Preparing to Bring a Beginner Fly Fishing
After you experience the deep joys of fly fishing, it is inevitable that you will want to share the excitement with others. This discussion is solely dedicated to help already-established anglers introduce others to fly fishing. This is not intended to explain all the details that a beginner needs to know to get themselves into this hobby, although there are lots of wonderfully written articles on such topics. Simply put, this was written for you to easily prepare to bring a beginner fly fishing with you.
My deepest hope is that you can focus on the bigger picture and care about the well-rounded experience you are creating for your friend, spouse, client, or whoever you are getting into this endeavor.
When you begin learning to flyfish, things can be overwhelming to say the least. This is especially so if it is only about catching fish to those taking the beginner along. There are so many different aspects to fly fishing, and you really must have patience, fun, and curiosity to keep it all going. I highly suggest adding fun to the top of your list when you are introducing somebody to this hobby.
The Basics: Think what, when, where, why, how.
I recommend that you always be clear on what your guest can expect during their experience fly fishing with you. This is not the time to explain all the different casting styles or the names of your favorite flies. However, communicating the essential details will encourage them to best show up prepared. This will also lead them to feeling more confident in trying new things and having a good time while doing so.
A highly effective way for you to keep it simple when explaining essential details, is to get back to the basic: What, When, Where, Why, How.
When making plans, start by explaining the casting style you will be practicing and the species of fish you are aiming for.
If your friend will need waders, wading boots, or a fly rod, this is an excellent time to let them know. Do you have extra waders? If not, is there a place that might rent them out? Or, if not having waders is okay with them, and it is warm outside, groove on.
If you will be bringing an extra rod setup for them to use or plan to let them borrow yours, communicate this and take this as an opportunity to tell them what rod setup you will use. Wait until the end of the experience before advising that they invest in any particular rod setup, when they might naturally ask what you recommend for them.
In the beginning, it is so much easier to focus in on one style of casting. It may even benefit a true beginner to stick to one specific casting technique, such as the roll cast, until they get the hang of things. Consider sending casting videos days before the experience so that they can begin studying the techniques they will be doing.
Orvis has a YouTube video on “Fly Casting Lessons – Making a Roll Cast.” It’s a great example for a beginner.
WHEN + WHERE
Set a time that you would like to meet and be clear on the exact location you want your pal to meet you. Things can get messy with cell phone service, backroads, etc. Consider sending a Google Pin of the location so nothing gets missed. Maybe call or text your friend the night before and confirm the location, meeting + expected end time for the next day. Always take drive time into consideration.
Try to pick a fishing spot that does not have a bunch of trees, bushes, or other potential snags all around the environment. A popular riverside park or wide rock bar are perfect spots for a beginner to practice.
Here is a chance to get on the same page with your pal. What is the most important reason they want to try fly fishing? What are their own personal expectations for the experience? This part really matters.
What do you want your pal to get out of this experience?
Logistics are super important when planning any adventure outdoors. When making plans, make sure to talk about whether you will be driving together or separate.
Let your pal know how long it will take to get to the fishing spot and whether they will need 4WD to get there. Do you plan to wet wade or float the river?
Go slow and take one step at a time. Now is not the time to spit fly fishing jargon 100 mph at your pal, or to give them a bunch of feedback all at once. Teach them a technique or one knot, and let them practice at it for a while.
The Weather + Waterflows
One of the first places that plans can go wrong is by not checking the weather ahead of time. Although some people will rally no matter the weather conditions, use your better judgement with this one. If it is frigid cold outside or pouring rain, it might be better to wait for a sunnier day. At the very least, screenshot the weather forecast and send it to your pal. Check in on whether they feel comfortable fishing in those conditions.
If your pal is up for going fishing under such conditions, it is of the utmost importance for them to pack the proper gear. The layers needed, along with other essentials, to ensure the best possible experience.
