Northeastern Ohio is a fantastic place for fly-fishing.
"Some of my favorite spots are off Route 11, up towards Ashtabula and Conneaut," said Bill Lewis of Howland, 82, a local fly-fishing expert who recently taught a six-week seminar on fly-fishing at the Howland SCOPE Center.
"Some of the ponds are posted, and some are not," Lewis added. "I will be driving along, and all of a sudden I will see a pull-out. Three or four cars pulled off to the side of the road. And you can bet at least one of those folks is fly-fishing," he said.
Bill Lewis, who recently taught a fly-fishing class at the Howland SCOPE, shows a 72-year-old Montague rod to Boe Kordy. The rod is very similar to Lewis’ first fly rod.
Fly-fishing is a specialized angling method using an artificially tied fly to catch fish. Americans' admiration with the sport started in the mid-1920s and really exploded in the 1950s. The fly is cast by using a fly rod, a reel, a line and the proper wrist action.
"It's all in the wrist," said Lewis. "Seeing the reaction in the men's faces, when the wrist was correctly executed for the first time, is why I love teaching this sport.
"I don't make any money doing this: Fly-fishing is my passion," he said.
"Getting Bill to teach his craft at SCOPE started out as a conversation piece," said John Allison, SCOPE caseworker. "His wife belongs, and he sometimes comes on Wednesday to play bridge."
Lewis and his wife, Ruth, have been married since 1953.
The class started out with nine members, "and the guys seemed to be having a ball with it." said Allison. "We will definitely be offering this class again, because this turned out be what we feel was a success."
Ironically, Lewis says discovering his passion was accidental. As a young teenager, Lewis used to visit relatives near Olean Creek in New York. One night, he inadvertently left his fishing pole outside overnight; someone stole it that evening. He had four more weeks in New York with no fishing pole.
In a panic, Lewis called his father, who offered to either send Lewis a new pole or the money for one. Lewis opted to have the pole sent to him. His father sent him a Montague fly-fishing rod. It was made out of bamboo.
"One of the lightest rods I had ever felt," Lewis said.
There was just one problem: Lewis did not know how to fly-fish. His father had sent him the wrong type of fishing pole.
Through photos in magazines and some assistance from a neighbor, Lewis taught himself the art of fly-fishing.
In fly-fishing, the weight of the line carries the hook through the air. Fly-fishermen use hand-tied flies resembling insects found in nature.
Fly-fishing can be done in both saltwater and fresh water. Realistically, any fish can be targeted and captured on a fly, as long as the main food source is replicable.
Lewis said a proper fisherman cleans up after himself and should get the owner's approval first before fishing a private pond. "You should ask him if he wants his pond culled or not," he said.
Culling involves tossing everything he catches back onto the bank and allowing the local wildlife an opportunity for a rather easy dinner.
Lewis has been fly-fishing all over the world. He started out fishing the local ponds as a kid. "Brick's Pond, Packard Pond, Quimby Pond and Milton Dam were some of my favorite spots," Lewis said. "Lake Milton Dam was amazing. Fish gravitate to structure," he added. "Even Republic Steel pond was accessible by bicycle then."
Of all the places Lewis has fished, his favorite is Bristolville, Tenn. "That is where the trout are," he said.
According to Lewis, his favorite conditions for fishing are usually on a clouded, overcast day with a light, misty rain. "When that steam is coming off the pond first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, that's when the fish are jumping," he said.
Allison said the next class at the Howland SCOPE will probably be held in a few months.
"They even came out in really bad weather," he said.