Flyfishing is flyfishing, right? Wrong.
(This is all background. Skip to the bottom for the wicked accomplishment.)
Level 1: The least exciting is trolling. Don't get me wrong, there's tons of fish to be caught, but it's basically letting line out and paddling until you feel the hit. This is what we did with such amazing success at Davis Lake in May.
Level 2: Nymphing comes next. Like trolling, it's a wet fly (it doesn't float on the surface), but not just being dragged through the water. Instead, you need a natural drift through the water. It's hard and usually it's coupled with something that floats that you can see. Not bad, but you don't get to see the strike. Plus, hard.
Level 3: Dry fly fishing is my favorite. The fly floats and simulates a bug that has landed on the water. You can "prospect" without seeing rising fish by just casting upstream and watching your fly float back to you. Since you'll need to strike (raise your rod) to set the hook when the fish takes the fly you need to be constantly mending the line so it's taut. But you don't want the fly to be dragged through the water. I don't eat a steak if it's moving across my plate and the fish are at least as discerning.
Level 1024: Top of the line is casting a dry fly upstream to a rising fish. This requires patience and skill and the willingness to spend your day on the water without ever casting. I've only ever done this in New Zealand while fishing with guides. It's sometimes frustrating, sometimes trying, but can be amazingly rewarding. (In other words, my biggest fish ever on a dry fly and one I felt I really earned.)
The kids have been getting better and better at fishing. We've mostly been fishing in lakes, but with the amazing weather this summer we've spent some time fishing in the river behind the house. Lilly was the lucky one to be in the water when I walked out with boots, swimsuit, and flyrod.
We started just off our island and cast upstream and across with an elk-hair caddis. (A caddis is a lot like a little moth and a staple of fishing in the west.) Cast, cast, a take! Lilly missed the fish, but her face beamed. We moved upstream and tried again. Cast, mend, cast, mend, strike!
This time she hooked it and we brought it in.
My father tells a story about the first time he took me duck hunting. He was hoping for a killer (groan) day, but it was slow for him. We got home and my mother asked how it was. Before he could answer I exclaimed, "Great! Look at all these ducks!" I felt the same as Lilly raved about her "big" fish when we returned to the backyard.
It's all about perspective. This is a big step for Lilly and the others will follow quickly. Soon they'll be fighting over who gets to be on which side of the river and telling lies about how many and how big their fish were. Just like real fisherfolk.