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The flies have it

AE Fly Fishing 1 DT 6-7-07
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Chris David stands at the edge of a torrent in the Eagle River, casting his fly into a dark pocket just beyond a white flume. His neon green line whips back and forth, first slowly and then faster, arcing and tracing s-curves when he bends the rod at the prescribed ten-and-two angles. The action and movement is graceful, relaxing and mesmerizing; it’s in these moments that it becomes clear just how the act of fly fishing goes beyond catching a fish.”It’s fishing, not catching,” says David, a guide at Gorsuch Outfitters in Edwards. “It’s hearing the rapids and the birds, pitting yourself against an animal that’s pretty discriminating in an environment that’s bigger and more powerful than yourself. It’s an outing that takes you completely from your everyday life – it’s survival.”Father’s Day is meant to be a day of relaxation and celebration, but fly fishing takes those elements and combines it with a primal challenge. Ancient Romans used false flies to coax fish from flowing water since at least the second century, so fathers everywhere have the opportunity to join an age-old tradition with modern techniques. But like many niche sports, fly fishing can seem an intimidating domain to enter, especially if your choosing items for someone else. (After all, what in the heck is a “Quasimodo flashback beadhead pheasant tail?”) With a little help and advice, though, any landlubbing dad can join the ranks of experienced anglers.”There are four major components to fly fishing,” says Gorsuch Outfitters manager Mark Sassi. “First, you have to learn the proper way to cast. Second, you have to learn the tying of specific knots. Third, you’ll have to learn what selection of flies to use depending on time and place. Lastly, you have to learn how to read the water – fish are in specific places for very specific reasons. All of these things take time to master, but a beginner can have success with even limited knowledge.”Sassi learned to love fly fishing from an early age in Maine, where his parents operated a guide service and outfitter shop. Sassi recently won the one-fly contest at the Teva Mountain Games, wherein 40 competitors took to a raft in a raging Eagle River with only one fly selection to catch as many fish as possible. Sassi netted the $1,000 first-place prize by catching five fish in four hours, the largest of which measured 15 inches.Surrounded by gold-medal streams, the Vail Valley is the perfect place to learn how to fish, and Sassi suggests one-day fly fishing experience to get the knack of it in the beginning. Gorsuch leads one day trips year-round for $300 for a half-day and $400 for a full day.Purchasing all the gear to get started can be intimidatingly expensive; a middle-of-the-road beginners setup can be as much as $1,400, with advanced gear going well beyond that. But once dad has his primary items, it’s likely to last him the rest of his life.”People buy rods of different sizes to fish different places and do new things, but even with a lower-end package, you’ll still be set for life,” Sassi says.David began fly fishing five years ago, and he’s been consumed by it ever since.”It’s like golf, where you practice and practice until that little white ball goes the way you want it to, except here it’s when everything clicks and you’re battling this powerful fish,” he says. “With fly fishing you’re so in the moment. It takes a long time to master, and I learn something new each time.”Anyone who’s read or seen “A River Runs Through It” knows the male bonding potential of fly fishing, but the Sassis are living proof. Ken Sassi, Mark’s dad, came down from Maine to help out at Gorsuch and fish for the entire summer with his son.”It’s just wonderful – the days are long, and everything is just as it should be,” he says. “You get out together, get to see the elks calving, and maybe catch a fish or two. You’re playing with nature, and there’s nothing better.”Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or talvarez@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

