Spin fishing vs. fly fishing

Wildside column: Orlan Love will discuss subject Friday night

Mike Jacobs of Monticello casts a fly during a 2012 outing on the Wapsipinicon River. Jacobs and Orlan Love will discuss fly fishing vs. spin fishing Friday night at the 43rd annual Fly Fishing Show in Iowa City. (Orlan Love)
Mike Jacobs of Monticello casts a fly during a 2012 outing on the Wapsipinicon River. Jacobs and Orlan Love will discuss fly fishing vs. spin fishing Friday night at the 43rd annual Fly Fishing Show in Iowa City. (Orlan Love)

Fly fishing is to spin fishing as ... classical music is to rock ’n’ roll?

Something like that, maybe, in that fly fishing, in its purity and degree of difficulty, is in some circles considered a higher form of the art of angling.

But, in the estimation of one who has done a lot of spin fishing and observed a lot of fly fishing, the two approaches are more alike than different — a subject I will discuss Friday at the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association’s 43rd annual Fly Fishing Show in Iowa City.

To attract more people to fly fishing and river enjoyment, the group has invited a non-fly fisherman to participate in its discussions, and I am pleased to have been chosen.

Though I have fly fished only twice in my life, enjoying it both times, I have been privileged to observe one of the state’s best fly anglers, my friend Mike Jacobs of Monticello, on scores of excursions to almost every Eastern Iowa stream that could conceivably host a smallmouth bass.

We are simpatico. We both wave a stick, slinging a hook on a string, trying to put it where a fish will eat it, all the while glorying in our closeness to nature and the electric thrill of a fish on the line. We both wade. We both rely exclusively on artificial lures. We both release what we catch.

The main difference is that I cast a weighted lure that pulls my light line along behind it, while Mike casts a weighted line that delivers a light lure to a specific target.

While he is making a few back casts before launching his line and hand-stripping line to move his fly through the water, I am casting two to three times farther with a flick of my wrist and retrieving 30 inches of line with every effortless turn of my spinning reel crank.

Besides making at least two casts for every one of Mike’s, I can, with my heavier lures, effectively fish water too deep and swift for Mike’s light tackle.

You would think I would catch more fish than Mike.

Sometimes I do, but not often enough to convince me the inherent mechanical advantages of spin fishing outweigh a thorough understanding of fish behavior and skillful lure placement.

Mike, who also will speak tonight, derives the additional satisfaction of catching fish on his own handmade flies with sporting techniques that allow little margin of angler error.

Spin fishing’s mechanical advantages, prevalent in pursuit of aggressive smallmouth bass, of course, disappear when the quarry is the trout.

Delivering imitations of the tiny midges and nymphs that trout often consume and mending the line to present a realistic drift require not only advanced knowledge of bugs, but also levels of finesse that only a fly rod can provide.

Maybe someday when I get tired of catching bass I will take up fly fishing for trout. Until then, however, in the words of Bob Seeger: “There’s only one sure way to get me to go. Start playing old time rock ’n’ roll.”

The show, running this evening through Sunday at the Clarion Highlander Hotel and Conference Center in Iowa City, also features presentations by Lori-Ann Murphy, Jay “Fishy” Fullum, Todd Robertson, Bob Trevis and Mike Siepker.

Click here for details.

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