WARSAW — Throughout the summer, many people will be casting into one of Kosciusko County’s many lakes. For some that will entail spin casting; others, however, will be casting weighted lines and delving into the peaceful concentration fly fishing provides.
“I started fly fishing as a little kid for a little bit, but stopped,” Charlie Ray said. “I took it up again when I retired 20 years ago.”
In fact, Ray enjoyed fly fishing so much he has made it a mission to teach others the sport. One of his main motivators was seeing how expensive fly fishing could be when first starting. “I teach about equipment and cost with the idea that fly fishing doesn’t have to be expensive. There are less expensive types of equipment.”
Ray has been the Warsaw Parks and Recreation Department’s fly fishing instructor and recently completed a class in May, with a second class planned from 9 a.m. until noon Aug. 27 at Pike Lake in Warsaw.
In his beginning fly fishing lesson, Ray teaches the basics: when and why to fly fish, the equipment, basics of fly tying, fly fishing safety and etiquette — particularly for young learners — and basic casting techniques.
“I think I enjoy the most when they start to pick up on the art of casting and realize it’s not as difficult as they thought it would be at the start,” he said.
Fly casting, unlike spin casting, uses a weighted line to move the relatively weightless fly across the water, versus having a heavy lure pull the line.
“Most people prefer fly fishing because it requires just enough concentration that you forget everything else,” Ray said, noting things like tasks at home or work are forgotten, leaving only enjoyment.
Entomology plays an important role in fly fishing, with the flies tied to resemble specific insects — like mayflies and caddis flies — in different stages of their life cycle, enticing different fish to bite.
And in the area, Ray stated the most popular fish to fly fish for is the bluegill. “You can have as much fun catching a four-ounce bluegill with a fly rod as you can catching a one-pound bluegill.”
Bluegills, according to the Center for Lakes & Streams at Grace College’s Kosciusko County Lakes Guide, reside in all of Kosciusko County’s main lakes, offering ample locations to fish.
“I enjoy trout fishing,” Ray said, adding he has traveled to the Smoky Mountains, Missouri, the Rocky Mountains, Montana and North Carolina to do so since there is little trout fishing locally. “Despite all that, if you have access to a farm pond, that is still one of the most fun places to fish.” He added such ponds are more likely to end with a bite. “It’s fun to fish, but it’s more fun to catch fish.”
Ray noted he had plenty of luck getting bites before and after classes when they were held at Center Lake, too. He also stated other fish of interest in the local area include bass and pike.
As for him, Ray noted it’s the quietness and relaxation of fly fishing that keeps him casting each year. “I think the reason a lot of people take up fly fishing is just for that.”
In addition to the Warsaw lesson, Ray will also be teaching basic fly fishing classes Aug. 20 at Syracuse’s Lakeside Park; Sept. 10 in Nappanee; and Oct. 1 in Goshen.
There are limited slots so register with the respective park department.