The Fly Fishing Wisdom of Charles Orvis

Fly fishing changes. The sport is different in 2018 than it was 135 years ago in 1883.

However, some bits of fly fishing wisdom from 1883 still hold true today.

Recently, I’ve been reading The Orvis Story by Paul Schullery (2006, The Orvis Company). The beginning of each chapter includes a quote from Charles Orvis, the founder of what is now The Orvis Company. These quotes appeared in a book that Charles co-edited with A. Nelson Cheney in 1883, Fishing with the Fly: Sketches by Lovers of the Art. Incidentally, I ordered a re-print from Amazon for less than twenty bucks.

Here are some of bits of wisdom from Charles Orvis in 1883. They still make sense today.

The Last Hour Before Dark

    “Perhaps during the last hour before dark you may fill your basket, that has been nearly empty since noon. Don’t give up, as long as you can see—or even after—and you may when about to despair taking some fine large fish.”

Catch-and-release fishing was not yet in vogue when Orvis penned these words. But he’s right that the hour before dark—and even after—can be especially productive. It depends on the river, but I have some spots in Colorado and Wisconsin which I don’t bother fishing until dusk.

Wading with the Current

    “It is easier to wade with the current.”

If you’re not convinced of this, try wading against the current! Wherever you’re headed, be it the opposite bank or a better approach to a promising run, let the current work for you.

Fishing with an Expert

    “To one who has not acquired the art of fishing with a fly, let me suggest that a day or two with an expert will save much time and trouble. There are many little things that cannot well be described, and would take a long time to find out by experience, that can be learned very quickly when seen. It is not easy to tell one exactly how to fish with a fly.”

That quote is chock-full of wisdom!

Dave, my podcast partner, and I keep repeating this message. If you’re a new fly fisher, you need to fish with an expert. That may be a friend (free) or a guide (a bit more expensive!). But the dollars you spend on a guide for a day will be tremendous investment in your fly fishing future.

Enjoying Fly Fishing

    “Unless one can enjoy himself fishing with the fly, even when his efforts are unrewarded, he loves much real pleasure.”

My wife and I both go to the gym regularly.

Okay, she’s more consistent than I am. But she enjoys it; I find it boring. This is how folks approach fly fishing. Some enjoy it; others do not. You can only grow to love fly fishing if you find joy in the art itself–even if your fly casting does not look particularly artistic! There’s something about the rhythm of the cast and about a well-executed cast, whether the trout takes your offering or not.

Patience and Perseverance

    “In conclusion, be patient and persevering, move quietly, step lightly, keep as much out of sight of the fish as possible, and remember, trout are not feeding all the time.”

This is great advice. It’s as true in 2018 as it was in 1883. All the best to you, our listeners and readers, as you get ready for another great year of fly fishing!

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