Michigan club teaches women fine art of fly fishing

It’s cold and windy for the last day of May, even at 45 degrees north. Bundled up in a windbreaker and wide-brimmed hat, Sandy Crandall chants a mantra of “In-di-ANa, In-di-ANa, In-di-ANa,” as a green fly line swishes back and forth above her head.

“I was waiting too long before starting the forward cast,” says Crandall, one of eight women in a two-day fly-casting course. “Then Ann had me chant ‘Indiana’ to get the timing right. I got messed up for a minute there. When we came out to practice again after lunch, I couldn’t remember what state it was. South Dakota? Tennessee? They didn’t sound right, but then I remembered.”

Crandall has it down now, bringing her nine-foot fly rod forward on the emphasized “In,” pausing to let the line straighten out on the “di,” then starting her back-cast on the stressed “Ana.”

The line forms a neat, candy-cane loop above her head, the fly angler’s equivalent of a straight drive in golf or controlled hook in bowling.

Ann Miller, president of a women’s fishing group called Fly Girls and the leader of this class, looks at the novices and is pleased with what she sees.

Though some are still cracking the fly lines like buggy whips and wrapping them around the rods and their own necks, several are laying out smooth, 30-foot casts.

“This is a really good group,” Miller says. “A few of them have it down pretty well.”

It has been a busy day. There have been lessons on everything from what trout eat to where they live, from the mechanics of stream flow to the mechanics of using a fly rod to cast a lure so light it couldn’t be thrown five feet with the hands.

Miller, a mother of three from Stevensville, Mich., decided a decade ago that if her golfer husband could pursue a ball on the links, she could pursue trout in Michigan’s marvelous streams. She is an experienced instructor who has learned to tailor her presentation to women.

Demonstrating a perfection loop, often used to join a fly line to the leader, she shows that the first two turns “form what looks like a little toilet in front of your thumb. One loop is the back, and the other is the seat,” she says.

“Now bring the end of the line across the seat like one of those sanitizers you see on toilets in hotels.

Reach through the loop, pull up on the seat, and if you’ve done it right, you’ll have a loop with the sanitizer sticking out to the side at a right angle.”

The women follow her lead, and soon they are turning miniature toilets into perfection loops.

“It’s interesting, the ages we see in our classes,” Miller says. “We get a few younger ones like Laurie (Stith), but I’d say most of the women are in their late 40s and 50s. They finally have the kids out of the way and now have the time and the money to try something that they may have been thinking about for a long time.”