The comedian Steven Wright dryly observes, “There’s a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore like an idiot.” Orvis fly-fishing school aims to get you fishing. Which is, you will learn quickly, different from catching fish.
With 16 “campuses” across the country (including a kid’s camp) Orvis addresses piscatorial pursuits from trout to salmon to bonefish in places from the Rockies to the Florida Keys. They are great guides at helping you decide which location is right for you, and the outfit’s Scott McEnaney explains, “Millbrook (New York) is the best school to learn to place the fly.”
At that Hudson Valley outpost, about a two-hour drive north of Manhattan, you start your instruction in a classroom where the theory of casting is taught by two instructors with more than 100 years of fly-fishing experience between them. “Form a right angle with your forearm,” Bob Meyer explains, “When the line straightens behind you, that’s when you snap your wrist forward.”
Sure. Got it. Of course, once at the pond a couple of miles from the classroom, everyone’s overdoing it. We’re all putting too much into the “back cast.” My wrist is flopping behind my shoulder, and I’m not snapping forward with enough energy. By the end of an hour, despite good progress, my right shoulder is throbbing. This is called developing muscle memory.
There’s much to learn—shooting the line, the flex of the rod, presentation of the fly—in this two-day class. First, casting is casting—and not catching fish. The instructors repeat that so students focus on one step at a time. Day two, on the river, we are casting the fly to specific areas on the water in an attempt to catch fish. For the record, I caught three small-mouth bass. The water was too warm for trout.
Some stuff is obvious, if you would ever think about it. Large fly for large fish, like tarpon. For trout, use smaller flies. In fly-fishing, as soon as the fly moves, jerk the rod to set the hook. You might not get another chance.
Of course, there are other aspects of fly-fishing—like wardrobe. And the Orvis course is a thorough introduction to that as well. Start with a vest onto which you attach all the tools you’ll need to be efficient when you catch that elusive trout or get your line tangled in the trees.
The school is located at the Sandanona Shooting Grounds (Orvis will also teach you to shoot here), where you will hear shotguns going off during the course of the day. With one instructor for every four students, the classes run from $235 for a one-day course to $470 for two days.
To love fly-fishing, you need the capacity to be passionate about things. Good news. As a cigar aficionado, you know all about that.