Since being on the Traditional Outdoors Podcast (episode 25), I have had a handful of conversations with people just getting started in the sport of fly fishing. Whether it is tying flies or fly fishing the question I am hearing the most is “what is the most important first thing to learn”. In this post I am going to talk about getting started in either aspect of the sport, what is the most important first steps in the learning process. 

Fly Fishing, and actually catching fish.


If you are a fly fisherman that goes out once a year you will always be a beginner. You need time with a fly rod in your hand to be a decent fly fisherman and years of consistent work to be a good one. Practice casting in your yard, at work on lunch, in the house with a small “practice rod” with some yarn on it. Anyway you can have a fly rod in your hand do it. Starting out watch your backcast, it will help you learn how to make proper casting strokes.    

Entire books have been written on casting technique, so I will hit some of the points that I try to make with new fly fisherman.

Tip Travel

The fly line will follow the tip of the fly rod. The straighter the travel of the tip of your rod, the tighter your loop (tight is good) will be on the backcast. Wide arching cast strokes will result in a tailing loop which will tie some beautiful knots in you leader, or strike your rod with the potential of breaking your rod if you are fishing a weighted fly.  

Choosing The Correct Rod

Most people are past this point once they are talking to me. If not don’t over spend on your first rod. Don’t buy the cheapest one you can find, you also don’t need a several hundred dollar rod and several hundred dollar reel. A $600 dollar reel is not going to help you learn to cast. Action is important and a fast action rod is a little easier to learn to cast than a slow action rod. Although, one of my first rods was a slow action rod and I learned a lot fishing with that rod. The slow action actually fits my style of casting and I frequently go back to it as it is one of my favorite rods. Don’t buy a rod unless you have cast it! Go to a local fly shop and string up a few rods with the help of the shop personnel.  

Spend Money On Fly Line Not Fly Reels

The fly line is going to directly affect your ability to cast. For the most part your reel is only going to hold your line unless your are fishing big fish and I mean BIG!!

Learn What The Fish Are Eating

You are practicing and will be a great caster, you bought the perfect fly rod and outfitted it with top shelf fly line, but if you don’t know what to throw at the fish then all of your efforts will be for naught. Knowing what bugs or minnows hang out in the areas you frequent is going to make or break your fishing experience. You don’t need to completely stock a fly box with hundreds of flies normally you can get away with a handful of patterns. Which leads me to the second topic.

Fly Tying, and actually catching fish on them.

Buy An Inexpensive Starter Kit

Most high end vises accomplish the same thing as a set of pliers. As Steve Angell said in the Traditional Outdoors pod cast, in his early years he tied many flies in the jaws of pliers locked in a bench top vise.

Start Simple

Do some research on what bugs or minnows are in your water and pick up a fly from the fly shop that you will attempt to imitate. Find a recipe for that fly on line and pick up the materials you need to tie just that pattern.

Tie It Over And Over

Tie that pattern until it is tied to look like the one you bought. Do not move on to another pattern until you have really perfected your original pattern. I know this sounds weird but it is like the military teaches their soldiers, you don’t do it until you get it right you do it until you can’t get it wrong. This repetition will teach you skills because you can fix problems you had with the last one you tied exactly like it. If you are constantly changing patterns you will just have a bunch of poorly tied patterns.

Don’t Use Head Cement At First

Don’t glue them right off the bat. If you glue them then they are harder to cut apart and reuse. Hooks are the most expensive expendable you will use. Trust me your skills are going to improve and you will want to throw out some of your first flies. Cut the materials off and reuse the hook.

A Craft Store Is A Beautiful Thing

Hobby Lobby is basically a fly shop with materials spread out between smelly things and home decorations. Many of the things you find at a fly shop can be had at the craft stores. I buy craft fur, pheasant tails, mixed feathers, yarn, markers, glue, google eyes and the list could go on. Some stuff is not the quality that it is at the fly shop, but you can get those things that are just not comparable at the fly shop.  

Don't Do It To Save Money

Beacuse it will not! Do it beacuse you will love to catch a fish on a fly you tied. I could have bought thousands of flies from the shop for the money I have invested in my equipment and materials... literally thousands!

Thank you for reading my blog, I hope you enjoyed it please recommend it to a friend.  

Scott S.