PHYS EDU 18, Fly Fishing

August 1, 2005
Fishing lure

"Fishing is itself a pause for breath"--John D. Robins, poet

Although angling has been around since the time of the ancient Egyptians, the sport didn't become popular in Europe until the end of the fifteenth century, following the release of several publications about fishing. The most influential,

The Treatise of Fishing with an Angle, is also arguably the most comprehensive. It gives not only a comprehensive description of the necessary tools and methods for fishing, but also the necessary attitude an angler must possess.

The Treatise asserts that "the sport and game of angling is the true means to bring man into a merry spirit."

Jan Hackett, instructor of "Fly Fishing," believes his students can also reap such benefits from angling. One of the perks fly fishing offers, he says, is temporary relief from everyday stress. By thinking about "presenting that fly to the fish, you won't have to think about school. You don't have to think about the fight you had with somebody. You don't worry about any of that. For that brief period of time, all those thoughts are completely purged from your brain, and you just get to think about fishing."

During the semester-long course, Hackett's students learn about and develop three essential components of fly fishing: fly tying, casting, and fish habitat and behavior. The first artificial flies date back to the Macedonians, who noticed fish rising to the water's surface to eat insects. To mimic this natural process, "people had to develop a way of delivering a weightless lure to the fish," Hackett explains. Today, there are literally thousands of different fly patterns, which incorporate everything from feathers to wool. Hackett, however, sticks to the basics, introducing his budding fishers to their fly-tying careers with the humble "wooly worm."

The next step is learning how to cast. It can be a frustrating process, and students endure numerous failed attempts in their quest for the serviceable cast. "Eventually," Hackett says, "the cast will reveal itself. You begin to feel the rod load the way it's supposed to, bend the way it's supposed to, and, all of a sudden, you make a great cast."

Fishers will be more accurate, and more successful, if they understand how fish behave and why, Hackett says. Each semester, he teaches students how fish respond to certain environmental conditions. "Fly Fishing" students learn that by doing something as simple as measuring water temperature, they can determine whether fish in the area are spawning. The ecological knowledge acquired in his class can be applied "anywhere in the United States or around the world," Hackett says.

Prerequisites
None

Readings
Nothing outside of class

Assignments
Have fun learning what may become your "life sport"

Professor
Besides teaching several other physical-education courses, including "Wilderness Skills" and "Kayaking," Jan Hackett has played an integral role in establishing collaboration between all of the outdoor interests on campus. He is coordinator of outdoor adventure in the Health, Physical Education, and Recreation department, and he has been the driving force in rebuilding and maintaining the ropes course that, when completed, will be available to students, faculty members, and the surrounding community.