I fell into fly fishing by accident when I randomly signed up for a fly tying class one really cold day while I was living in Ann Arbor, MI. To be completely honest, I signed up for the class because it sounded like something different, and it was really cheap — like $65 for eight classes, and I didn’t need any equipment. I figured I had nothing better to do, and it was time to stop hibernating and get out into society again. I had no idea what fly tying even was. But from the moment I walked in that door, I immediately fell in love with all things fly. I learned to tie flies that winter, but I was more than a little intimidated at the thought of actually fly fishing. Here are five things I wish I had known about fly fishing before I walked in that shop.
IT’S EASIER THAN YOU THINK
During fly tying classes I would watch people out the window casting fly rods in the parking lot. I loved to watch that line in the air, see that beautiful loop. But there was no way I was going to try that. I just knew I’d make a fool of myself if I tried. The thought of casting a fly rod was intimidating! It looked so perfect, so elegant, and so HARD. And then I tried it. Was my loop tight? Nope. Did I get tangled up in my line? Yep. I still do. It’s called being a fly angler. But guess what, it’s a lot easier than it looks. And it’s SO MUCH FUN. Trust me, that saying “If I can do it, you can do it” has never been truer than now. With just a little instruction you can make a 40’ cast in a matter of minutes. It may not be a Brad Pitt/Jason Borger cast, but it will definitely catch fish. And it’s absolutely OK to make a bad cast. I make them all the time, and I’m a pro.
IT’S FOR EVERYONE
When I was growing up, fly fishing was the sport that my executive grandfather and his friends did once a year. It consisted of flying to Alaska, taking a puddle jumper to some remote location, fishing, then smoking cigars and drinking bourbon in the lodge at night. While it certainly can still be that at times, the vast landscape of the sport has changed. In as recently as the last five years, it has taken a shift to a much more young, vibrant, and diverse culture. Today, it is the norm to see women working in a fly shop or as a guide, and to see young people from all walks of life on the water. That’s a change in the right direction if you ask me.
IT'S IMPORTANT TO MATCH THE HATCH
Yes, “match the hatch” is one of those fly fishing lingo slogans, but it’s an important one. This simply means you figure out what the fish are eating in that particular stretch of water and match it with a fly in your box. Sure, there are fish that will eat anything you throw in front of them, but the vast majority of your catching is going to be done because you gave the fish what they was looking for. Think about it, if you’re really hungry for chocolate cake is a hot dog going to do it? I didn’t think so. An easy way to figure out what the fish are eating is to turn over rocks and see what bugs are clinging to the underside. Another easy way is to watch the bugs coming off the surface of the water or tapping the surface of the water. If you can catch one of those, that’s also a good indication. And, of course, if there are baitfish around, matching them will also work. Just remember size is a huge factor. You can have the right type of bug, but if nothing is biting, you might want to change up the size. I mean, you wouldn’t eat a chicken leg that was 2 feet long, would you? Ok, don’t answer that…
YOU HAVE OPTIONS
If you have a problem with commitment and can’t decide what rod you want to buy next, or just need gear for that once a year trip, you’re in luck! You can rent everything from a rod to full packages including your camping gear in one place with Big Sky. They will even ship it to your destination, so you don’t have to worry about carrying it with you. And when you’re done with it, just stop by the UPS on the way to the airport and drop it in the mail. No mess, no worry, and most of all, no commitment. And, if you’re still stuck on number one above (the casting lesson), you can rent a fly rod and have them deliver it to your home, watch some YouTube videos, and practice in the comfort of your backyard. Just don’t take your casting advice from Hank Patterson, God love him.
IT’S FOR ANY SPECIES
Five years ago I was walking through Chicago’s O’Hare Airport with my rod case slung over my shoulder when I was approached by a gentleman in a very nice suit. “Are you an architect?” “No”, I answered not sure where this was going. “Are those pool cues?” Now I knew what he was talking about. “Do I look like I play pool?” I asked in reply. “Ok, I give up, what is that?” I explained that they were fly rods. He looked at me like I was crazy. “There’s no trout here. Don’t you fish for trout with a fly rod?” Unfortunately, I’m asked this all the time. While trout are a great species to target with a fly rod, today’s fly anglers fish anywhere there’s water and it’s legal to fish — that means anything from bluegill to shark, and everything in between. In fact, I think one of the best ways to learn to fly fish is on the bluegill at your local pond. They love to eat flies, they are abundant, and they fight like crazy when you hook them. They’ll teach you everything you need to know about hooking a fish, fighting a fish and landing a fish. So if you live nowhere near trout water, that’s A-ok. There’s no need to travel far to fish with a fly rod.
IT’S A COMMUNITY
Today’s fly fishing community is vast and accepting. You can get online and find a local club in your area or hop on sites like United Women on the Fly and find anglers who are in the area you want to fish and eager to help. The face of fly fishing today is all about growing our sport, increasing diversity, and making fly fishing what it’s supposed to be … a great time on the water for everyone.
So, what are you waiting for? Call up Big Sky and have them send you a 5 wt so you can practice, and then get out there on the water. I’ll see you there.
To rent gear for your next outing or find out more click here.