Gerald Almy: Fall and winter great times to brush up fly fishing skills

Gerald Almy

Most outdoorsmen in the Shenandoah Valley are busy target practicing with rifles, muzzleloaders, bows and crossbows, refurbishing tree stands and getting all their camouflage gear ready for deer hunting seasons. Others are partaking in the special new three-day firearms bear season this week.

And everyone, of course — sportsmen and non-sportsmen alike — is praying for desperately needed rainfall that will lower the fire risk, green up lawns, and replenish crops and food plots.

But if you’re more into angling than growing clover plots, chasing bears, or deer hunting, this is a perfect time to book a class that will help improve your skills at the rewarding and challenging sport of fly fishing. One of the most qualified people to offer such lessons is an angler renowned across the country for his skills at this ancient pastime–Harry Murray, of Murray’s Fly Shop in Edinburg.

Harry has written countless articles and many books on all forms of fly fishing. His major focus, though, is on the trout and smallmouths that abound in local streams and the Shenandoah River. Here’s a rundown on some of the classes that will be offered at his Edinburg location this fall and winter, and also two “On the Stream” schools for smallmouth bass and mountain trout that will be held next spring. Sure, you can learn much of this from books, DVDs, and magazine articles. But nothing beats face to face learning when it comes to fly fishing.

The first class takes place on Nov. 4 and is called “Intro to Fly Fishing 101”. Using a slide presentation Harry will fill you in on the basic information you need to understand and enjoy fishing the various waters available locally or within a few hours’ drive. Those include spring creeks, smallmouth rivers, saltwater bays, and mountain trout streams. He’ll cover the best rods, reels, and waders to use and help you understand the ambience and attraction of each type of fly fishing sport.

The next class is called “Fly Casting & Rigging 101.” This popular course will be offered on Nov. 11, Dec. 2, March 3 and 24, and April 14. You’ll start on the lawn behind the fly shop where you’ll learn to perform all of the standard casts as well as curve casts, roll casts, and how to shoot line.

For the second part you move into the shop and Murray will demonstrate how to rig your tackle and tie several important knots you’ll need to know to enjoy your time on the water. For these classes you can borrow rods and reels on hand or bring your own gear.

On Nov. 18, another class is scheduled called “Fly Tying 101”. This is also offered on Jan. 6. This is a wonderful pastime and hobby for cold winter days. It’s immensely satisfying to craft your own flies out of fur, feathers, and quill and then take it out and catch a fish on it. And anyone can do it.

This class is geared for beginners and materials are not provided. You can either bring those you have or purchase a fly tying kit at the shop. It’s also valuable to simply watch while Harry demonstrates the techniques for some basic flies that will work on local waters.

“Trout Fishing in Shenandoah National Park” is a slide show presentation based on Murray’s 40 years of fishing in the park. He will also use a map to point out various streams you can try on your own. Many people take this class and then sign up for the follow up “On the Stream Mountain Trout School” in spring. This presentation takes place Dec. 9 and Feb. 24.

“Tying Murray’s Custom Flies” is a two-part presentation. Part one is on trout flies and is scheduled Dec. 16. Part two is on his own creations aimed at local bass waters, including the Shenandoah River. This one is on Feb. 3.

“Fine Points of Nymph Fishing for Trout,” is the next class, held on Jan. 13. This one examines how to use nymphs in different types of waters including pools, runs, riffles, and eddies. It covers local stocked waters, native brook trout streams, and western waters.

Jan. 20 is the date for “Mastering Trout Fishing.” This is a slide show and lecture on tactics for using dry flies, wet flies, and nymphs on both western and eastern trout waters.

“Smallmouth Fishing on the Shenandoah River 101” takes place Feb. 10 and March 17. You’ll learn both the most productive tactics and good access areas for getting to the river for wade fishing at this presentation. Steamers, nymphs, and poppers will be covered.

“Spring Creek Fishing 101” is a presentation slated for Feb. 17. These waters are challenging to fish, but will be easier to master after hearing this lecture and watching the slide show.

For dates on the “On the Stream” bass and trout schools, check out the website: murraysflyshop.com. You can also email Harry at info@murraysflyshop.com or phone 984-4212 for more details on any of these classes.

Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.