I hear there are over 3,000 miles of streams teaming with trout in Western North Carolina, and I love to fish. Only problem is that I have only ever fished for lake trout – so it’s time for this old dog to learn a new trick and try her hand at Fly Fishing. Luckily for me, the Orvis store in Asheville offers fly fishing classes FF101 & FF201 for free during the spring and summer.
A couple clicks of the mouse, and I was able to signup online for FF101. I rolled into the uncharacteristically quiet Biltmore Park shopping area shortly before 9am – literally it was a ghost town at this hour. As a reward for my early arrival time, the Orvis crew had several dozen Krispy Kremes waiting – Oh, this was already off to a great start.
I met our super fun and knowledgeable guide for the day – Orvis Fishing Manager, Sav Sankaran. He started off by assuring the group that this sport was not as difficult or expensive as we probably had heard. He’d been fly fishing since he was a young boy and insisted that we could learn from all his years of experience and hopefully benefit from his mistakes as well. Sav exuded confidence and authority on the subject of fly fishing, but he came off in an affable and humble manner that made me feel like I too could master this elusive sport. I had no doubt that he loved to fish and his enthusiasm was absolutely contagious.
After just a minute of quick introductions, Sav invited me to grab an actual fly fishing rod and off we went to practice casting for the first time. I’m glad I was fully caffeinated because there was no lounging around at this FF101 course. We took a quick stroll to a large, open field and dove right in. Sav gave us a quick, but very informative demonstration on how to cast properly with the very helpful visualization of painting a ceiling – not an igloo – a regular, flat ceiling. Then we spaced ourselves according to the trout targets that had been laid out in the field and gave it a whirl. I was shocked by how simple the task of casting was with just a few simple, but precise instructions. I wasn’t just a natural, everyone from the boy celebrating his 13th birthday to his grandparents to the other dozen of us in between – we were all doing great! Sav came around to each one of us and gave us encouragement and a few tips and tweaks to help our lines sail straight and true to the trout targets without too much stress on our arms. I even got some first-hand experience on how to handle myself when that trout takes a nibble and it’s time to reel him in like a pro!
After about an hour of hands-on instruction, the group headed back to the Orvis store, where much welcomed cold water and air-conditioning awaited us. Sav expertly guided us through the basics of outfit rigging including rods, reels, backing, fly line, tippet, leader and flies. This part of the class was also very hands on – I got to feel the rigging line from the backing to tippet. Since Orvis alone carries hundreds of flies, just a couple of the ones that are considered staples were explained and passed around for us to inspect. My best take away on no-stress fly selection – come into the store and ask an expert what is biting – it’s their job to know.
Now that I’m all excited about fly fishing, what’s a gal to do? Well that’s a no brainer – sign up for FF201 of course. This second free course offered through Orvis will actually get me to the water where those elusive trout are living and give me a chance to test what I learned with the backup of a pro there to support me. I really never expected this day to be so much fun – thanks Sav for your humor and enthusiasm – now I’m hooked!