Article Getting Started: I’m New To Fly Fishing – Now What?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Ed Call, Jul 8, 2010.

  1. Ed Call Mumbling Moderator

    Posts: 17,264
    Kitsap Peninsula
    Ratings: +1,221 / 9
    Background Information –
    Not long ago I was new to fly fishing myself. It seemed like the thing to get into when I relocated to the Pacific Northwest. I had no clue what to do, not that I know much more now. I started out with a 5wt rod, reel and line combo with a starter video on casting.

    I floundered around by myself, making every mistake and developing every bad habit that is imaginable. I had been gear fishing for my whole life so far and was lucky to have one friend that both gear fished with me and had some fly fishing basics. Pretty soon I was fishing about half the time with a fly rod from the local Puget Sound beaches that I had been gear fishing on for a few years. I was not catching as many sea run cutthroat trout or salmon, but I was enjoying the fly fishing more and more each time. Eventually I put the gear rods aside. I’ve not touched them for three or four years now.

    About the time that I retired from the military I happened upon an interesting place. My fly fishing experience took an exponentially informative turn when I did a Boolean search online and found Washington Fly Fishing. This online forum is where you are, welcome.

    What I have asked other members to do is to provide some basic information for new fly anglers. This way the new fly angler can get up to speed and start the learning process. It also helps to know a bit about what you want or need to know so you ask the veteran members of the site a focused question instead of a very broad question. This will allow for better answers.

    The following tidbits are offered from the experiences of many of the members here. I asked for their input on how to assist new forum members so that there was less apprehension to ask questions and so that the frequency of responses like “use the search function”, “get a map”, “fill up your gas tank” and “go out and explore”. These are all very valid points, as you hopefully will see. You see, here members continually exchange information, but to get really useful information it is better to have some useful information and demonstrated a willingness to get out and work to find some answers yourself. Some fisheries are small and delicate and won’t openly be discussed because they are “earned” and can’t handle the pressure that open conversation could generate. Other fisheries are quickly offered as good starting points because you’ll find a lot of company and a decent number of willing fish. Get out, get after it and chat it up here and on the water. For the most part we are a friendly bunch, even though some act tough.

    What Members Recommend – (No Particular Order – You are the Boss of You)
    Here is a list of possible suggestions, there are likely many more:

    □ Spend some time reading the CONTENT area. There are lists of sponsors, local shops, articles and links galore. To pass over this area is really a disservice to shortening your learning curve. You can check river flows, find the local shops, get information on shuttle services, check the weather and tides and your trip planning can be underway.

    □ Search the forum – the things you want to learn about likely are here because others wanted to learn or talk about them before you arrived. It is a fantastic tool that puts thousands of previous posts and conversations in a search able format so you can focus on what you really want to know. The more you know the better.

    □ Get the right resources – having a good map or three, insect hatch book, chart or guide, basic fly fishing information book or books is essential. One of my friends said that everyone should have the Curtis Creek Manifesto which coincidentally was my very first fly fishing book. You can even learn a lot about fly fishing while reading Olive the Woolley Bugger series books to your children, grandchildren or someone else’s children or grandchildren.

    □ Learn the basics – how to properly assemble a rod is not rocket science but also not automatic. Knowing fly sizes, tippet size ratings, grain weights, line types, knots, loop to loop connections. This is all complex but fundamental for success. If you are not using leader and tippet materials proportionate for your fly that you are casting you’ll find some trouble.

    □ Find a local shop – most shop folks love to talk fishing and do what they do. They do this well because they generally like people and talking to people about fishing. They can help you with the basics and partner with you through your progression. The better relationship you can forge with your local shop the better information you likely can receive from them. They will also know other customers that might be willing to spend some time with you as you get started. Washington Fly Fishing has sponsors, if one is near you, seek them out, say hello and consider those shops or your local shops when you have fly fishing related needs.

    □ Take a class – Many of the sponsor shops and local fly shops have classes geared for beginning fly anglers. As you forge that relationship with them you’ll also benefit from basic casting instruction, tactics for specific types of fishing, fly tying and many other subjects that shops offer. This can help you with gear setup to ensure a good match between rod, reel and line for the type of fishing you wish to do. There are classes on how to safely use watercraft in rivers, river fishing, beach fishing, lake fishing, Puget Sound fishing, small creek fishing, fly tying and casting. You can find classes at your local shop by calling them up, making a visit or clicking the sponsor shop link and most have a tab or button for classes. Browse their sites and see what they are offering. Engage them by asking for things that you want but don’t see. The effort these sponsor shops and local shops will go through is very impressive.

