Fly-fishing may be best associated with "big sky" country, but here in Virginia, there are plenty of opportunities to cast a line. Most commonly used to fish trout in area rivers, the experience is one that not only fosters friendly competition, but also a connection to the systemic nature of local ecosystems.
"Basically we’re into conservation," said Jay Lovering, president of the Northern Virginia Chapter of Trout Unlimited. "That’s a byproduct of what we do — you love the territory."
Lovering, who works as an associate broker and real estate agent with Century 21, says his introduction to fly fishing at the age of 13 was like it was for many other fanatics of the sport.
"It starts out with an uncle or dad using a cane pole," he said. "Then you see a guy with a stick, flinging it in the air. Once you hook a fish on the fly rod, you think ‘it’s so much fun’."
Using a slightly longer and lighter pole than regular reel rods, fly fishermen have a number of techniques for casting the fly. But whether it’s a forward cast or "10 and 2," the overall goal is to mimic the natural movements of flies for unsuspecting fish waiting under the water’s surface for an afternoon snack. And as Lovering noted, the mark of a good fly fisherman is not just the mastering of how to cast, but also an understanding of a fish’s natural diet. Known as "matching the hatch," this method matches each type of fish with a fly most like those in the surrounding ecosystem. According to Lovering, Trout Unlimited spends "hundreds of thousands of hours" learning how best to imitate a fly.
WITH THE PEAK fly-fishing season running from April through June, Trout Unlimited offers many opportunities for novice anglers to try out the sport. Programs like "Fishing With a Member" pairs veteran fisherman with beginners; on average, the group organizes two to three fishing excursions a month that visit rivers within the region. For local fly fishers, Lovering says the best places to cast a fly are Accotink River, Holmes Run and Four Mile Run. Throughout the season, these rivers are stocked with trout by the county. Another favorite local spot of Lovering is Great Falls. Due to the strength of currents, Lovering recommends that fisherman should stay on the shore or rent a boat.
Outside of the area, Shenandoah Park is on the top of Lovering’s list for the best fly fishing, noting that the park offers "one of the most fabulous trout fishing on the East Coast."
"You can go up there and catch 30-40 fish, no problem," he said.
But most of what Trout Unlimited catches is released back into the water. According to Lovering, he’s "not fishing for meat, but for the experience."
Getting started is relatively inexpensive if compared to other sports. A fly rod, reel and line can be purchased for under $110. Lovering recommends Angler’s Lie in Arlington or Orvis in Vienna. A fly-fishing vest, waders, felt-soled boots and, especially, a hat and sunglasses will make a trip more enjoyable — and, as Lovering has experienced, a whole lot safer.
According to Lovering, a wild cast will "hook you in the glasses and hat and not in the head."
"I’ve hooked myself many times," he said. "It’s interesting. You cuss a little bit."
For more about fly fishing in the area, visit The Northern Virginia Chapter of Trout Unlimited at www.nvatu.org.