When I told a friend of mine I wanted to try ultralight fly fishing, he responded disdainfully, "why would you want to use a toy rod?" That thought was on my mind a few weeks ago, as I had my first opportunity to do just that--take out my new "toy" rod and see what all the buzz is about.
I'd been planning this trip ever since I bought an ultralight fly rod from my friend Don Ludy well over a year ago, I've been looking forward to seeing how this little rod performed on the water. The problem was that I wanted a reel that would truly balance out the rod, and I was having a hard time finding one. I could certainly have used an antique 25-yard Hendryx utility reel--I've got about 10 of them sitting around the shop--but I wanted something a little more…modern. None of the small variety of available rods struck a chord with me, either.
Last winter, I was able to find the perfect reel. It was a hand-machined aluminum fly reel I got at the FATC National show in Daytona Beach, and it was perfect for my little five foot ultralight. You can read about the neat reel in question by clicking here.
It balanced out the rod perfectly. But it was still several months before I could test it out.
During my recent fishing trip, I was able to finally take the rod (a Brunsell Lil' Streamer two-piece 5' 2wt composite) out for a spin. I hooked up a two-weight Orvis floating line and was ready to go.
The first thing I discovered about ultralight fly fishing is that it takes a little while to get used to casting. Since I'd been throwing some early, heavy glass rods on the trip (in preparation for my coming book on fiberglass fly rods) it was quite a shock to go from a three-piece Horrocks-Ibbotson Sebago Lake Special to this Brunsell.
I was struggling to get rhythm for the first twenty minutes or so, but I was eventually able to toss a 1/64 ounce balsa bug 25 feet with accuracy. I've often heard these referred to as "toy" rods but there was nothing childish about it. I hooked into a number of 6-10 inch bluegills and punkinseeds, and let me tell you, it was a blast.
I was only able to hook one bass -- a small ten inch largemouth -- but it just about wrecked the weed bed, coming out of the water several times. It was a ton of fun.
I can't imagine that I'd be able to keep a two or three pound bass on with my ultralight rig, but I'd definitely like to try!
I fished the ultralight for about two hours and had great fun the entire time. I loaned it to my buddy who fished it for a short while and enjoyed it as well. I can't wait to get it out on some small Wisconsin streams and see how it handles river fish.
Two small footnotes. I took the rod to ORCA Nationals and let some friends of mine show me how to cast it. John Ganung, owner of Lang's Auctions, and Jim Schottenham (also of Lang's) are far more adept fly casters than I am and managed to unfurl some delicate 30-40 foot casts on the lawn in Waupaca, Wisconsin, where the Old Reel Collector's Association meeting was being held. John in particular has fished ultralights often and commented on how nicely balanced the outfit was, especially the reel.
Speaking of the reel, my friend Michael Hackney--a reelmaker of tremendous talent--recently inspected my little ultralight and gave it the seal of approval. He loved it. It really is a unique, and wonderful, little winch.
So I'd have to say my first ultralight excursion was a lot of fun, and I'm guaranteed to add this outfit to my fishing trips. I'll be very anxious the first time I hook into a decent sized fish to see how it handles!
And as a note to my dismissive friend, there was nothing "toy" about ultralight fly fishing!
-- Dr. Todd