Starting as a fly fisherman can be daunting – but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a primer on all the basic gear you’ll need to get dad out on the river.Waders”When someone buys waders, they’ll have them forever; you don’t have to necessarily upgrade,” Sassi says. “But you can always go up if you want all the bells and whistles.”Simms Guide wader: “This is the go-to wader; it’s got all you need,” he says. ($359.95).Simms G4: A full waterproof-zipper wader with the most layers of Gore-Tex and every bell and whistle. $699.95Cloudveil Full Gore-Tex wader: A slightly more advanced option, Cloudveil (known for winter sports clothing) makes full Gore-Tex waders of solid quality ($425.00).BootsSimms L2: These classic boots feature felt bottoms for super traction on slick rocks ($109).Simms G3 guide boot: These feature the same felt traction, but with stronger, more durable uppers and a wider platform ($159).Korkers: These new boots have interchangeable soles for different terrain and a boa, one-pull lacing system, similar to snowboard boots. “Some soles are better for mossy bottoms, others are good for rock.” $159RodsSassi stresses that for beginners, no matter which class of rod you select, ask for a 5-weight, 9-foot 4-piece to start.Sage VT2 Medium-fast action rods: These versatile rods provide professional performance at value prices ($400-415).Sage Z-Axis series: These high-end, high-tech rods are light and fast to reach new levels of “fishability” ($600).Orvis TLS Power Matrix: This less expensive rod helps mask the shortcomings of weaker anglers ($315).Reels”Like anything, it’s personal choice, but if you’re going to spend more money, a better reel will have better drag and can make a big difference. Make sure it corresponds with 5-weight line and a 5-weight rod,” says Sassi.

Lamson Litsespeed: A strong, light professional-grade reel with super-smooth drag ($300).Ross Rhythm: A mid-priced hybrid reel known for precision and sensitivity ($210-230).Vests/Chest packs”Vests have been around forever, but new people go with the chest packs.”Simms G3 Guide Vest: This is a high-end vest with all the bells and whistles – it carries pretty much everything you can think of and is made of slightly better material.” ($179)Simms Freestone Mesh vest: Light and perfect for warm weather or minimalists ($79.95).Fishpond Dragonfly chest pack: The chest pack sports a different, modern fit – closer to a sling or a purse, but just as durable as the vest ($72.50).Vest fillingsOnce Pops has the vest, he’ll have to fill it with all essential tools needed to tie flies, repair lines and generally remain self-sufficient near the water. Combined, these odds and ends run about $100-150, but don’t skimp: you wouldn’t want to be caught upstream without them.Leader: The invisible connection between the visible line and the fly. Nail and Knot tool: Used to pin down and tie those super-small nots. Nippers: Used for trimming fly lines and ends.Forceps: Necessary for bending and removing barbs from the fish’s mouth.Zinger or Retractor: Mini-zip line used for quick access to tools.Strike indicators: Fancy bobbers for the fly-fishing set.Split shot: BB-sized weights used to sink flies.Aquel: Silicone-based lubricant used to help flies float.Dry shake: USed to remove moisture form dry flies after use.Tip-It: Used to rebuild your leader.



SunglassesSunglasses are absolutely essential – not only for sun protection, but to see beneath the surface glimmer. Sassi recommends both Action Optics by Smith and Oakley glasses, but the only requirement is that the lens are polarized. Oakley’s Monster Dogs run for about $160.NetYou haven’t really caught the fish until you bring it out of the water. To do that, you’ll need a net. Measure Net: The Measure Net has a ruler printed on the mesh so there won’t be any disputes as to the size of your fish at the bar later ($40).Brodin ghost net: Brodin’s higher-end ghost net is made of clear rubber, so it won’t spook the fish as you scoop it up ($100). FliesThe spiritual core of the fly fisherman lies with his flies: It’s his chance to get inside the mind of the fish and match wits by selecting the correct bait. Flies can differ in use depending on the species of fish you’re after, location, season, weather and even time of day. “You can never have enough – different flies work in so many different conditions,” Sassi says. “It’s not unheard of for guides to have over 8,000 flies. It’s something you build up on for your entire career as a fisherman.” Beginning flies are usually $1.75- 1.95, but prices go up as the flies get more complex (grasshoppers, mice, frogs). Most flies mimic mayflies, stoneflies, midges and thousands of other flying, emerging and nymphal insects. Four solid starter varieties include the Prince, the Royal Wulff, the Elkhair Caddis and the H&L Variant.OuterwearSassi recommends wearing moisture-wicking clothes, potentially with built-in UV protectant. Rain jackets are also highly advisable. Salmon color is optional. LiteratureNothing gets a fisherman inspired like a good fishing book. Sassi suggests “The Curtis Creek Manifesto” and “First To Cast, First To Fish” as comprehensive primers for any aspiring anglers. Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or talvarez@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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