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A Reel Good Time

Fly fishing pros Dave and Emily Whitlock share their love of the sport and their favorite flies for Green Country fishing.

Jennifer Zehnder
February 28, 2020

Take it from fly-fishing pros Dave and Emily Whitlock, Green Country is a prime area for fly fishing with its many streams and rivers, as well as miles of pond, lake and reservoir shorelines.

The Welling, Oklahoma, couple should know. For them, fly fishing is more than a career — it’s a lifestyle.

“We are devoted to fly fishing both professionally and personally,” Dave says. “The sport has taken us around North America, South America, New Zealand, and even Europe where we’ve lectured, taught, and demonstrated fly-fishing techniques and hosted groups to some incredible fly-fishing destinations.”

According to the couple, fly fishing is simply the most enjoyable way to catch any fish, especially in waters that are between 1-10 feet in depth.

Emily and Dave Whitlock
Emily and Dave Whitlock

“Almost any fish can be caught on a fly rod, and we think that any fish is more fun when caught on a flyrod. Often, anglers who take up fly fishing seldom use any other methods to catch fish,” Emily says. “The act of fly fishing is often compared to the benefits of meditation. When you are on and in the water, casting and searching, you really can’t think of anything else while you are there — a very healthy thing these days.”

In addition to its mental health benefits, fly fishing tends to awaken a person’s inner conservationist, she says.

“As fly fishers visit the waters and improve their skills, they seem to become natural conservationists,” she says. “They begin to understand how critical pristine waters are, especially to many of the underwater food forms that fish rely on. They also see the necessity of good riparian areas [shoreline vegetation] and how fast the fishery is damaged when the protective trees and plants are removed.

“Fly fishers are often the first to see when something is affecting the health of the water. We always say our waters need all the fly-fishing friends they can get.”

Once you make the fly-fishing leap, don’t limit yourself. Dave reminds his trout-seeking fly fishers not to discount the area’s natural streams and rivers, which provide a wide variety of wild fish species.

“Most of these waters are classed as cool and warm water fisheries and are home to three species of bass, seven species of sunfish, crappie, white bass [sand bass], hybrids, striped bass, walleye, golden eye gar, drum and catfish.

“All these hard-fighting fish will strike flies that imitate their foods: minnows, crayfish, worms, aquatic, and terrestrial insects. And even better, the majority of these waters are seldom ever fly fished, so these species are usually easily caught with flies and fly-fishing methods they have never encountered.”

The art of fly fishing is not only in its casting technique but the crafting of its most important tool — the fly.

Did you know that all flies are tied by hand — even those that are purchased? For Dave, learning how to tie your flies is the other half of fly fishing. He contends that once you learn how to tie your flies, it easily doubles your satisfaction with fly fishing. And many can learn to tie some very effective fly patterns in just a short time.

“Basic fly-tying tools include a fly-tying vise, small scissors, thread bobbin, whip-finish tools, and a small pair of pliers,” he says. Materials to tie flies are sold at fly-fishing tackle shops and online stores, and can be collected from hunting, and even fresh road kills. Hobby shops can also be productive sources of fly-fishing tying materials.

Colors can be chosen to closely match the food form to bright, colorful attractor materials, especially when fishing for bass and sunfish. Fly shops often sell complete fly-tying kits that include the basic tools, materials, and instruction book or DVD — a great way to start.

Don’t forget to take care of those flies, Emily cautions. Storing materials in sealed boxes or containers — after they are completely dry — will help them last longer. Mothballs and pungent herbs can also keep moths and mice at bay.

Ready to try your luck? Dave and Emily suggest investing in an excellent instructional manual or DVD. And if possible, seek instruction from a qualified professional, fly fishing school, or local fly-fishing club to learn to cast correctly.

“If you are fortunate enough to have a fly club in your area, we suggest you take advantage of what they have to offer,” Dave says. “There are usually many members who would be most happy to share their knowledge, teach casting techniques, and even include you in fly fishing outings. Men, women, and children are all welcome.”

For more information about the Whitlock’s fly-fishing schools held in April, May, September, and October, as well as their books, videos, flies, or Dave’s aquatic art, visit davewhitlock.com.  

Dave’s top 5 Oklahoma flies for cool and warm water

Dave’s Diving Frog: I originally designed this fly color pattern to entice smallmouth living in darkly stained waters, but soon discovered that it was equally effective in clear water. It’s also just a lot of fun to fish with. My largest smallmouth on a surface diver came to this fly pattern and was an incredible 23 ¾ inches. It is also very effective for largemouth, stripers, snook, pike, and most aggressive feeders.

Whitlock’s NearNuff Crayfish: The NearNuff Crayfish is my most consistently productive, year-round smallmouth fly both for lakes and streams. It’s also the fly that I get the most positive feedback on from other fly fishers than any other I’ve designed for smallmouth, large sunfish, and carp.

Whitlock’s Sheep Minnow: Pick colors for the head, back, and belly that match those of the minnow you wish to imitate. Great bass, striper, and hybrid fly and any fish that feeds on minnows.

Dave’s Hopper: This is a fantastic trout fly, and we’ve used it all over the world. Any fish that take terrestrials will go for this tried and true pattern.

Dave’s Sponge Spiders: This is a great fly to use when smallmouth are feeding on terrestrials, as well as emerging dragonfly nymphs. For me, this fly consistently gets good results with smallmouth in both streams and lakes, and it’s excellent tied in black or brown, too. Trout, sunfish, and largemouth also eagerly take this fly.