How times do change!
In the early 1960s, if you were seen fly fishing anywhere in Alberta, spin fishers would stop and ask: “Is that fly casting you’re doing there?” Recently readers have been asking me to account for admitting in recent columns that I have “regressed,” or “backslid” into spin fishing.
Simple, really: to fly fish you generally have to get down and up the steep bank or over a rocky foreshore, get in the water and wade over slippery, uneven river and stream beds, all forbidden to me during the recovery period from some eye surgery. So I decided to reactivate some of my fine spinning equipment, stay safely up on the bank, and cast my rusty way away.
Historically, spin fishing is much newer than fly fishing, having been “invented,” or “discovered” in Europe just before the Second World War, but not substantially imported to North America until after the hostilities.
As a kid I saw my first spinning reel, an original Bache Brown Luxor, in Roddy Edward’s sporting goods store in Brooks in about 1949, but could not afford it, and so continued flailing away with and picking backlashes out of my Bronson Fleetwing level wind casting reel.
When I got to Red Deer and began articling for peanuts in a law office, I could at least afford a spinning outfit and was soon enjoying casting very light lures considerable distances and without backlashes, although sometimes the “memory” of the monofilament would weave wondrous birds’ nests in the sky.
As usually happens for everyone with good spinning equipment, I soon mastered and became quite accurate with a few kinds of casts.
Then became a master of the deadly upstream worm under the tutelage of the remarkable Mrs. Daly on Stauffer Creek, as it then was known.
Eventually spinning became too easy and I moved on to fly fishing at an annual course conducted by the late Cec Grove of Red Deer’s Builders’ Hardware, long before “that movie,” A River Runs Through It, stampeded the whole world to fly fishing,
This wadeless alleged spring I have been finding it fascinating to use a renewed old method to fish from high and dry up on the bank stretches of rivers and streams I have previously fly fished hundreds of times from down there, wading to my withers.
In England, wading is not only bad form, but is also unnecessary, because they groom the banks to allow for the backcast that fly fishing requires. In North America we have to get down and into the water to avoid hooking trees, brush and fences behind us every other cast.
I have been finding myself fishing in good-looking places that every fly fisher just passes by because they are guarded by deep, wide water, high banks, trees and brush and sometimes that treacherous “quicksilt” deposited in so many Central Alberta rivers and streams by the 2005 floods.
But with a spinning rod, up on the bank, anything seems possible. No back cast is needed. Just a quick flip will put a spinner, spoon, tiny plug or jig, with any kind of luck, any distance at all out into those little sweet spots.
The accuracy is coming back, and once the lure is in the water other advantages of spin fishing come into play.
Depending on the weight and type of lure used, it is easy to vary the depth of the retrieve by casting farther or less upstream and varying the speed of the retrieve.
The enticing action is built into virtually every spinning lure, some of them now costing almost as much as that Bache Brown reel did back in 1949.
The most recent trip was on the finest spring day we have had so far. My fishing buddy, Mac Johnston, is not old enough yet to revert to spinning, so I left him to fly fish a couple of holes and I went upstream to a deep, high-banked hole where Mac claims he has never caught a fish.
A trout was finning at the edge of the drop-off close below me, so I cast a #7 Len Thompson red and white spoon out above and beyond and retrieved it right in front of the fish which took as soon as he saw it: a 36-cm brown.
Then I clipped on a heavier #8 version of the same spoon, fired it way over there into the backwater and retrieved it slowly through the deepest part of the hole. Half way back, a vicious hit: this one a 42-cmbrown.
Two casts and two fish, so I quit and ran Beau, my Brittany, for a while, then went to retrieve Mac who had not moved a fish to his flies in two corner holes.
So far I have spin fished half a dozen times this “spring” and taken brown trout every time, an unprecedented start for me to a cold, slow trout season. Maybe spinning still is too easy. I’ll be glad to get back to wading — and fly fishing.
Bob Scammell is an award-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.