Fly Fishing for Beginners
For those that have never tried it, fly fishing can look quite foreign and complicated. Watching a master fly fisherman wade into a stream with his khaki vest and dance his line up and down the current can be intimidating. However, it is really not as complicated as it looks.
As a teenager I had grown a bit bored with standard fishing for trout, bass, and crappie. I knew people who owned fly gear and started asking about how it works. I received two very distinct responses. For those that had taken the time to learn the process, they described it as relaxing, artful, and beautiful to watch. For those that had not taken the time to learn the process, they described it as frustrating and a waste of time and money.
It really comes down to getting some sound guidance. With a few tips here and there you can reduce the amount of money you spend gearing up and learn the right way to enjoy this sport.
Table of Contents
Do Not Spend Too Much Money
One of the most frustrating mistakes you can make when you begin fly fishing is to buy top-of-the-line gear. Remember that learning to fly fish is in some ways like learning to play golf. You are going to have difficulties, but they feel amplified if you spent thousands of dollars on your gear. Buy a used or beginner fly rod and reel. A vest is a good idea, but get a cheap one at a box store. Buy your waders used, or fish water warm enough to wear swim gear instead.
Avoid Brush and Branches
When I first started teaching myself to fly fish, I did not always wade. There were times I fished from the shore, which is fine as long as you think about clearance. Fly rods are long and require even more clearance once you get your line moving. My suggestion would be to avoid anything overhead, and be sure you have at least 15 feet of clearance behind you. If you get your fly line snagged, it will definitely ruin your day.
Keep your Cast Simple
I am sure you have seen experienced fly fishermen arcing their line back and forth covering the whole width of the river. However, when you are new to the sport I find simple to be better. For your back cast, start with your rod tip down and pull it back starting slowly and increasing your speed. Stop your rod tip just past your body and pause for your line to roll back with the rod. Then when you feel a slight tug on your rod, start your forward cast. Again, start slowly and speed up extending your rod out at eye level. That is it. One back cast and one forward cast. This will get you comfortable with the flow of the line.
Keep your Line Short
Long casts may be impressive, but they are much harder to control. You are trying to hit a small area with your fly, so control is very important. Longer lines are also more likely to drag or get tangled. Remember, simple is better when you are first learning this process.
Fish Fast Water
Trout in particular are incredibly picky. They are a visual fish and normally live in crystal clear water. This means they can carefully look over you and your fly. If you fish the riffles and white water, you can cloud their vision and give yourself a better chance of getting a strike. This will give you a buffer while you learn the ideal presentation for your fly.
When you get to your fishing spot, do not get too fancy with the fly you choose. Your best bet is to find an insect already clinging to a rock or floating on the water. Then just try to pick a fly that is similar in color and shape. Also, go brighter on sunny days and darker in color on cloudy days.
Remember that trout are visual fish and both shadows and clouds of silt kicked up from the bottom can scare them off. Start by fishing near the shore and then gradually work your way across the river. Try to cast diagonally upstream and across the current without letting your line become visible to the fish.
Use Other Knowledge
If you know how trout act when you fish them with live bait or lures on an ultralight rod, you are already ahead of the game. Just because you have changed gear and the way you present the line does not mean that it is 100% different. Use your knowledge of the river to find those same hotspots you find when fishing from a boat.
Do Not Be Afraid to Target other Fish
When I was first learning to fly fish, I spent a great deal of time on ponds and lakes. I was mainly catching largemouth bass and sunfish, but it was still a great deal of fun. It also helped me learn the fundamentals of working the line and the fly without having to worry about the current of the river.
If you take your time and put yourself in a position for success, I am confident that you will greatly enjoy fly fishing. Remember to keep it simple and absorb the experience. If you pay attention to the lessons that are presented, you should be completely comfortable within your first few trips out to the river. You could also read our blog to learn how to make a mop fly.