What is fly fishing?
The noble art or sport of fly fishing is truly a great way to enjoy sport and the environment.
Non-anglers, new entrants or the unfamiliar may ask, what is the purpose of fly fishing. Some of the many positives of this sport are, exercise, relaxation, enjoying the outdoors and not forgetting the pleasure of Fishing itself. Not forgetting to mention the benefits for your health and wellbeing, friendships and also enjoying nature.
Unlike coarse fishing which involves a cast and waits for a bite, fly fishing is a constant cast and retrieve and move.
In short, you are casting and retrieving the flies all day long as you target the fish and search various depths and methods. Add the challenge imposed by the elements, and you have a truly exhausting day that burns your calories.
The sport has a vast range of sections from recreational river or still waters, to competition and also National representation. So, it can offer the individual their own preference that suits.
Is fly fishing an expensive hobby?
Many views fly-fishing as a snobbish sport due to its past links, nothing could be further from the truth.
Historically, fly fishing was only accessible to the elite, the wealthy. As it was a pastime that the working person could ill afford due to cost and time.
As time goes by, this has now been surpassed. And fly fishing is now very open and accessible to all. As for the cost, equipment price has continued to decline as mass production entered the sport.
Therefore, modern fly fishing is more open and amenable to all. The cost of fishery entrance is also very competitive and has gone down markedly from the early years.
Here in the UK, the Angling Trust does a great job in making sure that fishing is supported and maintained. Our rivers in the UK have got cleaner and are more accessible to the sport.
Today, fishing and fly-fishing have a cross-section from all walks of life, from politicians, plumbers, police officers, doctors, painters and decorators, builders, brickers, nurses, etc. In short, you can have a really diverse day.
Is fly fishing hard to learn?
To the non-angler, fly fishing may appear to be a demanding sport in terms of learning or skill. Like any other sport or hobby, one can learn and develop with time and practice. It’s all about action and application.
I have gone to a local park, field, and also used my garden (without any flies or hooks on the fly line) to practice casting. Because this is singularly the most difficult thing to grasp.
But once you get the concept of loading the line, it is easy and will get better with time.
This sport has developed and continues to do so from all aspects such as the anglers, methods, and techniques. They all have changed over time. The move from cane rods to graphite rods has transformed the sport, like all sports where tackle and equipment have changed significantly.
The synthetic materials have also meant that this is no longer just a purist’s fur and feather sport. Most of the new patterns and arguably, the most effective are synthetic. Blobs and boobies are only two patterns.
Do anglers hurt the fish?
There are questions about fly fishing and angling generally. For instance, regarding any damage or hurt caused to the fish.
Without getting too emotionally involved in this, there is a mass movement to fish now with barbless flies. This means that there is no barb on the hook, and the fish can be released straightforwardly without any human contact or damage. This also reduces any damage to the trout and its outer protective slime covering.
I personally always ensure that the fish are kept in the net and in the water as I release it with as little contact as possible. Although, there are still bad examples of anglers out there. Just like in any sport.
What fish do you catch?
Fly fishing is not just confined to trout, sea trout and salmon.
Because modern fly fishing now evolves targeting Carp, Pike, Perch, Chub to name a few freshwater species and also many saltwater species such as Barracuda, Trevali, BoneFish and the king of saltwater Tarpon.
The sport is now opening up to any method of fishings, not just confined to fly fishing. Fisheries are moving to this as per the demand of some entrants to the sport.
This has brought in travel and tourism like any other sport. People now travel the globe to fish and fly fish.
Apart from the anglers, the sport is a multi-million-pound industry in a range of countries from the USA to China. Industry and sport contribute to the economies of all these countries in a host of ways.
Where to fish?
Having been introduced to this sport, I reluctantly started a few sessions with my work colleague who gave me his highly prized Sage rod and reel for the day to get me hooked.
I became hooked very quickly and started visiting my local small still waters. For example, Marton Heath, Cheshire, Westlaw Mere, Titterworth (near Leek), Danebridge, Wincle and Pennine, Littleborough. Then braving it to the bigger still waters such as Arnfield, Ladybower, Stocks, Carsington, Blithfield, Foremark, Draycote, Rutland, Eyebrook, Chew and Blagdon.
It has been a real journey of exploration of fun and learning. Packed with the trials and tribulations of lack of fishing awareness, inappropriate tackle (equipment) and general green around the gills about fly fishing.
But my motto has always been stick to what you start and not get bogged down in discouragement and failure.
Over time, I also learnt that there is diversity in fly fishing too. From small still water to large still water. From river fishing to loch (lake) style.
Now some three decades on, I am more in tune with the sport. And I understand it better in terms of fishing, equipment and also my own skills and limitations.
Are fly fishermen snobs?
Not really. Throughout my own journey, I find the support of other anglers and fishery owners has been commendable. The fishery owners have been genuinely supportive and not just looking at making a fast buck.
Along the journey, I have met some fantastic people, world champions, national champions, club anglers, part-time anglers, first times, competitors. Etc. It has been refreshing that the vast majority of anglers are very friendly and supportive. They are open to help you with any issues that you have, even giving flies and some going as far to lend you their equipment to help a fellow angler.
However, there are always a small minority of individuals who have a real issue of ego and spoil the sport. As it happens in any sport or walk of life. But do not be put off by them.
Embrace it, and you will truly find a rewarding pursuit that will fulfil many needs.
Important things I wish I knew when I started fly fishing
Even though I started this sport through the persuasion from my colleague, I do wish I knew some things related to fly fishing. So that I could enjoy the sport more, right from the start.
Therefore, I have listed some key areas of interest that should help you. Areas that I wish I knew on my early days of fishing.
And I will be doing a separate post on each topic. If you do need any advice before the posts are published, feel free to contact me on the email linked to this site. Tight Lines.
1: Research the equipment
Typically you will need a rod, reel, lines, flies, waterproof clothing, glasses, landing net, and a travel bag for carrying any surplus items.
2: Have a budget in mind
This can be a total, and for each piece of equipment, there is real value out there.
3: Try the equipment
Most fisheries will have some equipment to try. So make the most of this whenever possible,
4: Don’t buy what you fancy but what you really need
Based on thorough research, you should be able to pick and choose the equipment that suits most to your needs and not just something that you like.
5: Don’t skimp on clothing, waterproof kit, boots, and glasses
These are the most crucial tackle (equipment) to your enjoyment in unpredictable weather. So kit yourself out with good quality stuff.
6: Don’t waste too much money on flies
There is so much variety out there in terms of patterns, cost, supply etc.
7: Understand the basics
You should learn and know the basics about trout, seasons, species, fishery you fish, conditions, trout diet and its seasonality.
8: Don’t get sucked in to keeping up with the Joneses, concentrate on your skill.
Fish to your strength and capability and what you are comfortable doing.
9: If possible, get some casting lessons
You can take the lessons from a pro and also the odd guiding session. Failure to do that, find a local angler and shadow them.
10: Rod Licences and Misc Costs
Sort this essential admin out so that you can enjoy your fishing day without the worry of getting a ticket from the warden.