My fishing life began at the young age of three out at Topaz Lake, a treasure of Nevada. I was there more for a chance to be out of the house and my Dad was the one doing most of the fishing. Being a fourth generation Nevadan, my entire life has revolved around being an outdoorsman. Fishing at three, sitting in a duck blind by four holding a red rider, and of course the big game hunting that my brother and I got to tag along for starting at eight years old. I’ve thrown spinners and bait as well as fly fished since I was a boy. So, let’s talk about fly fishing vs spin fishing.
Fishing was always my favorite activity growing up due to the fact that I was allowed to participate fully at a young age. When I began hunting I was always limited to watching until I was big enough to safely and properly use my firearm. Camping was a huge activity in my family due to my Grandmother, Barbara F. Vucanovich who had property at the great fishery, Lake Davis, in nearby California. She would always catch the biggest fish and my Grandfather never had a problem with it. This is where I got my start with spin casting, we would fish the lakeshore for hours. When my brother and I would get bored with the waiting game that is bait fishing we would throw out our panther martins as far as we could, just for fun. My family and I caught plenty of large trout and bass from Lake Davis and nearby creeks. Some of my fondest spin casting memories come from days at this wonderful lake.
Lake Davis is where I first caught a glimpse into what would become a passion of mine, fly fishing. My father and uncle loaded up their float tubes and started whipping wooly buggers around catching fish in what looked like the most beautiful and mesmerizing technique my young eyes had ever seen. My uncle, Treat Cafferata was a very skilled fly fisherman. Uncle Treat was a surgeon in Reno and would fly fish the Truckee River religiously. He was a true minimalist, carrying a small pack with surgical forceps, pliers, and scissors that he had taken from the hospital O.R. He would tie his own flies in his basement and pay close attention to the hatches and trends of what was working and what was not. He always caught something. Just one of those guys who had a knack for hooking one no matter what, even when everyone else was getting skunked. I will never forget the first time I saw him casting his fly rod in the river at Dorostkar Park, close to sunset. All I could see was a silhouette that looked like poetry in motion casting a dry fly with the fire-red sky in the background. As I watched, he hooked a big one and the fight was on. Watching him smoothly master the ebbs and flows of what it takes to land a large trout in the river had me aghast. When he pulled the 20-inch rainbow trout out of the water and showed my brother and I what he had caught I knew that one day I wanted to do the same. That day stuck with me from then on but I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to learn how to fish like him.
When I was 12, my father partnered with another CPA named Don who had a house in a place the locals called “Shanty Town” which is located right next to the Ruby Marshes in Elko County, Nevada. The Ruby Marshes have some of the best bass and trout fishing in Nevada and it is a place that is near and dear to my heart. We would go out on Don’s small canoe before dawn armed with Shakespeare Ugly Sticks and a tackle box full of bass lures and a few rooster tails and panther martins just in case we ran into any trout which were harder to find. For this type of fishing, a spin cast rod is the only way to go. With three guys in a small boat with nothing but marshland, it would be almost impossible to cast a fly rod without someone getting injured or being tangled on every other cast. This bass fishing is what gave me a whole new outlook on spin casting. With my ugly stick I could get into the tightest places and pull out the biggest bass without a single snag. I would have a tube worm with a weed-less hook that I could throw into anywhere and almost as soon as the tube would sink in the water, a bass would attack. As a young kid that is some of the most fun you can have fishing anywhere since the action is fast and constant. When it was time to get off the boat, Don, a very experienced fly fisherman himself, would take us to the dikes and pull out his Sage fly rod. I remember that I stopped everything I was doing just so I could watch him work the fly into the perfect places pulling out trout and making it look like it was an art form and not just fishing. This is where I learned how to fly fish. Don saw me watching in amazement and said “hasn’t your Dad taught you how to fly fish yet?” I almost froze and simply stuttered, “no he hasn’t.” He took me by the hand and set my arm in the position to cast and had me count out ten o clock, two o clock for about a half hour, which I think was more for his amusement than anything. He finally took me over to the big end of the dike and handed me his Sage rod and told me to do the same motion he taught me. After snapping off about 3 flies, I got the hang of it and was casting a wooly bugger out into the big water of the dike. After about 15 minutes it happened, my first catch on a fly rod, I was almost too excited to react but quickly gained my composure and pulled in the foot-long rainbow trout. It felt like I was fighting a marlin, to a 12 year old kid that is what got me hooked for life on fly fishing. Over the next 5 years of fishing out at Don’s fishing holes I got to fly fish and spin cast to my heart’s content. Those were the best of times and some of my most treasured fishing memories and at no point did I ever consider fly fishing vs spin fishing as a contest or comparison.
When I was old enough to drive, my fishing and hunting went to a whole new level. Every day after school, I was either sneaking into the best bass spots in town with my ugly stick or hitting the Truckee River with my fly rod. This has given me plenty of practice with both and made me enjoy both forms of fishing for different aspects. Spin casting for bass is one of my favorite pastimes because all you need is a pond, a pole, and any lure you can find because from my experience bass will go after just about anything. Fishing for carp with a bucket of cheeseballs and a treble hook is almost unmatched for fun with a 4’8″ ugly stick. The thrill obtained by hooking a trout in the river is one of the most exciting things anyone can experience. As the river and ponds around town got more crowded we looked elsewhere for our fun. My friends and I hiked into high elevation streams to hunt for brook trout. Catching a brook trout on a one weight fly rod is one of the most exciting fights you can find. But no matter where I go to fish, I make sure to bring my one weight fly rod, my five weight fly rod, and my 4’8″ ugly stick because there will always be places too tight for me to cast a fly. For me it isn’t about fly fishing vs spin fishing. It’s about FISHING. If you only fly fish, I encourage you to branch out and try catching a fish on a spin rod. It might not be for everyone, but you might just find that there is joy there as well. If you only spin fish, I really hope that you try fly fishing. You won’t be disappointed with the fight and you might just realize that fishing is fun no matter which way you do it.