The spinning rod and me

I was not born with a fly rod in my hand. I didn’t first hold one until I was 19 or 20. Up to that time I was a spinning rod angler. Mostly, I threw single eggs and worms and the occasional lure for steelhead and jigs for shad. I fished for the odd trout and pan fish as well, but mostly it was bait and steelhead. I think most of us start out with a spinning rod, if not one of those little snoopy rod/reel combos.

A Klamath River Halfpounder

A Klamath River Halfpounder

My first attempt at fly fishing was untutored steelhead fishing with a beast of a fiberglass rod. I caught no fish, but I did bounce a few Silver Hiltons off my head. My second effort, on the McCloud with a guide-who-shall-not-be-named resulted in fish and a spark of interest. I was pretty much hooked and my spinning rods fell into disuse. I have no idea what happened to them or the little Mitchell 308 reels I used to use.

For the next 15 years I didn’t touch a spinning rod. I think I even developed a bit of that fly-only mentality which discounts other methods. I was afflicted with exclusivity.

Then, a funny thing happened. I went to Cuba with a group of anglers/writers. On the trip was Charlie Levine (who works for FishTrack). He was mostly a spinning guy and an occasional fly rodder. I watched him have fun throwing big pencil poppers for big, angry barracuda and I thought “boy, that looks fun.”

Next, there was a camping trip to the coast with my daughter. We stopped by a pier and watched some people fishing. She asked if we could do that, and, of course, I said yes. We went right to a Big 5 and bought a combo outfit and we went fishing. This was the first spinning rig I had bought or owned in 15-17 years.

The following year we moved to Fremont and found a pier very close to the house. We figured out we could catch sharks there (and my daughter loves sharks), so we started making the pier a regular destination. At this point I started routinely fishing with a spinning rod, hanging bait for the little sharks of the South Bay.

This fish brought to you by a spinning rod

This fish brought to you by a spinning rod

Last spring break we had a trip to the Bahamas and I figured a spinning rod might be good to have along for my daughter and wife. I bought one and Charlie, from the Cuba trip, sent me a Penn spinning reel. It turned out to be a great idea and my daughter and wife both caught fish on the spinning rod.

The girl and her Jack.

The girl and her Jack.

That same rod/reel made the trip with me to Long Island and provided some good fun casting to Barracuda. It saved the day a few times, really.

A nice cuda from Long Island.

A nice cuda from Long Island.

I doubt I’ll ever throw a spinning rod for bonefish or tarpon or trout, but there are some things that just make good sense and I’m likely to add to my spin fishing arsenal, both for my kids and myself.

I am a fly fisherman, but I’m also an angler. I’ve dropped a degree of orthodoxy. In the eyes of some this will sully me. I am no longer pure, but I’m OK with that.

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  1. I used to throw little colorado spinners at trout on the small creeks. Trout can’t seem to resist that spinning, flashing teardrop shaped piece of metal. It was a blast. And Puget Sound Salmon seem to really like a buzz bomb chucked out their way. My biggest (26″) Searun Cutthroat trout was caught on a spinner, also in Puget Sound (over 30 years ago).

  2. This is often an entertaining topic. My philosophy is to use the right tool for the job. If you’re going to try to catch grouper or snapper from a wreck 30 feet deep, a fly rod isn’t a very good tool for that. Get a stiff boat rod, level wind reel loaded with 30lb braid, and winch those fish away from the wreck before they can get back inside. Similarly, blind casting into a deep channel can certainly be done with a fly rod but it isn’t very efficient. You waste a lot of time and energy false casting and waiting for the fly to sink, etc. With a spinning reel you can cast farther, throw a lure that sinks quickly (or not), retrieve faster and cover a heckuva lot more water with less effort. There’s a lengthy thread over on Blanton’s BB right now about elbow and arm problems arising from blind casting a fly rod all day long. I include trolling with a fly rod and billfishing with a fly rod in the same light. I suppose in the end you can say you “caught a sailfish on a fly rod” but it isn’t the best tool for that kind of fishing, especially if the fish sounds and you have to lift it back to the surface. Bottom line in my opinion is to have fun, fish however you want as long as it’s legal and it isn’t disrupting to those around you.

  3. I am with Doug on this – use the correct tool for the job. At the end of the day though I am essentialy a flyguy – I collect new species on the fly – the best way to get “dialed in” is with the conventional gear that is usually used on the target species – it helps locate and get a feel for the target species and really shortens the learning curve to get a new fish type on the fly. I have seen too many friend exclusively fishing fly get skunked when some of us have picked up conventional tackle in “adverse” fly conditions, pick up a fish or two on gear figuring out what may “up the ante” then convert back to the fly and land one on the fly.

  4. I once started to get into saltwater fly fishing but then I got sick from what doctors eventually called “demyelinating disease” that attacks my bodies nerves. Add that to the inner ear problem I have from a bad dose of H2S gas while working in an oil refinery and well I am back to spinning gear. I’m backwards from most people as I started off with casting gear, and offshore two-speed reels and only much later picked up spinning tackle. At 69, I find I just want to have fun not trying to break any records and the spinning tackle allows me to do that. Some day I hope to actually fish for a bonefish as they are such a beautiful fish that represents the ultimate in shallow water flats fishing.

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