Five Surprising Fly Fishing Facts

A man fly fishing.

Fishing is the second most popular outdoor activity in America only behind running. Fly fishing in particular grew by almost 400,000 new participants in recent years!

Having long been one of the greatest ways to connect with nature, fishing has been extensively written about in folklore, fiction, and nonfiction alike. Tales of the one that got away abound, and fishermen are widely known for their ability to spin a yarn.

Boscobel and the Driftless Area, as a whole, are known for world-class fly fishing. There are entire websites and forums dedicated to discussing the bountiful fishing opportunities to be found here.

For an expert take on angling in the Driftless Area you can read our interview with Mat Wagner, experienced fishing guide, and owner of Driftless Angler Fly Shop.

There is a lot to know when it comes to learning how to fly fish. How casting a fly fishing rod is much different than casting with a spin rod or that fly tying is an art that can take years to master are just a few examples. There is even a whole list of terminology you’ll need to learn to keep up with the pros.

But, whether you’re a pro or a novice, you can now add these fun facts to your fishing knowledge tackle box.

1) Fly Fishing Has Been Around for a Long Time

It’s possible that the first recorded use of an artificial fly was by a Roman writer named Claudius Aelianus at the end of the 2nd Century. In his writing, Aelianus described a method of angling used by Macedonians. He writes:

“I have heard of a Macedonian way of catching fish, and it is this: between Berœa and Thessalonica runs a river called the Astræus, and in it there are fish with speckled skins; what the natives of the country call them you had better ask the Macedonians. These fish feed on a fly peculiar to the country, which hovers on the river.”

He then went on to describe how the Macedonians would fasten a hook to six feet of red wool attached to a pole, affix two feathers, cast their snare, and finally hook their fish.

2) Women are the Fastest-Growing Demographic in Fly-Fishing

Fly fishing is becoming increasingly popular among women. Think about it, it’s just as relaxing as Yoga and you get to be in nature. What’s better than that?

Of the 6.5 million Americans who fly fish, 31 % are women, according to the most recent study by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation. More than 2 million women participated in the sport in 2016, a huge jump from previous years.

Companies like Orvis have taken the lead in the push to get more women into fly fishing with resources and a full line of women’s gear. 50/50 On the Water is a campaign to continue the push to get more women involved in the sport.

According to Orvis’ web site, “The campaign ranges from women-specific gear development, to education & adventure experiences, to nonprofit partnerships and women-centric storytelling, 50/50 On the Water is here to inspire and celebrate women in the sport we all love.”

There is also a 50/50 On the Water Instagram hashtag to follow and use to share your own images.

And, of course, you can’t forget Chica De Mayo – The Largest Women’s Fly Fishing Event in the World.

3) Fly Fishing Can Prolong Your Life

Fly fishing is a natural stress reliever, and even a therapeutic activity for people with certain medical issues. Surrounded by nature, disconnected from computers and smartphones, and being far away from the “real world” can do wonders for a person’s stress levels and, in turn, their heart and mental health.

In 2008 the Benson-Henry Institute published findings that more than 50% of participants who practiced a relaxation response activity (an activity that promotes relaxation), like fly fishing, experienced a drop in blood pressure and were able to have their dosages of medication lowered.

A 2009 study by a team of researchers from the University of Southern Maine, the University of Utah, and the VA in Salt Lake City showed that combat veterans had significant reductions in stress and PTSD symptoms as well as improvement in sleep quality after participating in a fly fishing retreat.

There are quite a few organizations specifically dedicated to helping those with physical and mental conditions to cope through fly fishing retreats as the positive results have been so overwhelming.

Check out Project Healing Waters, an organization helping veterans with PTSD, and Casting for Recovery, an organization dedicated to women with breast cancer, for more information on how you can participate or donate to these organizations.

4) You Can Fly Fish for Sharks

Although this is obviously not an activity found in the Midwest, we think this is super cool. For this method of fly fishing, you may want to trade in the hip waders for “a bigger boat”.

Fly fishing for sharks has been gaining popularity as fly anglers have fished for sharks on the flats of the Florida Keys, along the east coast of Florida, off New York and California, and in the Gulf of Mexico for years.

Chumming the water from a boat or even from oil rigs are common practices used for this method of fly fishing.

Check out this video to watch some anglers from New Zealand reel in a bull shark while fly fishing in Florida!

With the advancement of stronger rods, reels, and corrosion-resistant gear, larger predatory saltwater species have become targets on fly. Realistically any fish can be targeted and captured on fly as long as the main food source is effectively replicated by the fly itself and suitable gear is used.

Could you imagine A River Runs Through It meets Jaws?

5) The Wisconsin DNR Offers Fishing Equipment for Loan

Fishing is a part of life in Wisconsin, making this is our favorite fact of them all! Since around 1989, the Wisconsin DNR has made fishing gear available free to loan through the Tackle Loaner Program.

Theresa Stabo, coordinator of the loaner program with the DNR, said that it was initially formed to go hand-in-hand with the Angler Education Program, so that a teacher or youth group leader who was trained to implement the program would have loaner gear to take kids fishing.

“We later opened it up to other members of the public and placed sites at many of our state parks that have water. If someone goes camping but forgets their fishing gear, they can borrow ours,” she said. The DNR has made a list of loan sites by county available online.

Learning, early in life, how to connect with nature, feed yourself off the land, and to find positive hobbies are all important skills that are going by the wayside. With that said, has the program been successful?

“Over the years, certain schools that were frequent program participants wrote grants or found ways to acquire their own gear, so they wouldn’t have to borrow ours anymore. I’d call that a success in that they fully integrated fishing into their school curriculum,” Stabo said.

The program is run by volunteers and equipped by donations of working fishing gear. Theresa noted that the greatest need, right now, is for volunteers to help with maintenance. Volunteers at each site are able to accept donations, stock gear, and make sure equipment is in good working condition.

“Our staff time is limited and the busy season for gear is also the busy season for our field staff who manage the gear.”

Contact the DNR if you’re interested in volunteering your time or donating good, used gear. If you’re part of a youth group or civic organization, you could adopt a nearby tackle loaner site and look in on the gear regularly as well. Wyalusing State Park is one of the great Wisconsin state parks and a loaner program site, just down river from Boscobel.

Start Your Own Fly Fishing Adventure Today

You’ll always have something interesting to talk about with these fly fishing facts in hand – when you’re not out on the water catching fish that is.

Are you ready to embark on your own fly fishing adventure? Visit our website for more information on where to fish and places to stay.