(posted to <!--http--><a href="http://www.flyfishsaltwaters.com" target="_blank">Jeff's Site</a><!--url--> in thread "what makes flyfishing better?")
Couldn't keep me out of this one with a baseball bat!
I often explain the difference between flyfishing and conventional means in an analogy between sailing and motorboating. When sailing, you typically go "sailing", and the value of the experience is usually the journey itself. The enjoyment is in the essence of navigation on the seas, feeling the wind in your sails, and working the traditional devices like clockwork. When you get back to port, you have achieved your intended goal although you went no where in particular.
When motoring, you usually are in pursuit of getting from point A to point B as expediently as possible. The ride is fun and good, but you try to get it over with as soon as you can without "wasting time".
This plays in to the "end vs. the means" metaphor mentioned earlier. But there is much, much more. When folks mention the crafting of their own flies, to me it's not just the craftsmanship but a genesis of sorts, the ability to model life's secrets into fur and feathers and steel. You see a purple sheen on a herring's back as it flees from a raiding bass one morning, and you tie a lavendar polar flash tuft into your herring fly that night for the next morning's tide. You watch a six inch sand eel disappear into the summer sand on the flats one afternoon, and you tie a virtually transparent bodied 7 inch sand eel after dinner - and it puts a 38" fish on your line in 3 feet of water the next dropping tide. You start with chartruese clousers until you strip the fly through a school of real sand eels and think "all wrong" - and you DO SOMETHING about it (rootbeer flash, it's August!).
As mentioned, NE coastal scene is just one slice of the pie - enter trout, salmon, steelhead, warmwater species, bonefish, etc, etc - all of these core principles can be re-applied and evolved in the minds and vises of the fly angler.
In the end, the fly becomes an constantly evolving expression of your deep insight into the fishery. Although the design of the gear remains traditional, the collective pscyche of fly anglers grows radically by nature of it's experimental and generative nature. Then to re-inforce points already expressed, some fish just feel right on fly gear.
Stripers are the most handsome of fish but aren't the best fighters pound for pound. On a fly rod, they are great sport and there are few thrills like the deep bend a flyrod takes when a cow bass is heading for deep water.
Yeah some fish just feel right. Picture a fall evening in British Columbia, the shade is falling over a grove of aspens and the far bank on a glacial stream darkens as the giant October caddis start to emerge. Suddenly, searun rainbows the size of your leg start to have a flashback from the days when they were just smolt, sometimes chasing a dipping caddis across the surface like a trout. A decade's worth of such autumns' shapes a fly into something uniquely yours, something that incorporates all of the physical and behavioral details you've noted over the years, and your hands shake just to tie it on. Your line glides in a graceful loop over the current and lands softly into the shadowy run as you mend the line to hold it at half-speed on the surface film. With a lightning flash, a giant trout takes the fly but you wait.... until you feel the load in your wrist and set the hook into a leaping tornado of mercury and muscle, feeling every shake and pulse of the tail that brought the fish over several thousand miles of open pacific to the very river where it was born until the missle explodes out of the river sending beads of water flying like a grenade of diamonds. The single action reel screams as the fly line shears the surface behind it's acrobatic leaps.
You just don't want to waste that on anything but a fly rod!