Fly Fishing for Beginners: Getting Started With Fly Fishing
What is fly fishing?
Fly Fishing is simply an angling method or the sport of fishing using a rod and an artificial fly as bait. The fly is cast using a fly rod, reel, and specialized weighted line.
Certainly, when I think of fly fishing I don’t think of fly lines, rods, reels, and misc. gadgets. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly do consider myself a gear-head and marvel at the latest and greatest fly fishing tools, but fly fishing is really about something more soulful than that. If you decide to take the plunge into fly fishing, be prepared for the most fun, challenging, and rewarding journey of your life.
Fly Fishing Is About More Than Gear
What really binds me to the sport are early morning meetings with old friends, and the anticipation of the days adventure lingering thick in the air over two steaming cups of coffee. It’s about crystal clear nights after the campfire has been doused, kicked back in a beached drift boat, and settling into a post fishing whiskey buzz. It’s that moment when you first see the water you’ll be fishing for the day. It’s your disbelief when you not only realize that the water looks incredible, but that the Caddis have already started to take flight, and the peak of the hatch is still 4 hours away. It’s the spent feeling consuming your bones at the end of an adrenaline packed day, topped off by a three mile hike back to camp. It’s when your out in the wilderness, far away from other humans, and your spine starts to tingle at the thought Mr. grizzly could be sizing you up from the bushes.
You’ll hear anglers say, “…well I didn’t catch any fish today, but it felt great to be out.” It’s moments like these, piled on top of each other, over the course of a day on the water that connects you to fly fishing, consuming your thoughts and feeding your addiction. Let’s of course not forget the unforgettable slow motion take of a cutthroat trout rising through the surface film to eat your Adams, or the thrill of a tail walking Steelhead crashing through a glassy tail out.
Getting Started With Fly Fishing
Establish your budget
You absolutely do not have to break the bank these days to get quality fly fishing equipment. Price levels are available to meet any budget. On the other hand, like anything else, you get what you pay for. The more you spend on better quality gear, the longer it will last, the better the warranty, and the better it will perform. Unlike some other sports, the more expensive equipment does not mean it is for more advanced participants. In fly fishing, the more advanced the equipment, the more enjoyment you’ll get out of your time on the water and the easier it will be to learn.
There are two roads to travel when you begin formulating your budget for getting into fly fishing. Like any new sport, or hobby, it’s easy to spend countless dollars very quickly before you actually end up knowing what you need. To make things a little easier you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions.
Is fly fishing something you want to try?
If so, it makes sense to spend less money on the initial investment, but be sure to spend enough to start with quality equipment that will not cause you frustration. It would be a bummer to buy cheap gear, become frustrated because it didn’t perform well, and then cause you to give it up. Rod, reel, fly line, and leader packages are available these days between $100 and $300.
Is fly fishing something you know will become a passion?
If so, than spend a little more out of the gates so you know you’re getting equipment you’ll enjoy using. Pre-packaged outfits may suit your needs, but consider piecing together equipment that closely matches the species and locations you will be fishing. Our time away from work and the stresses of everyday life are precious these days. Maximize your experience on the water with quality gear, and limit the need for upgrading right away. Typically, middle price points for a rod, reel, and fly line run about $300 – $500.
Fly Fishing is for Everyone
Fly fishing has really morphed into something more approachable in the last 10 years. Historically it used to take itself a little too seriously. Fly anglers had the rap of partitioning themselves off from the rest of the fishing world, only letting the chosen few into the sport who had enough cash to participate. The reputation for the most part was unfounded but over the last decade manufactures have really worked to eliminate this perception. Prices of quality tackle have come down, and anyone with a pulse and a desire to get out there can participate.
Gone are the days when fly fishing was only about catching trout while wearing tweed jackets and wicker creels. Fly fisherman are actively targeting species like Sailfish, Barracuda, Trevally, Sharks, King Salmon, and even exotic critters like Taimen, and Golden Mahseer. Fly fishers are now traipsing across the globe toting their fly rods from Alaska to Brazil, Russia to South Africa, Iceland to India, and all points in-between.