    □ Attend a clinic – Many individuals and shops will offer clinics that will help to familiarize you with certain tactics, techniques or approaches. Some of these clinics have fees to cover the professional presenter. Many are free. You can find these clinics at the site sponsor shops web pages, at your local shop’s web page, by stopping by or by checking out the EVENTS forum where sponsor activities and fly fishing related events will be listed.

    □ Find and join a club - these organizations are full of fishy folks. Fishy folks love to talk about fishing. They also like to fish whenever they can, be it for a day or a big planned trip. Find a club, show your interest in fishing and social skills and you will likely have a way to get more information, experience and company on outings.

    □ Practice conservation - for the environments in which we find our fishy friends. I'm not going to get all preachy on you here. Find an organization that suits your interests, has a plan, project or mission that you can stand behind and work toward. There are many such as the Wild Steelhead Coalition, Trout Unlimited, Hoh River Conservancy, Costal Conservation Association and so on. At the very minimum give them a bit of $$ for membership fees, beyond that give them whatever you can contribute and know that you are working to make a difference now and for the future.

    □ Share the gift of fly fishing - by extending your knowledge, time and energy to a youth fly fishing program, get new fly anglers interested in the sport or help groups such as Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing so that those involved can turn to fly fishing for their health, well being and recreational enjoyment.

    □ Casting is very important – to cast better should always be a goal. Continue to work on your casting as much as possible. The trade off here is that no fish has ever been caught on a fly being false casted to death. If your fly is not swimming you are not fishing, you are casting. Improved casting will enhance the fishing experience, it is a balance you we all must address.

    □ Learn what fish eat – Be it baitfish in rivers, lakes or salt water and insects wherever found, knowing what a predatory fish will eat and using something that imitates it is going to give you a better chance to have a fish on your line early and often.

    □ Knowledge and tactics – this is what catches fish. Knowing what you are doing and how to do it is far more important that some other factors like what kind of waders or boots you wear, what rod you’re using or other such things.

    □ What is the best ______ - be it rod, reel, line, waders, boots, boat, etc. These questions are fun to ask and see go back and forth, but honestly, whatever works best for your needs and fits your budget is the best. Too many variables to come up with the best of anything. If you must ask, clarify as best you can of what your intended need or purpose is and see what opinions others offer. Some will tell you to find out for yourself, which really is the best overall advice. The best for you and I may not be the same yet both are the best for each of us respectively. Remember that sponsor or local fly shop? Go there, see what they have on their demo or try rack. Cast them all. Cast them all a lot! See if they'll let you demo them on the water. If you've built a strong relationship they will really be in your corner.

    □ Figure out what you want to do – Okay, so you want to do it all, but you have to crawl before you walk before you run, right? You can get pretty good at something faster if you focus on it in parts. Take a beach fishing class or attend a seminar then go beach fishing every time you can for a few hours. Fish the same beach during an outgoing tide and an incoming tide. Water movement generally is better than a high slack or low slack tide time, but each beach can vary. Seeing a beach during low tide can reveal structure that will hold bait and as such, predator fish will come there to eat those fish and your flies. Read tactical articles on lakes and employ those tactics at different times of the day, water temperatures and times of the year so that you can get more comfortable with the insect populations you will see. Fish eat these insects and we try to imitate them, learning more about them and when to expect them can’t be a bad thing.

    □ Focus – fishing every method in every fishery may be your goal. Before you achieve that goal might we recommend that you focus on a fishery and get really good at it before you go all crazy and fish just to touch all the fisheries out there? Learning one stretch of a river, one lake, or a nearby set of beaches might give you tremendous confidence, knowledge and skill advancement that can then be translated into success elsewhere.

    □ Keep a journal – So you are now getting into this heavy, track what you are doing. What were the tides like? How was the water temperature? Was it overcast? Raining? Bright? What kind of baitfish or bugs did you see? What did you catch fish on? What failed to produce? Did you see fish activity? When you saw fish, hooked fish or missed strikes were they on the surface, just below the surface or deep? The variables are endless and keeping some good outing notes will allow you to identify trends that may lead to improved fishing experiences. For those with an I Phone, I hear there is an App for that. I wish my Blackberry had one.

    □ Find an open seat – if a board member has an open seat, fill it. Offer to fill the tank, bring the latte, lunch, beer or whatever you can to get your butt into that open seat. Some of these offers will come from guides and others from fishermen who have boats and would not mind some company. Once you are connected I’m sure there will be some beneficial information on the basics, tactics, and presentation, fly selection, gear selection or recommendations and such that can and will be discussed. It makes sense to figure that folks with boats that go fishing are fishy folks who are the right kind of people to go fishing with, right? Who comes to a fly fishing forum and does not like to talk about fly fishing?

