Want to learn to fly fish? There is much to learn, even more to learn than you can imagine, but you don’t have to know it all to get started.
My first few fly fishing trips were with borrowed equipment and with experienced fly fishermen or fly fishing guides. I flailed away with barely a clue about how or where to cast, what size or type of rod or fly line to use, what a tapered fly fishing leader or tippet was, what kind or size fly to use or what knots were used to tie the leader or tippet.
Fly fishing is definitely a “learn-by-doing” kind of thing. Read all the books you can, but casting and knot tying is something you have to practice. Someone can tell you how to cast or how the fly line and fly will behave in different water currents or when you should use a blood knot, but most of it goes in one ear and out the other until you experience it for yourself.
There is no better way to prime yourself for learning than trying to do something without any help. When you attempt something, you will have real questions. Once you have question, you are primed for learning and can benefit from advice or instruction.
My First Solo Fly Fishing Trip
The first day I walked down to the river by myself, it was also the first time to fish with my new gear. I had a hard time casting and keeping the slack out of the line. I fished hard for about an hour, before realizing I was never going to catch fish until I worked on my casting.
I realized there is a huge difference between casting and presenting a fly. Now I was mentally primed for learning, but had no teacher.
I took a break and focused on how nice it was to be outside. It was a nice day in a beautiful place. It’s sure true that trout don’t live in ugly places. I listened to the birds sing and watched a Cooper’s Hawk try to catch supper. I also noticed the trout were rising. I immediately went back to fishing, but still had no luck. I changed flies and still couldn’t get a bite despite fish rising everywhere.
I may or may not have had the best fly, but the main problem was my poor casting technique. When I cast, the fly either slapping the water or I had too much slack line in the water that I couldn’t control.
I took another break and watched the PMDs float on the water and the fish rising to take them. I had been advised to practice fly casting on grass, but figured I could practice and actually fish at the same time, but all I did was prove the worst time to practice casting was while I was trying to fish. I tried to ignore the rising fish and just practice casting and presentation. I started casting just a few feet in front of me using the techniques everyone tried to teach me before. I concentrated on keeping my wrist straight and even tucked the end of the rod into my shirt sleeve to help. When I made a nice cast, the fly landed quietly on the water.
After making 40 or 50 good casts, I tried to work on getting the fly to float without any drag. After many of what I thought were successful looking floats, I started casting a little farther out to where the fish were feeding, but my next cast was pure junk. I couldn’t talk and chew gum at the same time. As soon as I thought about fish, I forgot everything about casting.
I tried to forget about fishing again and just concentrated on the cast. The next cast was better. The third cast was also good and the fly landed quietly on the water and drifted perfectly without any drag. I was about to retrieve the fly for another cast when Bam! I saw the fish rise and instinctively set the hook. I had a fish!
I managed to fool two little rainbows that day with dry flies. I didn’t take any photos that day because the trout were so small they escaped through the net. But I caught them with my own equipment and nobody selected the fly, tied my tippet or showed me where to fish. Those two tiny fish were perfect for me, because catching them gave me encouragement and nobody can get a big head over a four inch fish.
My casting technique is gradually improving and I’ve been working on parachute and roll casts. When I have problems I ask for advice. I have found that most fishermen are more than happy to help if they can. I also look for information on the internet. Orvis has Fly Fishing Video Lessons (Find them in Adventures and Schools), which have been very helpful to me.
My goal is to fly fish at least once a week and I usually read something every day about fly fishing. I’ve missed fishing for almost three weeks since Winter showed up because I didn’t have waders. Now that I have waders, I’ve promised myself to go fishing the next time the temperature rises above freezing. Tomorrow may be the day.