Here is a helpful list that I would recommend sharing with anybody you are bringing along fishing with you:
The Essential “Pack List”
- Backpack (or drybag)
- Nalgene Bottle
- Snacks || Lunch
- Non-cotton Pants
- Non-cotton Long Sleeve
- Outdoor Shoes/Boots (Bogs, etc.)
- Wool socks
- Puffy jacket, wool sweater, or other warm layer
- Rain Jacket (if raining)
- Favorite Hat
- Sunscreen + SPF lip balm
- Sunglasses (Polarized if possible)
Additional [and makes a big difference]:
- Wading boots
- Fly Rod/Reel
- Nippers + Forceps
The Fly Lords has an awesome FishingTrip Checklist that can be found here!
The Food Stress + Water Talk
I have guided quite a few outdoor trips and let me tell you, there are few things in life scarier than food stress among a group of people. If you prepare correctly, snacks can be such a fun part of the day! Especially for kids and spunky adults.
Remind your guest to pack snacks or make sure to bring extra to share with them. Protein bars, apples, jerky sticks, and chips and salsa are my big-time favorites. The simpler the better and as always, make sure to pack it in, pack it out! Bring a trash bag.
I cannot stress to you enough how important it is for you to stay hydrated while out fishing and to encourage your guest to do the same. I know people that simply “don’t drink water” all day, forget to apply sunscreen and Chapstick, and throw beers down to add to the mess. This almost always leads to sun blisters and a crunchy sunburn. Do not be that example.
The easiest way to do keep hydrated is to bring your Nalgene bottle with you, in your backpack or fishing bag. I recommend bringing 32 oz per person for every 4-hour window you’ll be outdoors. Include your dogs.
I personally love to bring my AeroPress Travel Coffee Maker, ground coffee, mug + good ole Jetboil to make fresh coffee while out on the water. This is a wonderful treat when it is cold outside and a great pick-me-up when the fishing is slow.
The Sun + Hook Protectors
As mentioned earlier, make sure your guest brings sunglasses (preferably polarized). Not only will this ensure eye protection from the sun, but also from sharp flies! It is also a great idea to wear sunglasses yourself to avoid your beginner buddy from hooking you in the eye. Another great hack is to barb all hooks they fish with so that if they do hook something or somebody, the hook can come out much easier.
Wearing glasses will also add so much quality to the experience! Being able to scout water, spot fish, and avoid squinting at the water will surely makes the experience better.
Remind your pal to apply sunscreen and SPF lip balm.
Bring a Beginner Fly Fishing: The Brainstorm
- Focus on the entirety of the experience. What do you want your guest to learn? What do they hope to gain from this experience?
- Check the River Conditions – What are the waterflow levels? Is the water blown out or moving fast? What about a full moon? Is it blowing wind that will make it exceedingly difficult to cast? Thunderstorms? All these details will give you an important scoop on how well the body of water may fish.
- Having waders can be a huge gamechanger – if your guest does not have their own, see if you can track some down for them to borrow or rent. I personally keep a backup pair of waders that I lend to gals when I take them out (granted they are similar in size).
- Send your pal a pack list!
- In the beginning, it is a great idea to select flies and tie all of the knots on for your friend.
The Right Attitude
- Positive encouragement and direct feedback go a long way when when you bring a beginner fly fishing! Consider recording your pal casting and sending it to them later, to give them visual feedback. Your pal will also have some spunky photos and videos of their experience! Do not be afraid of demonstrating techniques to help when they are learning a skill.
- Let them enjoy fishing! There is a time to teach and a time to sit back and let your pal figure it out. Chances are high that if they need help, they will ask you.
- Do not stress the small stuff. Knots, lost flies, or lost fish. It is okay. There is so much more to the experience than landing fish. It is all part of the journey and the memories and joy that you experience with your guest is the true destination!
- Celebrate the small things. The untangled line, the survived snag, the success of a graceful roll cast, the delicious lunch, or catching the smallest of fish. It is all worthy of gratitude.
I sure hope you feel better prepared to bring a beginner fly fishing with you! Thank you for your patience and willingness to share the joy of fly fishing with others. Big love and happy wading!