    □ Hire a guide – if you want to really shorten the learning curve consider booking a trip with a guide. These professional service providers are fishy folks that must know their trade to be successful. If you are looking for a guide don’t hesitate to post an inquiry in the forum. If you tell the board where you are interested in fishing and what species you hope to encounter you can expect that someone will have a suggested guide that knows that particular place very well.

    □ Make a friend – find someone who is willing to go fishing. No fish are caught on the forum and online talk is fun, but getting out and fishing is where we all want to be. If you can find a member near your location or one that has made some posts that interest you, send them a private message (PM) or post a thread “Anyone want to go fishing at (lake, river, beach)”. Who ever has enough friends and fishing pals?

    □ Fish don’t care – how much your gear cost, what reel you are using or much else. The gear you have is different than mine but no better or worse than mine. If you can afford it, it balances well, works for you and you enjoy fishing it then you’ve got great gear. Believe it or not there will be snobs out there that will disagree with this. I’ve got some very fine higher end rods and some pretty humble ones. That part of the process only matters to me. It is no one else’s business what I choose to fish with, hopefully it will all integrate well and be effective. The fish don’t care. Others who have a dialed in setup will eagerly share their knowledge. What they have will be a good starting point for you and will help you achieve that dialed in feel for your setup too.

    □ Safety first – if you are going to be around water you should be safe. Learning to swim, having a personal flotation device and using sound judgment are not something anyone else can do for you. This you must do for yourself or your family. Going out alone increases your risk greatly. If you are out with a fishing buddy you at least have someone to potentially assist you when in need. You should also be prepared to offer that assistance should your fishing buddy find him/herself in need. As such you should be capable to render this assistance to someone else fishing with you or that you happen upon in a time of need.

    □ Etiquette – is important. Learn proper etiquette for fishing around others. Know what it means to fish through a run properly without camping out so others cannot pass through. Don’t jump in above or below an angler and crowd them without at least letting them know you are there and asking if they mind. Getting along online and on the water should not be that tough if we all respect one another and each other’s space and fishing intentions. Learn that some tactics will be to start upriver and fish downriver, other tactics start downriver and work upriver. Knowing the etiquette basics will go a long way. Say hello, have a brief chat, watch and observe another angler and you may learn what to do or what not to do in certain situations.

    □ Know where the fish are and how to find them – each fishing situation varies. The more you know where the fish are and get to that place the better. Surface fishing is preferred by some but statistics will overwhelmingly show that most fish are below the surface of the water, not at the surface of the water. Getting the right presentation at the right depth will often be more important to the exact right pattern of fly to use.

    □ Line management – is very complicated. Learn to cast well and mend line. Mending is most often done in moving water and will allow your fly to drift with the current in a manner that presents your fly in the most natural manner, just like a real bug would be drifting by if it was not attached to a fly line or leader.

    □ Mother Nature always wins – this is about safety again. Wading deeply in a moving river across slippery rocks while casting and managing line, mending and then hooking into a 25# native steelhead on the River of Woes can lead to disaster. Fish within your capabilities and improve your techniques, tactics and physical capabilities to enhance your experience. Risk taking is a balance that only you can manage. Most bodies pulled out of underwater snags or sweepers are not wearing life preservers. Take a rowing class or go with experienced oarsmen/women before you go out there by yourself. There are countless stories of experienced folks making mistakes and getting into trouble, some don’t come home. The less safe and experienced you are the greater the chance that you will be a newspaper article or evening news report.

    □ Know what to expect – and don’t go under gunned. If you know that there are big fish there, and you do not intend or cannot legally keep them, don’t go with a rig that is too light. This prolongs the fight with the fish and will potentially tire the fish to exhaustion. This can lead to the death of a fish that is preventable, a fish which might have spawned to create more fish in the future.

    □ Know when not to fish – if the temperatures are too high for the survival of hooked, fought and caught fish then don’t fish there. Find a hatchery fish filled fishery and harvest a few for dinner or find a cooler place to fish. Different folks have different opinions but many say that after the surface water temps are above 68-72 degrees that a fish brought into this low oxygen content surface water will more than likely die. That fish might swim away from your net or hand at first but it might not survive.

    □ Break it off – if you catch a fish that you can’t legally target, or if you get into a big one that you’ll likely not land on the gear you have, point the rod tip at the fish, hold the reel/line so that it goes tight and pop the tippet. It will cost you a fly. It might save that fish for more fishing opportunities later and it might save you a ticket. Catching certain species out of season is not illegal if you handle the fish according to the regulations, but it might be better for all to just break it off early.

