Friday, July 6, 2018


Some of today’s new fly anglers seem to fear the struggle. They just can’t take it the idea of not catching  double digit numbers of trout, or trout over 18” to post to their social media outlets.  They fear that without posting pictures of huge wild browns they will not have street cred in their facebook groups, as if the opinions of anglers you will never meet in person have any merit.
 In today’s world, fly fishermen and women are plagued with the advances in technology. Any fishing group on Facebook is full of questions, or recommendations from new fly fisherman that are geared at instant success. When I started into the world of fly fishing at the age of 16 ( circa 2004) Facebook and other social media sites were just seeds being planted. Youtube was not even created yet. At that time there were a few internet forums around, a few blogs, and a couple magazines I could browse to get some info on the basics.  Today, a simple google search on your IPhone can bring up hundreds of articles, blog posts, and videos on how to fly fish, but only you can truly learn it. 
The issue with all of these resources is that you can memorize the words, but it takes time on the stream or tying desk to actually understand what you read or what you watched.  It may give the new fly fisherman a false sense that you have to have the latest gadgets and perfect flies in order to catch fish. Even with the limited resources out there back in the day I somehow found a way learn and grow as a fly fisherman to the level that I am today, and you can do the same. New fly anglers can use this information to develops the basic skill sets, and fine tune through their own experience.
With the technological advancements since 2004 I have started to see a troubling trend among new fly anglers. Some new fly anglers want instant success, and instant gratification for their success. These newbies want to grab the latest rod specifically designed for Euro-nymphing that was recommend most on “Insert Facebook Fly Fishing Group Here” and pair it with the new competition nymph line and leader set up they saw on “insert latest webisode on youtube” here.  They expect to head to the stream and just line the banks with large wild brown trout, and be tired from reeling in so many fish.  After getting skunked or only catching a few trout, they instantly head back to “XYZ Fly Fishing Group” and ask for tips and tricks on how to catch fish on the fly. They are then hit with 60-100 replies to decipher, and figure out who actually has experience and who is just quoting something from the latest Nymphing DVD without any actual experience doing these techniques. All of these veiws may end up confusing the new Fly Angler even more.

A lot of fly fisherman today also want instant access to other anglers fishing locations. “Where at?”, or “What stream” are always found in the comment sections of the post I put up on social media. “Looking for a good stream to fish in the “Smithtown” area. Any Suggestions” type of posts are all too common these days. Many of today’s anglers just want to have everything handed to them, including where to catch fish. Experienced anglers have put in a lot of time and effort to find the locations they fish and are hesitant to openly post the exact locations they were fishing.  Also the sense of adventure and the unknown can turn  your fishing trip into an adrenaline rush. The new fly Angler is missing out on so much by just asking for a spot and going to it. There is so much more value to stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring than you may realize right now. Of course you may strike out a few times, but you may also find a hidden treasure. This can only be done by not fearing the risks, and going after the possible reward.
I admire these new comers and often offer my advice to them on these types of posts, but I am now starting to also give the advice that they need to enjoy the struggle. Every new fly fisherman will struggle. What these anglers don’t realize is that the struggle is by far the most exciting time as a fly angler, and can really mold them to becoming a better angler in the long run. Instant success is not long lasting in any aspects of life, and is especially true in fly fishing.  Working hard to understand different ventures of fly fishing and fly tying will give you a very sturdy foundation to build from.

