1. Never fart in your waders. The absolute first rule of fly fishing is to never ever fart in your waders. There is only one way for it to go out and that is up! This is akin to peeing into the wind. Now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll move on to the more serious side of this subject.
2. Learning to fly fish is difficult, but it is fun. It is important to note from the outset that fly fishing can be difficult to learn. It takes patience, repetition, failure and success before you finally get the hang of it. However, it is so worth it. Don’t give up! Keep trying and you will be rewarded for all of your hard work. When you catch your first fish on a fly, I promise you will be wearing a ten-foot grin.
3. Wait for your back cast to lengthen out, before attempting your forward cast. When learning to cast, it is essential that you feel the tug of your back cast before you flick the rod for your forward cast. If you don’t learn this early on, then you will continue to pile the line in a tangled, bird’s nest mess.
4. It’s all in the drag free drift, sometimes. Typically, when presenting your dry fly or nymph, you want to present the fly so that it moves precisely with the current without being pulled unnaturally by the wind or your line, etc. Presenting the fly without drag is called a “dead drift.” Usually, if your fly is dragging, then the fish will reject it. However, there are times, when you drag your fly against the current and the fish will go nuts. Keep an open mind and do what works, but a drag free drift is essential to learn for starters.
5. Start Small. One of the very best places to begin your fly-fishing journey is on a small, mountain freestone stream full of brook trout, cutthroat or rainbows. Fish in small streams are much less picky and much more forgiving than their big river relatives. Also, small streams require much shorter casts and the water is easier to read in order to locate where the fish are holding. Let the small stream be your classroom and you will be hooked for life.
6. Keep searching for new waters. You will enjoy fly fishing more if you continue to search out new waters to fish. Fishing the same waters continually can get a little boring. So searching out new waters and new experiences will keep the excitement alive and hone your skills with new challenges.
7. Don’t be a trout snob. Other species of fish such as bass, crappie, blue gill, other sun fish, and carp, etc. can be just as fun and rewarding to catch on the long rod as trout.
Remember, any fish you can catch on a fly rod is a worthy quarry. Open your mind and broaden your fly-fishing horizons.
8. Day-in Day-out, you will catch more fish on nymphs. Most of the time you are on the water, there will not be heavy hatches so sometimes the major-if not only- show in town is nymph fishing. Nymph fishing is the ticket to catching more fish on a regular basis.
9. Streamers catch bigger fish. Here’s a little tip: Big fish eat mostly smaller fish. If your goal is to catch the biggest fish you can, then use a streamer, which is typically a fly that represents a minnow. If you like the movie jaws, then you will love streamer fishing. Some of the strikes from big bruisers are downright terrifying. Enjoy!
10. Dry-fly fishing during a hatch is the very height of fly fishing. It does not get any better than fly fishing during a bona fide blanket hatch whether it be mayflies, stone flies, or caddis flies. While other styles of fly fishing are great, there is nothing more aesthetically pleasing than watching a fish slurp in a well presented imitation of the bugs that are hatching.
11. Fly fishing takes you to some of the most beautiful places on earth so enjoy the journey. One of the best things about fly fishing is the gorgeous places it takes you. You will find beauty in a small farm pond, a rocky, cascading stream, a mangrove swamp, or a glassy high-mountain lake. Soon the journeys to new waters will be as exciting as catching the fish themselves.
12. Fly fishing and conservation go hand in hand. The more you spend time on the water, the more you will come to love the precious environments in which fish thrive. You will soon see how fragile our natural resources are and will want to protect them. It is only a matter of time before you will want to support groups like Trout Unlimited, The Henry's Fork Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and the various land trusts because fishermen cannot do it alone.
13. Read fly fishing literature. When you can’t be on the water or when it is the dead of winter, reading great literature about fly fishing is almost as good as the act itself. Get to know great writers like Norman Maclean, Corey Ford, Robert Traver, John Gierach, Jerry Dennis, Burton Spiller, William G. Tapply, etc. You won’t regret it.
14. Take up fly tying. Fly tying is intricately connected with fly fishing and should be learned by all who take up the long rod. Fly fishing alone is great, but when you catch a fish on a fly that you tied or, even better, that you invented yourself, there is a whole new level of satisfaction.
15. Keep a journal and take pictures. As the seasons pass by, your memory becomes less and less reliable. Take pictures and keep a journal to record your adventures so that you can relive these experiences whenever you want. If you don’t, then soon you will try to recall special experiences and they will be irretrievably gone. However, a recorded fishing experience or a picture of a banner day on the stream will become a treasure that will get you through the winters of your life.
16. Take a kid fishing. If you ever become bored with fly fishing, take a child with you. When you see the excitement in their eyes from seeing the beauty and wonder of nature, this will invigorate your own sense of awe of nature and this great sport. Fishing with your own children will forge a bond that will last through the ages.
17. If you want to catch big fish, fish big waters. This is an eternally-wise maxim that all fishermen must learn. While you may catch a few big fish in small creeks, your odds are much greater in a big river or lake.
18. Fly fishing and bird hunting are two sides of the same coin. For me and many others who have taken up this great sport, bird hunting is the flip side of fly fishing. The two really go had in hand and play off of each other so well. After missing a few grouse, you can salve your battered ego, by catching a few trout in a little trickle creek near your favorite covert. Also, there is no better fishing companion than an old, gray-faced bird dog. You will treasure a bird dog’s companionship both in the field and on the stream.
19. Cast your troubles on the waters. If something in life is stressing you out or you just need a break, there is nothing better than a day on the river. The sound of the rushing water and the sight of leaping trout have a way of easing your cares and sorrows. Your problems may still be there when you finish fishing, but they will seem less daunting. And you may even find the answer to your problems while on the water as you commune with Nature and its Creator.
20. Catching fish is only a small part of fly fishing. Henry David Thoreau is reputed to have said, “Many go fishing all of their lives without realizing that it is not the fish they are after.” Soon you will come to understand that, while fish are the vehicle, so to speak, that brings us to the waters, the actual catching of fish is really only a small part of what this activity is all about. There is truly a peace that you will find on the water that you will rarely find elsewhere. Learn that early and you will enjoy fly fishing even when the fish are tight-lipped.