Dusty Wissmath: Fly Fishing is for Everyone

By Rebecca Maynard

With spring nearly upon us, many people are eager to spend more time outdoors, and what better way to commune with nature than fly fishing? If you’ve always wanted to try but aren’t sure where to start, look no further than Dusty Wissmath Fly Fishing, which offers both instruction and
guided trips.

Wissmath, who splits his time between Berryville and Boiling Springs, Pa., grew up in Missouri, started fly fishing when he was eight and began guiding and teaching fly fishing in the early ‘70s while working on a degree in wildlife biology at the University of Wyoming. In 1996, he founded the Dusty Wissmath Fly Fishing School & Guide Service in the hills near Mercersburg, Pa., where it quickly earned a reputation as a professional yet easygoing fly fishing school. 

Fly fishing is an angling method that uses a light-weight lure, called an artificial fly, to catch fish. The fly is cast using a fly rod, reel, and specialized weighted line. The light weight requires casting techniques significantly different from other forms of casting.

As well as directing his own school, Wissmath heads the Orvis Fly Fishing School in Boiling Springs, Pa., is an instructor at the Wulff School of Fly Fishing and served as the lead instructor at L.L. Bean’s Fly Fishing School in Virginia. He guides in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Montana and hosts trips to fly fishing destinations worldwide. 

Wissmath is a Simms and Costa Guide Ambassador and a Pro Staff member of Scott Fly Rods, Hatch Reels, Hyde Drift Boats, ARC Fishing and a royalty tier for Holly Flies. His writing and photography can been found in several fly fishing publications. “There is so much good fishing in our part of the country,” Wissmath said, explaining that the Shenandoah River is particularly known for smallmouth bass, but many other varieties can be found there and in other nearby bodies of water. And while most people think of trout when they think of fly fishing, “Anything you can catch on conventional tackle, you can catch on a fly rod,” he said. “A little instruction goes a long, long way,” Wissmath said. “Fly fishing is not difficult, but it’s not intuitive either. Getting some instruction saves an awful lot of frustration.”

The school’s most popular offering, a two-day introduction to fly fishing, combines the fundamentals of fly fishing with practical experience. It is tailored for the person who wants an in-depth introduction to the sport. The class is offered in Carlisle, Pa., less than two hours north on Route 81. They also offer private one-on-one casting lessons for people wanting to improve a particular phase of their casting or learn a new cast.  Guided walking/wading trips are offered in a number of locations, including the native Eastern Brook Trout streams of Shenandoah National Park and the limestone spring creeks of the Shenandoah Valley. 

Take a trip with one of their experienced guides who will not only share their knowledge of the water and the sport, but will work hard to find you some hungry trout. Everything is included in these trips; they can outfit you from top to bottom and the guides will supply all the terminal tackle.“When you can open the door to a sport you feel passionate about, you get a kick out of that,” Wissmath said. “It’s always fun to help folks that have tried it but have become a bit frustrated, and once they get it figured it out and realize it’s not difficult, it’s a lot of fun.”

“My goal has always been that by the end of the day, a student is going to have a foundation of knowledge that now they’re going to be able to go out and learn on their own,” Wissmath said. “When you learn about natural history and the aquatic entomology, the more you understand the habits of fish, the more you understand how we’re imitating food using the fly.” “It’s a lot of fun,” he said. And it’s always going to be someplace pretty. With moving water around, it’s going to be pleasant.”
For more information, visit www.dwflyfishing.com or call 540-220-9283.