, "I am a tasty fly," and yet is nothing more than an imposter.

Fly fishing is accomplished by fastening artificial flies and casting them with a fly rod and fly line, the latter of which is heavy enough to carry the "fly" to the water. It differs from bait or spin fishing in that the fly line is the thing that weighs down the bait and draws it to the water, not the heavy bait itself. Further, the bait used in fly fishing is not alive although it often mimics an insect, bait fish or a small crustacean. They can be made using hair, fur, feathers and other items to add to the hook, often in colorful combinations designed to fool the fish into thinking they are about to have a hearty breakfast. For the angler, fly fishing is a different technique altogether, requiring him to unlearn the wrist twist that is necessary to cast a monofilament line using a spin rod, according to Jim Sexton, one of the founders of the Western Reserve Fly Fishing Club of Hudson, Ohio. "The wrist should be rigid," he says. "It is the hardest thing for people to unlearn."

Sexton, local angler and author Tim Killeen, and Grant Aungst, director of Hudson Community Education and Recreation (HCER), have shared their love of fly fishing by teaching the sport through HCER for a number of years. About three years ago, Sexton and Aungst were discussing their respective classes when the idea arose to start a fly fishing club in Hudson. Many fly fishing clubs exist throughout the United States, sort of like fraternities for people who enjoy the thrill of the chase and the challenge of outsmarting their scaly adversaries on a beautiful summer day. Sexton and Aungst put the feelers out throughout the community and have, thus far, assembled a small group of 11 fly fishing enthusiasts. Unlike many of its counterparts, the Western Reserve Fly fishing Club also accepts women and children. And, one does not need to be an experienced fly fisherman to join -- with three teachers on board, lessons in such skills as fly tying and casting are just two of the benefits of membership. People from all walks of life -- from lawyers to manufacturers to engineers to finance guys -- cast their lines together, bound by their love of the outdoors and the fly fishing experience. "It's about the process and being outdoors, having time to reflect," Aungst says. "It's about meeting people, the fraternal experience."

The Western Reserve group travels throughout Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, including the Chagrin and Grand Rivers as well as Elk Creek in Pennsylvania, to take advantage of the region's exceptional trout, and bass fishing resources. Fishermen throughout the country, however, can catch grayling, salmon, pike, panfish and marine fish such as redfish, tarpon and striped fish using the homemade fly.

"We all believe in catch and release," Aungst says. "Most responsible fly fishing folks believe in this as well. Fly fishing is about having fun and enjoying the fishing experience with a great group of people. The end result is not important."

The group's members are conservation-minded folks as well, active in a number of organizations dedicated to preserving the delicate balance of nature for all to enjoy. Many of the members belong to Trout Unlimited, an organization founded in 1959 dedicated to "conserving, protecting and restoring North America's coldwater fisheries and their watersheds," according to its mission statement.

The club is also thrilled to participate in Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc., a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled veterans and active military through fly fishing and related outings. "We will work with veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, inviting them to fish with us at Hudson Springs Park. It involves patience, kindness and some reflection, things that go along with what we do as a group anyway," Aungst says. After all, Washington Irving once said: "There is certainly something in angling that tends to produce a serenity of mind."

The thought of a peaceful day on a quiet stream with a few buddies probably sounds attractive at this point. The temptation to make a run to Orvis and stock up on the proper supplies -- fly rod, fly reel, fly threaders, fly boxes, feathers, dry bait, waders, wading shoes, orange-lensed sunglasses, cool khaki vest with lots of pockets, books and books and more books --is overwhelming. However, Sexton cautions against doing just that.

"The smart thing is to come to a meeting and decide whether it's something you really want to do," he says, adding that it is not necessary to spend a small king's ransom on fly fishing gear, especially when trying out. He started his fly fishing journey at the age of 11 when his grandfather thrust a bamboo fly rod in his hand.

"Fishing is not glamorous," Aungst adds. "It involves being willing to give a little to get a little." Aungst's fly fishing experience has been long and varied but has also been something special he shared with his own father. And that is how a love of fly fishing is often born: it is handed down from family member to family member and cultivated through those languid afternoons sitting quietly on the riverbed or creekside, side-by-side.

According to Killeen, Western Reserve Fly Fishing Club member, HCER teacher and author, there are three objectives to fly fishing which he includes in his 2004 book, "The executive's guide to fly fishing." They are: 1. Get the fly in front of the fish. 2. Make the fly look like something to eat. 3. Deal with the setbacks as they occur. He also suggests that the new fisherman ignore any advice that might deviate from accomplishing the three objectives of fly fishing.

HCER is offering fly fishing classes taught by Sexton, Aungst and Killeen and is handling membership registrations for the Western Reserve Fly Fishing Club. "We enjoy what we're doing -- just trying to catch some fish," Aungst says. They would like to share their love of the sport with other fly fishing enthusiasts of all types and skill level. Fly fishing is a special time of quiet reflection and concentration and a beautiful testament to bond between man and nature.v

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