Angler fly fishing in knee deep water

Cortland Fairplay Series: The Ultimate Introduction to Fly Fishing

Article Written by Scott McCann. Learn More About the author Below / Article Read Time: 5 Minutes

Introduction to Fly Fishing

In the world of fishing, there’s an old saying that there are two types of people who carry a rod and reel. There are fishermen, and then there are anglers. A fisherman is the casual outdoorsman who enjoys fishing, maybe likes to hang out with a bobber and worm and wait for the fish to bite. An angler is someone who understands different tactics and techniques to catch a fish, someone who can find the fish, watch them, study them, and find the best way to outsmart the fish and catch them. In my opinion, fly fishing is the truest form of angling and brings fishing to another level of enjoyment and opportunity. 

My Early Days of Fishing

Like many kids growing up on Long Island, I was introduced to spin fishing with a salted minnow and bobber throughout my childhood. From the first time I caught a little snapper off the dock, I was hooked. As I grew up, I began targeting Striped Bass on the North Shore of Long Island. Easily becoming my favorite fish to target. Moving away from the bobber and into using swim baits and pencil poppers, I thought there is no better way to catch fish. 

After moving away from Long Island and into upstate New York for College, I began venturing more into freshwater and away from the salt. Still using spin gear and bait casters, I began trying new tactics for targeting Largemouth and Smallmouth bass. It was in these college years I began venturing away from that casual fishing mentality into more of an angling approach to fishing.  

Angler with his back towards the camera as he reads the back packaging of a Cortland Line Rod

My First Fly Fishing Gear

Being in a small upstate town where fishing was not the main hobby for most college students, The only place I could shop for any fishing gear was the local Walmart. I remember strolling through the fishing aisle late one night, when I stumbled across some unfamiliar gear. Looking at the product displays and seeing all the different flies, tippet, leaders, and other gear I was pretty confused at what exactly I was looking at. I had heard of fly fishing but have never seen or held a fly rod. I did not even know why it was called fly fishing or what the actual flies were. However, there was something about seeing these products that drew my curiosity. That is when I noticed the name of a combo kit on the display. It read “Cortland Fairplay Fly Fishing Combo 5/6wt.” Being upstate, I knew of Cortland, NY and that it was about an hour and a half away from where I was in college. However, this was the first time I ever heard of the Cortland Line Company. With my curiosity struck and the itch to fish, I decided to purchase the combo along with some leaders and a pack of flies. As I checked out, I could not believe the price I paid for everything I needed. A whole rod and reel with some extras for under $100 dollars was an absolute bargain.

Angler inspecting his fly fishing rod

Before even opening the kit and putting it together, I began looking up as much information as I could about fly fishing. What is a fly line? How to attach a leader? How to cast a fly line? How to set the hook with a fly rod? What types of flies to use to target specific fish? I had opened a book of curiosity into a world of information when it came to fly fishing. I was excited to be trying something new and picking up a different type of fishing. It was time for me to put this rod together and give it a go. 

My first thought after putting the rod together was “Holy crap, this thing is long.” An 8-foot rod is on the shorter side of fly rods however, I had no clue what I was getting into. So, I carefully packed the rod into my car and headed to the nearest lake. My first time on the water with a fly rod was an absolute mess. I was whipping the line around and getting my leader tangled up with a ton of knots. I caught no fish. The same thing happened on multiple outings with the fly rod, I just could not get the hang of it. So discouraged, I put away the fly rod and went back to spin fishing. I will not touch the fly rod for about another year. 

Fisherman picking out his fly fishing lure

As time went on, I could not help but feel encouraged to try the fly rod again. I remember practicing my cast in the yard before returning to the water. It took a few trips back to the lake before I finally found myself getting the groove of the fly rod. Finally presenting the fly in a delicate manner and giving it small twitches to attract some fish towards it. I remember the first fish I set the hook on was a small blue gill, no bigger than about 6 inches. As I pulled in this little fish, I was extremely excited that I had finally caught a fish on a fly. I could not believe it; I had finally figured out how to fly fish. That feeling of setting a hook on a fly rod was just like catching my first fish ever. Little did I know that catching a fish on the fly would become the most addictive feeling I have had. I had to catch more.  

Angler fly fishing in knee deep water

 Around that time, I had found myself out of college and moving to Cortland, NY. As I was transitioning into a more permanent home in upstate NY, I began fishing as much as I could in my free time, always bringing the fly rod along with me. I recall deciding in the summer of 2019 to go for at least 1 year where I only fish with a fly rod. By making this decision, I forced myself to practice my technique and really began to understand the various situations in which using a fly rod was more practical and beneficial to catching fish. I would constantly find myself back at Walmart, purchasing all the different fly patterns offered in the Fairplay series along with the extra gear such as fly box’s, forceps, tippet, knot tyers, line nippers, and more. The Fairplay line of products is what introduced me to fly fishing and I won't ever forget that. 

About the Author

Scott McCann is a customer service specialist at Cortland Line’s headquarters, providing answers and professional service to any customers’ questions or needs. He is an avid angler and a local New Yorker with an extensive knowledge of fishing, techniques, fisheries and all Cortland Products. 

Products that Were Mentioned in This Article:

Fairplay Fly Fishing Outfit 5/6 wt 8 ft.
View all Cortland Fairplay Products. Fly Fishing Kits, Reels, Rods, Fly Lines, Leaders, Tippet, Accessories and More.  

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