PARIS — Members of the Mollyockett Chapter of Trout Unlimited debuted its Fly Fishing 101 free educational program to about a dozen people early Saturday afternoon in the First Congregational Church.

Listening to knowledgeable anglers share their expertise on fly gear, natural foods for fish, how to fly cast, fly-fishing tactics and the biology of fish for 2½ hours made it easy to forget the 6 feet of snow on the ground and 20-degree temperature outside.

Except when Master Maine Guide Dick Walthers began his presentation, “Understanding Fly Tackle,” with a large, aluminum-frame snowshoe.

“How many of you fish with these?” Walthers asked, holding up the snowshoe as the crowd laughed. “This year, you may need them to get in where you’re going. I’ve used them. I would not suggest fishing where (the snow) is too deep. The snowshoes are obviously for if you’re crazy enough to go out like I am when you shouldn’t. Right now, there are some places that are open.”

Walthers listed the basic necessities of the sport: a state regulations magazine, a fly rod and reel, fly line, leaders, a net, a vest with many pockets, a retractable forceps to remove hooks, and a tied fly or 40 fly boxes of one’s favorites. He said forceps can also be used to pinch the barb down on hooks when fishing in water that doesn’t allow barbed hooks.

“I love fly-fishing,” he said. “It’s fun and it’s just a wonderful activity.”

He ended his presentation with another tip about small flies. “I’m at the stage: ‘Can I tie it on?'”

The size of fishing flies are rated with numbers — the higher the number, the smaller the fly. So, he said, a 20 fly is much smaller than a 12 fly.

“And I catch many fish with those favorites I can see good enough,” Walthers said. “When it gets to be dusk, I use a 12 or 14 Hornberg (fly) that’s light-colored and I can see. But if you have high blood pressure, you do not want to get into fly-fishing at dusk and have fish rising and you can’t tie a fly on. It’s an absolute recipe for a stroke.”

Mike McCue, a certified casting instructor for L.L. Bean, taught the basic mechanics of conventional casting and fly-casting techniques. McCue also taught how to rig a fly-fishing line and explained tapered leaders.

The tapered leader is nearly invisible and delivers the fly to the fish instead of the fishing line, unless one uses the leader in a current to drift the fly to the fish.

“The longer the leader, the stealthier you can be,” McCue said. “It’s very hard to see, so you have less of a problem of spooking the fish. The clearer the water, the spookier the fish, and the smarter the fish, the longer the leader.”

McCue also showed how to cast a fly line and leader several different ways depending on where the fish is, terrain obstacles and buddies within reach of the hook being cast. He also explained how to false cast by repeating forward and backward casting to dry out the fly.

Presenter John Wight, 69, of Bethel, then had everyone in stitches when he demonstrated how to cast while lying prone on the ground. He said he once caught an 18-inch rainbow trout with that method.

Wight taught even more tips and tactics, explaining how fish know anglers are attempting to catch them and what not to do. He also taught anglers about natural foods for fish, including aquatic and terrestrial insects, crustaceans, other invertebrates and minnows.

“To fly-fish successfully, you must understand the fish’s world of water and how they function in it,” Wight said.

If an angler sneaking up on a fishing site can see the fish, the fish can see the angler, he said.

Jim Mullen, an expert fly-tyer, shared fishing tactics.

Mullen said if an angler doesn’t see fish rising or insects hatching or fish chasing them, he or she should try a nymph fly, “because fish feed underwater most of the time.”

McCue said fly-fishermen should start at the bottom of the stream or river and work their way up and let the current take the fly to the fish.

Mullen also explained his method of using two flies on a leader, the first about 18 inches ahead of the second. A set of flies he tied that way were later raffled off. When casting these, he advised people not to “muscle” the line or they would risk tangling the flies.

Afterward, Sue Kunas of Auburn, a former longtime fly-fishing angler, said the presentations were “a good review for me. I want to get back in it and find some local people to fish with.”

Dave Erickson and his son Brian Erickson, both of Auburn, said they came to get hints and are interested in joining the chapter.

Dave Erickson said fly-fishing “is therapeutic. It makes me look forward to spring and getting out in and enjoying nature.”

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