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Learning to fly fish: where to start?
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Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Learning to fly fish: where to start? on 07/30/2009 14:24:44 MDT Print View

So, I don't know a thing about fishing, much less fly fishing. But I'd like to learn to fly fish.

Where do I start? I live in Brooklyn and don't know any fishermen. Where are the books and online resources that will get me started?

My goal is to be able to fly fish along the JMT next summer. Aside from that I'd like to fish in the Adirondacks.


Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Learning to fly fish: where to start? on 07/30/2009 14:38:58 MDT Print View

Unless you have little or no money, get a guide or someone experienced to get you jump started. You will save a ton of time over trying to teach yourself from books (I tried this many years ago and it did not work. I wasted months in frustration, catching few if any fish). Try to get a guide that will focus on techniques/skills for the small streams and lakes that you will likely encounter on the JMT and not for bigger steam fishing like the Lower Sac.

Some guides will meet with you for an hour or two on a playing field or casting pond a couple of times for casting lessons before you actually go out on a stream or lake to fish. This is a big help.

Of course, if you have a friend that really knows what he or she is doing, then you may have an inexpensive option.

The other less expensive option is to find a local fly fishing club or try to be part of an introductory group clinic. For those you can ask at a few local fly shops.

And be forewarned, this is an expensive and extremely addictive hobby, but one that has brought me tremendous satisfaction and enhanced my backcountry experience. I am just back from fishing for native cutthroughts at 11K in Utah. Many 16+ inch fish. Nirvanah!

Tight Lines

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Learning to fly fish: where to start? on 07/30/2009 15:00:03 MDT Print View

Thanks for the reply, Alan.

Just before I posted initially, I'd been on the phone with a guide. I don't know much, but I that the value in getting instruction from a pro is probably very much worth it. It is a shame that it's so expensive though!

honestly, the guide said that it would be best if I didn't come to him "totally green", so I was hoping to find some instruction online or in a book that would allow me to get some of the basics down before paying for a guide.

I live in Brooklyn, so there aren't a lot of anglers around as you can probably imagine. I'm trying to find a local Orvis thogh in the hopes that they do clinics.

>>And be forewarned, this is an expensive and extremely addictive hobby

Great. Just what I need. Backpacking, rock climbing, and now fishing.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Learning to fly fish: where to start? on 07/30/2009 15:22:55 MDT Print View

From Ryan's Blog, down a little bit, you will find This Link on Tenkara.

Read, watch, learn, then pull out the credit card.

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Learning to fly fish on 07/30/2009 15:43:56 MDT Print View


Alan's post is right on the mark. You might check to see if there's a fly shop in New York City that gives classes or has someone who gives lessons. I used to live in Manhattan and there's very little that's not available somewhere in New York. If the budget allows, also consider an Orvis clinic; they are often given in the Adirondacks. Two or three days of instruction and practice will begin the muscle memory that's needed for fly casting. Find some friends who fish regularly and see if you can tag along. Try a day with a guide. Keep practicing. It's worth it to learn a lifetime sport.

Tight lines to you!

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
if i were starting out on 07/30/2009 16:11:21 MDT Print View

i wouldn't even touch the rod before the first lesson - bad habits are hard to break & the nuances of proper casting technique are, well subtle (some people have a way with words, other people...)

i'd get a lesson or two (needn't be on the water, btw) and then find a park or something to practice dry casting (no need to attach a fly - just cast the line).

sounds to me like the hard part is that you also have to learn about streams & trout if you are actually intending to catch fish (for a lot of fly fisherfolk i've met, the catching of fish seems almost to be secondary). fortunately, once you get the hang of the hookset, most of the fishing along the JMT (especially the streams) is pretty easy in that there are plentiful fish and they are not shy to bite.

in a lot of places, it won't really be necessary to "cast" the fly, anyway - you can "dap" the fly or simply flip a short length of line with a dry fly & get a lot of trout that way.

also, be good to try a lot of different rods out (after a lesson) to see what kind suits you - i prefer a soft action, but this is also harder to use in windy conditions, which are often the case along the JMT

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Learning to fly fish: where to start? on 07/30/2009 16:37:03 MDT Print View

I think the best book to get right now is:
The Curtis Creek Manifesto
Curtis Creek

This book was written in the 70's, but is still the best book for the beginner. Some of the rod technologies are newer but the concepts are still the same. Everything else is spot on. I also ready every book from the public library on fly fishing as well as going fishing with friends.
To improve my casting I would go to the park everyday for 30 minutes and practice casting (it helps to have a park next door). This really helped-
Be careful fly fishing is as addictive as any drug I know.

