When I was asked to write this article, I thought it would be easy. Well, just like fly fishing, it’s never that simple and every “bullet point” I was thinking about made me think of a little back story that I could tell to give you some perspective on what fly fishing has done for me and why I am fully addicted.
After retiring from playing professional hockey I had a huge void in my life to fill, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to find something that can take such energy and focus! I grew up on the prairies of Canada, lake fishing with the old “Red Devil” or minnows! Once moving to Boise and closing in on the last few years of my hockey career I was introduced to fly fishing by a former teammate and his friend! The addiction started off slowly, I would go and learn with and maybe catch a fish or two, if any! But I was learning and I was enjoying the outdoors and my buddies! It really wasn’t until I took some time to go every day for a few weeks before I really felt comfortable and started having 5 then 8 and eventually 14 plus fish days! Then well, I came down with the sickness and it was on! Fast forward 4 1/2 years and confidence is high and the experience is always unbelievable! So here are my tips more 10 experiences I believe will help you become a better fly fisherman and start the lifelong addiction!
- Waders: The very first piece of advice on your gear is invest in a good pair of waders and boots! And I speak to this as a person who is very careful what he spends his money on. I learned the hard way twice. There is nothing worse than leaky waders in cold water and then soggy socks, and the smell that comes after! Just buck up and spend the money you’re going to anyways!
- Rods, reels, line: Don’t break the bank on this, you can find a great Rod/Reel combo out there for $250-$300 to get you started even cheaper if you are a good shopper! You don’t need the $800 Sage rod to get going, don’t get me wrong, the top of the line gear is great, but do some research and you will be surprised! Don’t skimp on the line though, getting a quality line can make a big difference in casting! Check out this Wild Water Fly Fishing Complete 5/6 Starter Package.
- Knots: Get to know your knots, there are hundreds out there and everybody ties a little different, use the internet, there are thousands of videos that walk you through step by step. Find a half dozen that work for you and present well when tied to your fly.
- Practice: Now that you have your gear you need to practice throwing that rope! Don’t expect to just hit the river and be able to cast, it’s an art, I think of it as a golf swing the smallest movements can cause the biggest mistakes, and like golf, if you don’t hit the range it’s tough to stay smooth and consistent with your casting. Trout are spooky and if you are reading the water and have the right bug but are slapping that water, they’re not going to eat! So, time on the water gets that muscle memory going. Again, YouTube is awesome!
- The Shops: Fly shops in general can be a very intimidating place, so many bugs, so much line and so many guys standing around talking like they know more than everyone around them! This one took me a while not only to learn but also learn to ignore! Don’t get me wrong I love a great conversation about fishing in the local fly shop, but I would listen to these guys talk hatches and bugs, and flows etc. and have ten different names for the same bug or part of the hatch they are in! I would leave the shop with my head spinning, thinking I was hopeless and had so much to learn. I mean if these guys are in the shop and know this much and aren’t catching fish, what the hell am I going to do with my 5 Halloween buggers! Don’t listen to them. I found a shop that’s a little quieter and just told the guy to line me out with the essential local bugs for that time of the season and then it was up to me to put the time in! I would have a 15 – fish day, walk into a fly shop and hear Chummy talk about why the fish aren’t biting and why these bugs aren’t hatching and 10 different other excuses. And that’s when I realized I was doing something right and my time on the water had been paying off. There’s not a fly shop in the land I won’t walk into and feel comfortable! Just do your thing, take advice and listen but trust yourself.
- Bugs: Learn your local bugs, Very Important!! every river and every area has the local bugs and hatches, they even have charts on the time of year and day they hatch! Take the time to learn the hatches and different stages. Tip … take a small aquarium net with you and scoop bugs out of the water and try to find something similar in your fly box! Always a good place to start!
- Water: Learn how to read water, seams, back eddies, shelves, ripples, slicks, foam lines, hold up areas like boulders and down trees, cut banks. Learn were the fish like to hang out and why. That will help you break up the river, there can be a lot of water to cover and look at out there. Listen to the rhythm of the water and for it to be disturbed, if it is good chance it’s a fish.
Get out there: You need to get out and fish, and go by yourself if you can. I know sometimes when I was leaning I felt more comfortable alone on the river with no one around if I slapped the water. I wasn’t spooking anyone’s fish, and again I will relate it to golf. when I’m on the tee box and two foursome groups roll up behind me and watch, I’m putting it in the drink for sure. Until I got comfortable with my cast I had a tough time casting on the river, it was busy or with a group, self-conscious maybe but I also didn’t want to be that guy slapping the water and tangled in the bushes! Now that I have my casting confidence I feel comfortable book shelving with the best of them. So, get the confidence up and that’s going to make a huge difference, cause no matter how much we like it there are usually people on the river! Which takes me to my next point…
- If you walk they will go away! People in general are lazy, not saying I’m not lazy, cause if you asked my wife she would give you a list! But fishing wouldn’t be on that list. If you are willing to walk the extra mile, or drive that extra half hour down that washed out dirt road you will be rewarded and your chances of success will increase! As funny as it sounds fish are smart and they get used to fly’s being tossed at them and the water being slapped, find some quiet spot that you think hasn’t seen a fly all day and you can have some great success!
- The Experience: this is where it has come full circle for me and is more than just about catching fish. Fly fishing takes you to some amazing places and adventures of a life time! I have experienced so much beauty in nature by being on the river. From moose, deer, elk crossing the river ten feet in front of me, taken some pictures of outrageous sunsets and just awesome memories and stores with some good buddies! So, take the time to enjoy what fly fishing has to offer and I promise you that when you come home from a day on the water, you never get Skunked, because you walk away with an amazing experience!