I was basically a natural upon wading into the sport of fly fishing, the grace and beauty of which that film captures. Brandon Heath of Cohutta Fishing Company, who spent about four hours guiding me through the business's two-hour Intro to Fly Fishing class, basically confirmed it. "Women often get this part faster than men," he told the group of four others - all females - huddled over the thin, clear pieces of fishing line each was trying to form into the violent-sounding surgeon and blood knots.
While Cohutta Fishing Company offers Intro to Fly Fishing courses monthly, in addition to routine All Day on the Water School, those wishing to try their hand in the Scenic City have a special opportunity April 6-27. Robert Prytula, a former fly fishing guide, current member of Federation of Fly Fishers and East Tennessee representative of the Mid-South Fly Fishers, is offering a class structured for the beginner or novice angler as part of Chattanooga State's continuing education courses from 8 a.m. to noon. Cost is $100.
Visit chattanoogastate.edu/ for more information.
The surroundings looked more like a place where women congregate to create crafts than a fisherman's supply store. The walls were a rainbow of colorful string and eye-catching feathers. Even the lures themselves, lifelike as they were, appeared like whimsical accoutrements perfect for a child's Halloween costume or toy box. For Heath and other fishermen, it's more akin to what a shoe store is for women: a place to recharge your batteries and replenish your collection ... and possibly spend a lot of money. While rods start at around $120 and reels around $40, you can spend as much as $1,000 on one. That's why Heath - who wouldn't share exactly how much he's spent for fear his wife would find out - advises shoppers to "cast before you buy."
"It's like a car," he says. "You want to test drive it before you give them your money. It's an investment." He recommends starting out with a medium/fast rod (a No. 6 is the average for beginners), although you'll need a shorter rod for small spaces like the many creeks and streams around here. Other considerations are the species of fish you hope to catch, the types of water in which you intend to fish and, of course, your price range. It's important to clean and properly store your equipment after each use, much like you would your Dior pumps, in order to get the best and most use.
"A lot of times when people hear fly fishing they automatically think trout, but you can fly fish for anything," says Heath. He proved it with a video of a man on a wakeboard wrestling with a 300- to 400-pound mako shark attached to the end of a barely visible line. After a thrilling high-speed chase - or rather pull - over the water, the man won.
That sentiment - that it can be as in-depth as you want it to be - is applicable to the sport in general, as with anything. Some fly fishermen scout the area in order to select bait that mimics what's already available; some throw out a plastic worm every time. Some cast and then move upstream if they don't catch anything. Some, like Heath, play puppeteer and Mother Nature at once, casting at just the right depth and in just the right place so that the lure, alive in his hands, reaches the fish at just the right time. "Once you get it and you're out there in it and see it all come together and you make it happen, it's pretty cool," he says. "That's what keeps us all in it. The closest thing I can relate it to is deer hunting - rifle vs. bow; it's more intimate, you're more involved."
As one participant in the class said, "I never realized how hard it is to outsmart a fish." We didn't manage to catch any fish that day, but I'm convinced it was only for lack of trying. We did seem to reel in a lot of attention from the passersby who witnessed our show of casting skills in the parking lot. Sadly, Brad Pitt's casting agent wasn't among them. Had we been positioned in a place where a river runs through, it would've meant we could also try for trout, smallmouth bass, carp and more. Legend has it that the carp caught from the public dock near the Boathouse restaurant are veritable Moby Dicks, according to Heath.
Cohutta Fishing Company is one of the stops on the 2013 Fly Fishing Film Tour. The event is coming to Cartersville, Ga., April 11 and goes all day at the shop, complete with beer and games, with the film showing from 7-9 p.m.
Everyone that attends a Fly Fishing Film Tour event will be eligible to win a trip for two to TroutHunter on the banks of the world renowned Henry's Fork in Island Park, Idaho. TroutHunter incorporates a riverfront lodge, a world class fly shop and a bar and grill known for its fine food and drink. The winner will be treated to five nights lodging and four days guided fishing for one or two anglers during the 2013 season.
Visit ticketriver.com/event/5695 to purchase tickets to the film tour for $17 each.