Edited by bestbuilder on 07/30/2009 16:57:22 MDT.

John Tunnicliffe

Locale: Northern California
fly fishing on 07/30/2009 23:09:46 MDT Print View

+1 on Curtis Creek Manifesto. "eternal foe of the work ethic". Yeah.

It ain't drownin' worms. Fly fishing is hunting. Think like a predator. Be the Bug. Know Thy Knots. Love Thy Waters.

Another good volume for the neophyte is Fly Fishing: First Cast to First Fish by Joseph F. Petralia.

You should also check out Murray's podcasts at

And, of course, practice, practice, practice.


Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Learning to fly fish: where to start? on 07/31/2009 09:12:37 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the replies. Pretty helpful stuff.

Greg, do you think starting with a Tenkara rod is a good idea? They seem atypical in that they don't have reels like normal fly rods.

Richard, finding fly fishing instruction seems daunting so far. I think I'll have to get it on a trip to the 'Dacks or something like that.

>>for a lot of fly fisherfolk i've met, the catching of fish seems almost to be secondary

That seems backwards to me, Cary. I won't mind learning about the streams and trout. Seems like it'll be fun.

Tad & John, thanks for the book suggestions.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Learning to fly fish: where to start? on 07/31/2009 09:34:44 MDT Print View

Dave, this is just my opinion- If you want to learn how to "fly fish" do not start with the Tenkara system. It looks like something that might augment someones methods but it is not a starting point nor a "complete" system, I don't see pulling in a 24" rainbow with a light tippet without the ability to let it run (pull line off the reel) or casting to and landing a 12 lb Silver salmon.

Also you can learn without formal instruction, its not as easy but with books, DVD's and video's you can do it yourself. My local library system has a number of videos, DVD's on all aspects of fly fishing. As John said above practice! And the best place to practice is on the water- you might even catch a fish while you are practicing.

Preston Patton
(prestonpatton) - F - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Learning to fly fish: where to start? on 07/31/2009 11:04:57 MDT Print View

As a longtime flyfisherman, I agree with Tad. Fly fishing is a style of fishing that is both rewarding and (somewhat) technical to learn. But, don't let that dissuade you from learning the sport. The hardest part is learning how to catch fish! ;) Learning to cast isn't all that hard. (Learning how to cast very well, however....)

Find a good fly shop. They'll sell you a package deal and offer basic fly casting lessons. Then go to a park or some open water and practice casting. After awhile, find a certified fly casting instructor and take an hour-long casting lesson (or use the services of a certified fly casting guide, so you catch fish while improving your cast!)


Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Learning to fly fish: where to start? on 07/31/2009 11:50:54 MDT Print View

I may have been to hasty in dismissing fly fishing options in NYC:

Quite a lot just turned up in a google search. I'd never have thought people were fly fishing here in the city.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Learning to fly fish: where to start? on 07/31/2009 12:35:34 MDT Print View

Another tip:
Put some of the cheapest line you can find on your reel and practice on grass. Tie a piece of yarn to your leader to simulate a fly and mark a target in the distance. Work on getting as close as you can. You don't have to have water to practice most casting basics- just don't screw up a good line on land.

Randall Miller
(speyguy) - F

Locale: Cascadia
fly fishing on 07/31/2009 19:15:27 MDT Print View

Not sure if I agree with getting the cheapest line you can to practice. Unfortunately, most of the time with fly fishing, you get what you pay for and cheaper lines may not shoot or even load the rod well and you might get discouraged.

I agree with the advice about finding a fly shop. They should be able to really help you out.

In the meantime, youtube is your friend, or check out a DVD at your local library to learn some of the basics and the nomenclature.

Good luck!!