When a Fly Angler Goes Conventional

I’ve loved fishing ever since I can remember, but it never really became an obsession until I started fly-fishing. Once I felt the rod load for the first time, that was it – I didn’t have the slightest interest in conventional tackle anymore. That being the case, I can honestly say that I didn’t fish with conventional tackle for years and years!

When I came to work at Word Publications, I had the goal of being editor of Fly Fishing in Salt Waters one day. So, I did everything I could to weasel my way into the editorial world. The opportunity to work at Salt Water Sportsman arose and I knew that if I could just land that job, within a couple years, I’d be qualified for my dream job.

I’ve never had anything against conventional tackle, it’s just that I always found it more enjoyable to fly fish. However, once I landed the managing editor role at Salt Water Sportsman, I knew that I’d be doing a lot of conventional fishing and honestly, I was fine with that – I actually embraced it.


To celebrate the new job my new boss, John Brownlee, invited myself and art director Ryan Swanson down to his house in Islamorada to go sailfishing. Maybe it’s me or maybe it’s just the Keys in general but every time I go there, it’s inevitable that someone’s going to have a wee bit too much to drink at some point and this trip wasn’t any different (that story will have to be for another blog). Fuzzy headed and tired, we all woke up early the next morning and hopped aboard Brownlee’s Bertram, the Poppy B, and headed out.

It was funny – I grabbed the spinning rod and still remember thinking, “man, it’s been a long time since I’ve used one of these things.” But that’s all I thought – I wasn’t concerned about looking like a complete moron in front of my new boss, who, by the way, is a highly-skilled angler.

Brownlee hollered down for us to get the lines in the outriggers. So, I grabbed a rod, put a ballyhoo on the circle hook and tossed it over. I then flipped the bail on the reel and pulled some line off of it (just as you would strip line from a fly reel). I then flipped the bail back over put the coiled line I had “stripped” from the spinning reel (NOT the rod tip) in the rigger clip and started to send it up. That little goof almost pulled the whole outfit from the rod holder.


I realized I was doing something wrong but I didn’t know what. Then, I figured it out, the bail needed to be left open! I remember thinking, “wow, I’m glad I figured that out before Brownlee noticed.”

It didn’t take long before I realized once again, something wasn’t right. Finally, I hear a voice from the bridge yell, “what in the hell is going on down there! Pull the line from the tip, not the reel!” Brownlee’s order was followed by hysterical laughter – and rightfully so. What a bonehead move! I was incredibly embarrassed. That day, I slung bait off the hook, missed hookups all day long and made just about every (as Brownlee says) “googan” angling error under the sun.

To this day, I obviously still prefer fly fishing but I will say this – I have a healthy respect for the skills needed to be a good conventional angler.


Email Newsletters and Special Offers

Sign up for Salt Water Sportsman emails to receive news of the latest techniques for big and small game fishing and the hottest fishing destinations as well as special offers on behalf of Salt Water Sportsman’s partners.

By signing up you agree to receive communications from Salt Water Sportsman and select partners in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You may opt out of email messages/withdraw consent at any time.

More How To