HOLD for SUN Fly fishers teach their craft to South MS wounded vets

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - People who love fly fishing say they can have a great time even if they don't catch a thing. For decades, members of the Mississippi Coast Fly Fishers have been teaching their craft on the Gulf Coast. They gave WLOX a special demonstration.

"It takes some practice to get the feeling for it and then it's kind of like riding a bike," said John Mayer, fly fisherman.

Fly fishing isn't something folks usually can get the hang of overnight. However, members of the Mississippi Coast Fly Fishers said once they teach people the technique, they get hooked on the sport.

Mayer said, "I have to be rolling the line back and forth in the air. Then let it settle down in front with the fly. It's a matter of concentrating on the line so that you know what the line is doing. The fly takes care itself."

Fly fishing originated in cold water and mountain streams, but these days you'll find fly fishers in the Gulf, in ponds and in bayous. Enthusiasts said fishing with a fly is different from the kind of fishing most people are familiar with.

Mayer said, "In traditional fishing your lure or your bait or your weight carries the line out. You have a very fine line. We have a very light bait so we have to have the line carry out bait."

"I can enjoy just casting if I never catch a fish,"said Mayer. "I do like to caught fish. This is not as productive as if you're fishing with shrimp or live bait. Occasionally we out fish them but those days are few and far between."

Fly tying also takes skill and practice. Members said they use natural materials like feathers and fur as well as synthetic materials. They tell beginners to chose based on what kind  fish they want to reel in.

Fly fisherman Ed Carson said, "The idea is to teach them how to handle the feathers. Understand how much to use because you don't have to use a lot of feather. You can get by with a small amount because it will interfere with hooking the fish if you use too much material on it."

As part of national program called Project Healing Waters, the Mississippi Coast Fly Fishers teach three classes a month at the Biloxi VA. Members show disabled and wounded vets to fly tying, fly casting and rod building.

"I'm retired Navy. I have many years in the service and never was injured. I'm to a point now where I'm giving back some of the things I think that I can do for the veterans," said Carson. " It's not always monetary and things. Sometimes you've got to sit down with a vet. Get his mind off his injuries or her. We get their mind off it, a lot of time the pain goes away."

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Fly Fishers meet the West side Community Center in Gulfport the first and third Thursday of every month at 7 pm.