    □ Don't overlook the gallery - with a ridiculous number of images (30,000 or more?) you'll find photos of fly swaps so you'll have an idea of what kind of flies you'll need for certain species or types of fishing, loads of fun filled shots, family stoke, natural beauty, party scenes from fishing related gatherings, pictures of watercraft galore and of course fishporn. Browse the general gallery, member galleries and anywhere else that you fancy.

    □ Spend time on the water – then more time, then more time then more time. After that read a bunch when you can’t be on the water. This was offered up by a friend who had a goal of fishing every day for his summer break. I don’t think he achieved that goal that summer, but he fished enough to wear out a set of boots and waders, so he made a pretty good go of it I’d say.

    So, you’re new to fly fishing…got questions? Did you do some research on your own? Searched the forum for threads with the same question? Go ahead and ask. This is a community site, we’re here to share, help and every now and then hand out a good ribbing. Welcome.

    Thanks to Chris, our Friendly Administrator for this resource.


    Contributions by: (listed by current screen name in no particular order)
    Kent Lufkin, Old Man, Ford Fenders, Miyawaki, Karl Shaffer, KerryS, Bitterroot, Steve Saville, Evan Burck, Jason Shutt, Mike Lee, Dustin Bise and Mumbles.
    natron, JesseCFowl, KerryS and 7 others like this.
  2. Steve Call Active Member

    Posts: 1,517
    Wetside, WA
    Ratings: +165 / 0
    First, thank everyone who has contributed to this great introduction. I'm new to this site. I fished a little as a teenager and a lot more in my 20's (I was primarily a gear fisher focused on steelhead and salmon.) Then, I became consumed with my career and raising a family and the opportunities to fish diminished, though I did introduce both of my sons to fishing. The last few years my work life has tapered off (I'm largely retired at this point) and I've begun fishing more. I've picked up fly fishing the last two years and introduced both of my sons - now young adults - to the joys and challenges of fly fishing.

    This past summer I've spent a lot more time on various trout rivers and had some luck. I consider myself an OK dry fly caster, but clearly could use more practice and probably a lesson or two in order to master fishing with nymphs, especially weighted nymphs. I also want to do more fly fishing for steelhead and salmon. But, there is nothing I enjoy more than being on a mountain stream casting for trout. I'm not obsessed with big trout. I get a kick out of having a 5" or 6" trout grab my fly on an isolated stream.

    Anyway, lots of good advice and I will make an effort to get involved, seek help from others more experienced than me and hopefully make some new friends and acquaintances.

    Thanks again,
    SteveO2
  3. Ed Owens Carpe diem!

    Posts: 33
    Battle Ground, WA
    Ratings: +2 / 0
    A great article, with some excellent advise. There is a lot of information to digest in this and I'm sure I'll be reading it more than a few times; bookmarked.

    Thanks for posting this and thank you to all who contributed. As someone who has recently returned and just getting back into fly fishing, I'm glad I found this article embedded in a post located during an advanced search of the forum. Back to reading more posts and working on my learning curve...
  4. Chris Scoones Administrator

    Posts: 3,572
    North Bend
    Ratings: +282 / 0
    Kicking this article back to the main forum for a while. I expect Ed will get a few more "likes" out of this! Thanks Ed, and the rest who worked on it.

    Chris
    Dan Nelson likes this.
  5. Scott Salzer previously micro brew

    Posts: 2,785
    .
    Ratings: +165 / 0
    Chris:

    Good "kick"! a lot of new people can benefit form this info.

    MB
  6. WA-Fly Active Member

    Posts: 315
    WA
    Ratings: +37 / 0
    This should be made a sticky thread
  7. Go Fish Language, its a virus

    Posts: 1,257
    Rheomode, Wa.
    Ratings: +72 / 0
    Find someone who knows more than you,
    ask a bunch of stupid questions,
    spend more time on the water
    than on the interweb,
    have fun.
  8. PT Physhicist

    Posts: 3,490
    Edmonds, WA
    Ratings: +648 / 1
    Damn, Ed. If I knew it was that hard I'd have taken up chess.. ;)

    Good write up and good kick!
  9. troutdopemagic Active Member

    Posts: 358
    Lake Stevens, Washington
    Ratings: +105 / 0
    Honestly, I think experience on the water is the best way learn the ways of our sport. You can read, check out the internet all you want but nothing equals experience.
  10. zen leecher aka bill w born to work, forced to fish