Fly fishing is a pro-active, low impact, and challenging method of fishing. I say pro active because fly anglers are actually more like hunters. We are actively searching out the fish, and plying the water with different flies, fishing different depths, and using a wide range of techniques. Unlike like sedentary methods of fishing where one may drown a worm, and waiting for something to happen, we are constantly attempting to induce a strike. Some anglers may hike miles and miles to the perfect spot, or simply hop out of the truck driving down the freeway for a quick few cast in a road side pond. If conventional fishing methods are like using a shotgun to hunt, fly fishing would be like using a knife.
Fly fishing tackle is extremely light. Some fly rods made today may only weigh a few ounces, some flies can be as small as a bread crumb. The main difference between conventional fishing tackle and fly tackle is the line. Unlike normal fishing line, fly line is coated with PVC to add weight. A fly fishing rod is designed to be flexed by the weight of the fly line, instead of the weight of a lure or lead sinker. In a sense, a fishing rod is a like a spring ready to be compressed or “loaded” to store energy. With conventional rods, it is the weight of a lure that loads the rod or compresses the spring. Since the weight of a tiny fly doesn’t have enough mass to bend and load a fly rod, it becomes the job of the fly line.
Some Tips for Beginner:
Check out fishing reports online. Many times they will not only inform you how well the fish are biting, but also which fly patterns are best, what bugs are hatching, information on the weather, and what condition the water is in. Be aware to take these reports with a grain of salt! Many times they may be out-of-date or slightly exaggerated to say the least. Don’t be surprised if you head to a local lake based on a fantastic fishing report and find nothing but a body of water resembling the Dead Sea. It happens to the best of us, and let’s face it, fisherman are great liars.
Web tools like Google Earth can offer an amazing opportunity to check out roads, secluded rivers, unknown lakes, or Beaver ponds that you previously had no idea existed. For instance, let’s say you are driving on a dirt road that follows a small river. At various times, the stream may deviate away from the road for a time. Spots where the road either intersects or is near the river are the easiest to access and therefore fished more often. Instead, use Google Earth to map access to those spots further from the road, they will be harder to get to, but usually will offer the best fishing. These are the spots that most anglers are not willing to work for, and therefore the best places to fish!
Find a mentor. Chances are you know someone who is a fly fisherman. Ask around, it might surprise you. I was lucky in the beginning of my fly fishing career as I had several very good anglers to mentor me as I progressed. They showed me where to go, what flies to tie on, and what fish I should target. If you don’t know of anyone who may be willing to show you the ropes, try the online community. Many times there are anglers just like you that are in need of a fishing partner. Many areas also have fly fishing clubs. These clubs can be a great way to meet fellow anglers and most of them are always looking for new blood.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Most fly anglers feel as I do and want to share their love of the sport with anyone that’s interested. If you’re unsure of what the fish may be eating, what flies are best, or where to go feel free to approach a fellow angler. I have learned some of the best fishing secrets of my life shooting-the-breeze in a parking lot, a boat ramp, or along a trail with other anglers. All you’ve got to do is ask!
License and Regulations
You’ll need a fishing license before you head out, and often you can pick one up online or at most sporting goods stores. When you get your license be sure to get a current copy of the fishing regulations for your area. These regulations will fill you in on the rules and restrictions for the areas you want to fish. In some fisheries they may allow you to keep a few fish, or at certain times of year a particular lake or river may be closed to fishing. As a responsible angler it is your job to make sure that you’re following the rules set forth by the local fish and game department. The penalty for disobeying them can be stiff fines or the confiscation of your gear. The “regs” as it is sometimes called is also a great tool for finding fishing spots, and helping you identify which areas are open. Fishing locations that offer “fly fishing only” restrictions are a good place to start. This will limit pressure on the fishery and give you a starting point. Many times these areas also forbid harvest meaning that angler have to practice ‘catch & release’. More fish swimming in the water mean more chances for you to catch them!
Ultimately, fly fishing is about spending time in the outdoors with friends and family, or achieving blissful solitude. The more you fish the more you realize that this sport is about an escape. The occasional super charged adrenaline rush of a fish eating your fly is pretty cool as well.