I have a confession to make. Being a bit of a geek I like to play video games. Being a bit of an outdoors geek I also like to fly fish. If I had my choice between the two, I would pick fly fishing every time. That is why I was both intrigued and skeptical when the folks at Pishtech offered to send me an advance copy of their soon to be released Third Edition of their "photo realistic fly fishing simulator titled "Real World Fly Fishing." I say I was skeptical because I have played a few fly fishing games before and none really came close to being realistic enough to keep my attention. Would this one be any different?
I must say that when it comes to Pishtech's offering to the world of armchair angling, I was pleasantly surprised. The final release of the third edition of the simulation will offer 475 unique fishing locations on 24 bodies of water that run the gamut from ponds to tail waters and can be fished using a massive number of combinations of rods, leaders, and flies. I found the various locations and each section of river within those locations to have unique challenges that require the player to read the water, choose the best equipment (strike indicators, split shot or etc) and make the best cast.
The Fly Box
The fly box that the virtual angler has to draw from is one that any fly tier would be proud to own, holding over 150 patterns to choose from in sizes from 8 to 28. If that isn't enough for your needs, the program includes a full fledged fly tying simulator that allows you to add your own custom creations to your virtual fly box and then test them on any of the hundreds of fishable locations in the game. This feature alone could be a great help to any fly tier who wanted to play around on the vise without actually using up costly hooks, beads and material. The tier could whip out a virtual prototype then tie it up for real in the"meatspace" (real world).
Except for fish behavior, this is where most of the simulators fall short. How can you replicate the look and feel of a cast using a mouse or joystick? Pishtech's game comes closer than most by using sound physics to replicate the movement of the fly line both in the air and on the water. With a bit of practice and using a side view of my cast I was able to get a pretty good presentation. After a bit more practice on the mouse I was even able to make a rudimentary roll cast. You have the option of turning on (or off) the voice of a disembodied fishing guide who will give casting advice as well as letting you know if you line fish and spook them. He can be helpful but is a bit too nice, not even yelling at you when you break off a 30 inch brown trout because your drag wasn't set loose enough.
As far as I could tell the fish behavior was fairly accurate. Line a fish or make a sloppy presentation and you won't be getting any bites for a while. Do it enough and you might as well move on to the next fishing hole. Fly selection will make a difference so be sure and "check the hatch" often and pick a good match.
So you've picked the right fly, made the right cast and a big rainbow has just sipped your dry fly off the surface of that spring creek you chose to fish. What now? Just like in real life you have to fight and land the fish. In the simulation fighting the fish is accomplished by keeping your rod tip high and reeling away. Your reel's adjustable drag keeps you from breaking off the fish by letting out line when the tension becomes to great for the tippet to handle. Tippet selection comes into play, during my "extensive testing" of the game I hooked a 25 inch brown trout on 7x and it took me a good 15 minutes of real time to get the fish into the net. As in real life most of the fish are smaller and take less time to bring to hand. However, the really big ones can be very exciting.
Sometimes when you get something out of the ordinary to review you have to approach it with a bit of skepticism. In the case of Pishtech's Real World Fly Fishing 3rd Edition, I didn't know what to expect or how much I would enjoy a simulation of my favorite real world past time. I got my answer while fighting a virtual trophy brown trout while sitting at my computer desk. On a particularly fast run the fish broke me off and I pounded the desk top with my fist and let out an expletive. It was at that moment that I knew this game had me hooked.
Here's my take on Real World Fly Fishing from Pishtech:
Will it ever take the place of the trill of standing knee deep in an icy mountain stream and hooking a hard fighting rainbow trout?
Is it an enjoyable past time when you can't be out on the water?
Could a novice fisherman or fly tier actually learn something using this software?
Absolutely - A new fly fisher could learn a lot about reading water, fly tying and even timing a cast from playing this simulation.
Is it an entertaining diversion?
Yes. We like the idea of fly fishing the Madison River in our boxer shorts during February.
Finally the biggest question of all, would we pay for it?
Yes .. and we can be real cheapskates.
Real World Fly Fishing - Third Edition, will be available from http://www.pishtech.com/ in March of 2007. Visit their site for additional information and to view screen shots from the game.