    Posts: 2,973
    Moses Lake, WA
    Ratings: +889 / 1
    I feel joining a local club is a very important point. It's a lot easier to accompany someone on an outing when you are a fellow clubmember.
  11. Ed Call Mumbling Moderator

    Posts: 17,264
    Kitsap Peninsula
    Ratings: +1,221 / 9
    Chris, thanks for putting this up again where it is visible for those that might benefit from the collaborative effort. This was done two summers ago, and as you can see at the bottom, quite a few member that know what they are talking about gave me content to add. I was just the typist, they are the ones that know how this stuff works. Still learning every trip out, and still willing to share gas, food, beverages and time with anyone intersted in hitting the water.
    jessejames likes this.
  12. Kaiserman content

    Posts: 2,514
    Ratings: +365 / 0
    Kicking this article back to the main forum for a while. I expect Ed will get a few more "likes" out of this! Thanks Ed, and the rest who worked on it.

    Chris

    Ditto that. Well done Ed (and others). I love taking new guys out and putting them on their first steelie, or 20" trout, but to take the time and do what you've done here is priceless. Anyone can take a guy fishing, but this sir Ed, is simply priceless....did I already say that? :)
  13. Old Man Just an Old Man

    Posts: 21,112
    Dillon, Mt
    Ratings: +1,396 / 0
    As usual, anything longer than a paragraph in length I don't read. And this didn't get read again. Sorry Mumbles
  14. speyfisher Active Member

    Posts: 1,036
    State of Jefferson U.S.A.
    Ratings: +128 / 2
    When & where I grew up, trout existed only in Sports Afield & Field & Stream mags. Fly fishing was thought of as top water only. We fished still water, out of boats. Patterns were what Mom cut out & sewed to make clothes, and schools had numbers and went from grades 1 through 8. Oh Yeah, fly lines had letter designations, and the choices were level, or double taper. Trying to decipher names such as PMD. BWO, Bivisable, Light Cahill. Never heard of any flying insect with names like that. Horse flies & mosquitoes I could relate. Anything else was Greek to me. About the only flies you could buy at the hardware store were Bass poppers & wholly worms. My fly rod was an 8.5ft Heddon glass rod, probably what we would call an 8 wt today. The reel was a Shakespeare automatic with a level line, no backing.

    Fast forward thirty some odd years later, So. Ca. The Long Beach Casting Club taught me not only to cast, but entomology, fly tying, pretty much all things fly fishing. Plus I found some great people to hang out & fish with. Hanging around Marriott's also shortened the learning curve, not to mention lightened the wallet on a regular basis.;)
  15. Ed Call Mumbling Moderator

    Posts: 17,264
    Kitsap Peninsula
    Ratings: +1,221 / 9
    That is okay Old Man, you actually contributed a fair piece of the longer than a paragraph anyway. It was intended for those who wanted to read some simple stuff as they are staring out. It might not be really applicable to you. I hope that some find some usefulness within all the mumbling.
  16. Old Man Just an Old Man

    Posts: 21,112
    Dillon, Mt
    Ratings: +1,396 / 0
    What is it lately. No matter what I put out there somebody finds what I say offensive. If you all think that I'm going to shut up, you are all wrong. Can't a brother have a little fun.
  17. Ed Call Mumbling Moderator

    Posts: 17,264
    Kitsap Peninsula
    Ratings: +1,221 / 9
    Thanks for the thumbs down you very grouchy old man.
    Derek Young likes this.
  18. Chris Bellows aka. topwater

    Posts: 1,506
    The Salt
    Ratings: +558 / 0
    amen, time on the water beats everything else.

    i would also add that conventional wisdom often is totally wrong.

    you should read everything on the internet with a critical eye, especially anything coming from anyone with a commercial interest in what is being written about.

    there are many paths, choose the one that feels right to you.
  19. apistomaster Member

    Posts: 84
    Clarkston, WA
    Ratings: +10 / 0
    @oldman,
    "What is it lately. No matter what I put out there somebody finds what I say offensive. If you all think that I'm going to shut up, you are all wrong. Can't a brother have a little fun."

    Brother, we live all our fly fishing lives to grow into one of those wise old geezers who have been there and done all that. I'm only 60 but I think I have finally earned my full fledged "Fly fisherman Geezer status.
    I topped it off by moving back to my home town so I could be closer to my home waters in my old age.
    Old Man likes this.
  20. Chris Scoones Administrator

    Posts: 3,572
    North Bend
    Ratings: +282 / 0
    Fixed that for you.

    Ed Call likes this.