2015-22-07 / Crossroads Weekend

Dr. Thomas Leslie has fun fishing out west and in faraway places

Berkeley Springs dentist Dr. Thomas Leslie is seen with his cutthroat trout that he caught on a fishing trip to the Upper Lodgepole Creek and the Fernie Wilderness Lodge in British Columbia.  The fish is known by its characteristic red linear marking on its throat. Berkeley Springs dentist Dr. Thomas Leslie is seen with his cutthroat trout that he caught on a fishing trip to the Upper Lodgepole Creek and the Fernie Wilderness Lodge in British Columbia. The fish is known by its characteristic red linear marking on its throat.                                                       by Kate Evans

  Berkeley Springs dentist Dr. Thomas Leslie has enjoyed a number of fly fishing excursions for trout in the western United States and Canada with friends. He has fished lakes, streams and rivers in West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania and has also fished in Florida. 

  Fly fishing uses a special fly rod, a weighted line and lightweight artificial hand-tied flies to lure the fish. Spin fishing has a weighted lure that carries the line out into the water, he said.

  Leslie said he first was inspired to fly fish when he was around nine years old. He went camping with his dad Bill Leslie, his older brother Terry Leslie and state park staff on the Cranberry River in central Pocahontas County.

  Leslie said he was fascinated with watching them fly fish and he sneaked out with his dad’s rod to give it a try. However, he broke his dad’s favorite fly rod when he accidently stuck its tip into the ground. That was his first introduction to fly fishing. Leslie later got into fly fishing with some dentist friends that liked to travel.

  Leslie said his first fly fishing trip was out to the Bighorn River in Montana around 1995. He has fished in Alaska, British Columbia, the Florida Keys and the Bahamas with a group. Leslie has also fly fished the Elk River in West Virginia and Shaver’s Fork, a branch of the Cheat River, for trout.

                                              Bonefish, catch & release

Leslie does mostly trout fishing but has also fished for bass, tarp and bonefish. Bonefish is a powerful silvery sporting fish found in southern climates that’s called “the gray ghost.”

  A bonefish will take all of the 90 feet of fly line and 100 yards of backing line and run with it all over the ocean, he said. Then you reel it in and the bonefish will take off with all of the line again.

  “It will fight as hard as any fish,” Leslie said.

  Leslie caught a juvenile tarp on his last fishing trip where he spent six days in the Florida Keys on two separate fishing jaunts. He said there’s been fishing trips where he hasn’t caught anything but it was still fun.

  It’s always catch and release fishing for Leslie since he doesn’t like the taste of fish. He said that out west the guides like you to release the fish back into the water because the fish are too valuable a resource.

                                                   The art fly fishing

The tiny artificial flies that are used as lures in fly fishing have a hook with small feathers or a sponge that makes it look like a mayfly or a gnat, Leslie said. You’re trying to fool the fish into biting at a fly or a nymph above or below the water.

  Fish line up in feeding lanes. The fly fisherman casts their fly upstream so it drifts down the current to the fish. If your fly creates an unnatural wake, the fish won’t bite, Leslie said. You don’t want your artificial fly to be three times bigger than the insects that are occurring naturally at the time.

  “You match the hatch to what’s on the water,” Leslie said.

  To catch an 18 to 20-inch trout, you might use a tiny 22 to 24 hook and a fly that looks like the size of a gnat, he said. “It’s all you can do to get the line through the hook,” Leslie noted.

  Leslie brought in to The Morgan Messenger a few tackle boxes of hand-tied flies that he made and found to show the varied sizes, colors and patterns. Some were extremely tiny and detailed.

                                                  Fishing mentor

His friend and fishing mentor Eddie Bilezikian lit a fire in him and helped him get a passion for fly fishing and fly tying.

  The two fished together locally on the Little Tonoloway Creek in Warfordsburg, Pennsylvania, the Potomac River and the Cacapon River for bass, the Casselman River in Maryland and Big Cove Tannery in Pennsylvania for trout. They also went stream-fishing locally.

  Leslie lost his fishing partner when Bilezikian moved away. Leslie said he still fishes out west but not as avidly, but when he goes fishing it’s very enjoyable.

  What Leslie said he loves most about fishing is “the time spent with friends and the solitude of the stream. Just being aware of the environment is just relaxing.”

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