Professional Teaches The Art
Of Fly-Fishing

Contributing Writer

Decades ago, Bill Jones, 91, learned to fly fish with a bottle of Scotch. Today, he teaches the art with blocks of wood.

The blocks or the bottle of Scotch is placed under a beginner’s elbow to keep it in the correct position for casting.

Every spring, Jones teaches fly-fishing classes through Summers Backcountry Outfitters in Keene. The classes are limited to three students so that each gets individual attention. Jones first learned to fish from a friend while he was living in Idaho. He was the project manager for the Electric Boat Company, which built the prototype of the Nautilus, the first nuclear submarine.

He started to take it seriously after one particularly great day when he hit a triple: He caught the first fish, the biggest fish and filled his limit faster than his friends did.

Jones also caught his biggest fish in Idaho — a six-pound rainbow trout.

Jones first takes students to the back of Summer’s store and discusses the intricacies of fly fishing, buying the proper rod, reel set-up techniques and tying flies to the leader. He discusses the bottle of Scotch or block of wood and why it works: The blocks or the bottle are placed under a beginner’s elbow because, “It straightens them right out.” The blocks of wood “make a difference right off the bat,” he says.

Jones suggests that students don’t let the reels touch the ground when they set up the rods — they can get clogged with dirt. Instead, they should sit in the open hatch of the car. Jones also tells students they should store flies on their hat rather than in a box because a hat is less likely to fall into a river or lake. Flies can be expensive because of they are crafted to look natural and involve a lot of close work with small items. Losing them could prove costly — and frustrating.

Jones also believes that trout are sensitive fish and would ignore a poorly presented fly.

After the initial sit-down session at Summers, the students go out to an empty parking lot and practice fly-casting into a Hula Hoop. Jones said, “the beauty of fly fishing’’ is its precision. “One must aim the fly in just the right spot, unlike spin fishing where people cast more randomly.’’

Jones stresses that an angler must keep his elbow tucked against his ribs, cast with a smooth motion and not extension of the arm. It’s not like throwing a baseball.

Jones teaches a new class of three anglers every three weeks. Each group of anglers gets three two-hour sessions with Jones for $50. Jones has taught the class to roughly 150 anglers over the last few years.

Although he has hooked some monster trout, Jones is a fisherman who doesn’t need to catch fish to have fun. Spending the day outside and enjoying the scenery — especially in his old stomping grounds in the Grand Tetons — is what Jones loves the most about fishing. The fresh air and scenery supersedes catching a trout for him.

Jones can be reached at 355-4341.

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