Can you name this fish species? I’ll give you a hint: They were caught in the Pacific Ocean, on chunked bait, in water well over one hundred feet deep.
They might be some of the few fish I’d concede as being uncatchable on a fly rod. But there aren’t many fish I’d put in that category. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of any classic sport fish that can be caught on conventional gear, but not with fly tackle.
Sharks? No Conway Bowman and others have proven that not only can you catch sharks on flies, you have a lot of fun doing so. Muskies? No, the fish of 10,000 casts might be the fish of 20,000 casts when you fly fish, but it can be done. Halibut? I’ve actually caught halibut in Alaska by dropping a heavy fly into water about 40 feet deep, and bouncing it along the rocks. Was that classic fly fishing? Well, no… but I was using fly tackle.
I’d concede that some fish are almost exclusively bait eaters, and muddy water limits the effectiveness of flashy fly patterns. Most effective fly fishing happens in water that is 10 feet deep or less, and clearer water is key. That’s really the fun of fly fishing… working in shallow water where you can often see your targets. However, with the advent of specialized sinking lines and heavier flies, that “depth range” of effective fly fishing is often 30 feet or more (perhaps way more than that if you throw the classic casting and presentation rules out the window). And I really can’t think of a fish that lives and eats in water 30 feet deep or less that cannot be caught with fly tackle…