For those who have followed Upland Ways, you have probably come to realize that the Wayment Brothers love to bird hunt and fly fish. For Shawn and I, bird hunting and fly fishing are really two sides of the same coin. They are both crucial parts of our upland way of life. We realize, however, that some of you might be involved in only one of these great sporting endeavors and may not understand the interrelation between the two. For this reason, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on why bird hunting and fly fishing go hand in hand.
Fly Fishing and Bird Hunting are the Height of Outdoor Sports.
Please understand that I mean to take nothing from other forms of fishing and hunting. As a kid, my family fished with bait for catfish, carp, trout, perch and bass. We later got into fishing with lures and jigs. We hunted everything from squirrels to deer, elk and antelope. I loved the outdoors as a kid and hunting and fishing were a huge part of my enjoyment. I did not begin fly fishing until after I married my wife in 1995. Learning to fly fish took a lot time and patience, but once I figured it out, I realized that fly fishing was different from other forms of fishing; it was challenging, fun, and graceful. For me, there is nothing more aesthetically pleasing than seeing a nice fish rise to a dry fly. Likewise, when I shot my first pheasant on the wing during law school, I realized that wing shooting over pointing dogs was the very height of hunting. Like Havilah Babcock, a diehard quail hunter from the South, I can now honestly say that “I don’t want to shoot an elephant.” There’s no hunting quite as fun and challenging as bird hunting.
Reading Cover and Reading Water.
There’s a saying both in fishing and hunting that I have read numerous times. In fishing, the statement is that “90% of the fish are in 10% of the water.” In bird hunting the statement is that “The nature of any kind of game is to be scarce.” In other words, birds and fish are not just anywhere you look. To be successful, a bird hunter must learn how to read the cover to find the most likely places for game birds to hide. The same is true for an angler. In order to find fish, you have to be able to read the water and find the most likely lies for fish to hold. In both fishing and hunting, one of the most fun things is to spy a piece of water or cover and think to yourself: That looks like a good spot. And then when you try it out, you find out you were right. Just hope that you can cast or shoot straight when the moment of truth arrives!
Both Sports Take you to the Most Beautiful Places on Earth.
One of the draws of fly fishing is that it takes you to some of the most beautiful, pristine places on earth. The familiar rivers, streams and lakes are a fly fisherman’s sanctuary and we miss them when the snows come. Likewise, a bird hunter’s secret coverts are just as beautiful and sacred. Some of my favorite coverts are in close proximity to some of my favorite creeks and rivers. When I am fishing, I am looking for new places to bird hunt. When I am bird hunting, I am looking for new places to fish. Often while I am bird hunting, I’ll drop a fly in the creek or river for a minute before I head home. Many days I have salved my battered ego from missing birds with catching a trout or two.
Bird Hunters Tie Flies with the Feathers of the Birds they Hunt.
Many anglers take up the art of fly-tying, which brings a whole new level of enjoyment to the sport. Catching a fish on someone else’s fly is fun, but catching them on your own is truly gratifying. Of course, one of the traditional materials for fly tying is bird feathers. Bird hunters often save the feathers from the birds they hunt and use them in the flies they tie. This resourcefulness celebrates the grandeur and beauty of the birds we hunt.
The Sporting Literature for Fly Fishing and Bird Hunting Overlaps.
As a lover of outdoor literature, I can attest that there is a huge overlap of bird hunting and fly fishing literature. I’ve read bird hunting stories from John Gierach, the famed Trout Bum author. E. Donnall Thomas, Jr. writes about bird hunting and fly fishing, sometimes in the same book. Burton Spiller, the Poet Laureate of Grouse Hunting, wrote books on both grouse hunting and fly fishing. Dana Lamb wrote very well about fly fishing and grouse hunting. In all five of his excellent books, Mark Jeffrey Volk wrote about both bird hunting with his setters and also fly fishing the Appalachian Mountains. Other writers who wrote on both subjects include the great Corey Ford, Bill Tapply, Dan Holland, and the list goes on and on. In my humble opinion, some of the best books ever written on any subject fall within these genres.
Bird Dogs as Fishing Companions
After having bird dogs now for sixteen years, I can attest that the hunting seasons are pretty short. That means that the bulk of a bird dog’s life takes place during the non-hunting season. To alleviate bird-dog boredom, I often take my Brittanys fishing with me. My old dog, Sunny is a pretty good fishing companion, but Misty can be a water-wrecking imbecile. Oh well, she has fun and if I catch a trout, then that’s a bonus. The point is that my bird dogs are my friends and they enjoy fishing just as much as I do.
The Change of Seasons.
I truly enjoy fishing in the Spring and Summer. In fact, I don’t think about bird hunting very much during these kindlier seasons. My focus is entirely on fishing and I fish as much as my profession and my wife will allow. However, when the fall comes, the leaves start changing colors, and there is a cool twinge in the air, my focus shifts entirely to bird hunting with my dogs. For me, the shift is as natural as the change in the seasons. At one time in my life, I would have said, “I am a fisherman first and foremost and a bird hunter second.” But I can’t say that any longer. They are both such an essential part of my life. In their given seasons, I love them both equally.
The Rush of Wings and the Tug of a Big Fish
Not many things on this earth get the adrenalin flowing and the heart pumping like the rush of wings or the tug of a big fish. When I first started both of these sports, I was like Jo Jo the Idiot Circus Boy every time a bird got up or a big fish was on the end of the line. Of course, I missed a lot of birds and lost a lot of fish. However, while I have learned to control this excitement to the point where I sometimes succeed, the thrill still remains. The day I no longer experience this will be the day I don’t have a pulse.
Mexican Food after a Good Day of Fishing or Bird Hunting is Just Plain Heavenly (I know, I know, this is a stretch, but work with me people!)
The Wayment Brothers love Mexican Food with the same passion we have for bird hunting and fly fishing. We could eat it every day for every meal. I can honestly say that nothing caps off a good day of fishing or hunting better than a Mexican feast, and if we are lucky it will be at our favorite taqueria in Southern Idaho. I hope there’s Mexican Food in Heaven!
To sum it up, bird hunting and fly fishing truly go hand in hand. Those of you who only participate in one of these endeavors are missing out. They really are two sides of the same coin.