Over the years the sport of fly fishing has continued to grow in popularity. What was once a small niche has now grown to become one of the largest sport communities in the world. The well-known movie A River Runs Through It further brought the sport into the pop-culture eye and gave it some notoriety. Actor Zac Efron- who on Instagram receives roughly over a million likes per post, has even shared pictures of his time spent out on the water. With fly fishing growing more in popularity every day, new-comers to the sport arrive at their local fly shops and outfitter stores in hopes of becoming the next Paul Maclean (Brad Pitt’s character in “A River Runs Through it”) envisioning themselves standing in the middle of the river, slinging 40 feet of line with ease, and catching trophy-sized fish. Fly Fishing can be a little overwhelming at first and when folks don’t nail it their first time out on the water, they may get frustrated and give up. There have been numerous occasions where I have talked with people visiting our store and they will say something along the lines of “Well, I bought all the stuff a while back but I could never figure it out and I just kind of gave up on it.” I always hate hearing this because I have been in their position myself!
When I first wanted to learn how to fly fish, I had no idea where to start, so I turned to the internet and began researching what supplies I would need. I then visited my local outfitter store and walked out with everything they told me I needed. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing but I was still excited to go and catch fish on a fly rod. Well, after five full days on the water and zero fish to show for it, I quickly became discouraged and thought maybe it wasn’t for me after all. I remember being so frustrated because I didn’t know what I was doing wrong! So I did what every other frustrated fisherman does–I marched my unhappy self into my local fly shop with a list of questions and wanted to know where I went wrong. They did their best to help, but I quickly realized that I would need to start learning out on the water, with the help of an experienced fisherman. With the plethora of fly fishing information out there, beginners can end up more confused than when they started. Typical questions that I seem to get with every new comer fall somewhere along the lines of: “What equipment do I need?”, “What flies should I be using?”, “Where should I go to fish?”, “Well if you were me, what would you do?”, and the list goes on. While most fly shops or outfitter stores are more than happy to help answer those questions there is a better solution to the overwhelm. In my opinion, the easiest and most effective way to have all your questions answered is to take a guided trip! Below are some of the reasons why I firmly believe in invested in a guided trip:
Reason number 1: Understanding Equipment
One of the main questions any beginning angler has about fly fishing is “What equipment do I need?”. Typically, most guided trips require the client to bring basic items like a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses and the shop or the guide will provide the rest of the necessary equipment to fly fish. Not only does this give a beginner a great opportunity to see what an industry professional uses on their own day-to-day trips, but it also provides a chance to test drive some products and ask questions in real-time. In a shop setting, it can be difficult to grasp the ins-and-outs of how to select supplies and when to use certain equipment while on the water. A guided trip really allows the client to see how everything comes together. So, on your next guided trip, make sure to note what equipment your guide is using such as which rod, reel, line, tippet, etc.. and don’t be afraid to ask questions about why they chose to use those certain types. A guide is always happy to tell you his or her favorite products and why they choose to use them. This can really help beginners create a future shopping list and get a basic understanding of the products before buying them. In the end, a guided trip can help narrow down the overwhelming world of fly fishing products, allowing new-comers to know exactly what gear they need to get started, and most importantly how to use them.
Reason number 2: Real Time Help and Instruction
Part of my frustration when I first started fly fishing came from not understanding what mistakes I was making that were slowing my progress on the water. Being unable to pin point what I was doing wrong really delayed catching my first fish on a fly rod. Was it my fly selection? Was it my presentation? Was it where I was fishing? I had too many questions to efficiently narrow down where I may have gone wrong: after all, how can you fix what is wrong if you can’t identify the problem, or in my case, have too many problems to identify?
After every trip, I would head home and scour the internet, watch YouTube videos, go back to my local shop and ask questions; but what I really needed was someone to demonstrate and correct me in the moment. During your trip, expect your guide to give you tips and tricks and show you exactly what to do on the water. They are there to give you one-on-one instruction and to correct any bad habits that could slow down your progress. You can expect to learn things like casting techniques, drift and presentation of the fly, how to read the water, and how to properly fight and land fish. This, in my opinion, is the most important reason to take a guided trip. With hands-on, one-on-one instruction, you’ll be able to build a solid foundation for all of your future fishing.
Reason Number 3: Where to Fish
Another question that is asked all the time in fly shops is “Where do I need to go?”. On several of my very first fly fishing trips, I had doubts in the back of mind that I had chosen a place that simply had no fish to be caught because I simply didn’t know any better. A guide’s main priority should be to provide the client with an overall great experience and to show them that it is about more than just catching fish. Sure, catching fish is an awesome perk, but it isn’t necessarily what it is all about, which is why most people have heard the phrase “that’s why it is called fishing, and not catching.” With the premise that a guide is there to provide you with an overall great experience, keep in mind they still want you to catch as many fish as possible that day. I know one of the reasons I started guiding was because I found that I enjoyed helping and watching others catch fish just as much as I enjoyed catching fish myself and I believe most other guides feel the same way.
On the trip, your guide will take you to areas that they know historically produces fish. Unless it is private water, the areas you’ll be taken to are usually open to the public throughout the year. Being able to re-visit an area of successful fishing water allows you to spend more time practicing what you’ve learned and less time figuring out where to go! The more time you spend on the water, the more your confidence and knowledge will build which you can then apply to other fishing spots you might want to try.
Reason Number 4: Avoid an Investment Loss
Reason number four is one that I believe is often overlooked. Like any other hobby or personal interest, fly fishing requires two types of investments, time and money. One of the worst things that could happen is that someone spends a large amount of time studying up on fly fishing and investing in all the equipment, only to discover that after one or two trips, that fly fishing is not for them. Taking a guided trip is a great way to ensure this doesn’t happen to you! For just the cost of the trip and a morning or afternoon of your time, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the sport and figure out if it’s really something you want to pursue.
So, if you are interested in learning more about fly fishing or have experienced any of the overwhelm and frustration that I talked about, I would highly encourage you to book a guided trip in your area. It is the best and most efficient way of shortening the learning curve and becoming your very own Paul Maclean.
Tight lines everyone!