To you newbies out there reading this I want you to enjoy the struggle. I suggest that you learn from the struggles you are having, and try to learn by trial and error to correct them, instead of rushing to Facebook or You Tube for the instant answers. Don’t let all of the info out there cloud up your end goal, and give you a Swiss cheese foundation. Look at the resources available on streams, and get out and explore. Maybe take a look at your states fishing agency, to see what streams are stocked with trout. Look up biologists reports to find streams that hold naturally reproducing trout.  Don't let the amount of fish you catch even be an item on your list of struggles in the early years. Don’t fear the struggle but embrace it. 
Remember that you are learning, and building a foundation. Focus less on the number of fish you catch, and more on how to achieve a drag free drift. Worry less about the fact that you didn’t catch anything, and focus more on asking yourself why you didn’t catch any fish. Focus on the basic fundamentals  and elements to catch a fish over anything else. The very first time that you beat the struggle is quite an adrenaline rush. The first time that you are able to read the water, make the perfect drift, see the take, have a good hook set, and land that first fish is one of the most exhilarating experiences that you will have fly fishing. Once you achieve this you will strive to do it again and again. Each time you cross another struggle off of your list with fly fishing or fly tying you are growing.  You will not experience that same feeling of excitement again as you grow as a fly fisherman and start to consistently catch trout. I often miss that feeling of accomplishment. Now I often catch fish that I knew would be laying there there, based on reading the water. A simple roll cast up stream, lifting my rod tip, and tracking my flies until the take is more or less second nature now, and will be for you too eventually. Key word being eventually!
You can not become George Daniel, or Lance Egan overnight, heck I am not even close to their level and I have been at it for 14 years. Don’t expect to land 10-15 trout per trip consistently for the first few years of fly fishing. Do everything in your power to learn, and grow on your own, and do research on stream locations on your own. You will get much more satisfaction this way. Ask questions or watch videos to form your foundation, then build your walls by spending time on the stream building up your skill sets. Don’t panic if you don’t catch fish right away. When you do catch a fish focus on what you did different that time, compared to the drifts where you didn’t have a take. The first few years of learning to fly fish are truly the glory days of fly fishing excitement, enjoy them.





  1. Great article Michael

  2. Michael- you are truly wise beyond your years! "Experience" is what it's all about in every sense! Well done Sir!

  3. Good information. As I was reading I kept thinking fly fishing for trout is not about instant gratification. It is the experience that makes it so enjoyable. The only way to improve is to do it. I got into fishing the Letort in Carlisle, Pa., for some years, back in the late 70's early 80's. All my skills were tested over and over. Alot of frustration and alot of time spent observing. When I first started fishing there I wasn't sure there were any trout in there. But when I started to have some success each and every fish I caught was such a feeling of accomplishment. Great memories to me now.

  4. I’ve been fly fishing for only a short amount of time. At first, I would get frustrated. I put forth a lot of effort but would catch very little fish if any. I just plugged on, and eventually, things started coming together. From small stream nymphing to fishing dry flies I started to improve. I’m 18 now, and I honestly enjoy the opportunity to learn more and more each time I go out. You couldn’t have hit the nail on the head any better with this piece.

  5. when i started fly fishing as a teenager in the early 80's, there were 3 ways to learn to fly fish. read a book. be instructed by someone, paid or unpaid. and lastly, just going out and figuring it out. i didn't have an instructor or any money to hire one as a 15 year old kid, but i did get a couple of books, and did a lot of figuring it out. i didn't catch a lot of fish on the fly back then, or i resorted to fly n bubble with my spinning gear. maybe even stick a piece of nightcrawler or something on the fly, to give it some flavor.

    fast forward 30 years, and you tube helped me to finally learn to double haul. figuring that one out from a book was just about impossible for me. i learned the properly way to line up the rod and the proper way to attach a leader with a loop to the fly line. i catch way more fish now than when i was young, but still have those days where i get skunked. today i don't worry about not catching something, i enjoy being out there doing just as much when i catch nothing, as when i clean up. well, almost as much fun.

    you young guys that are just starting out may be running into a case of information overload, like the author said. find a reliable source, simplify it, and get good at one aspect of the sport, then add another to it, and so on. that's what i've done. go back and re-learn how to fly fish. lots and lots and lots of days in a row of casting practice, and i can cast far, cast near, cast in the dark, with my eyes closed, while walking and hit the target pretty much most of the time. it's become second nature.

    you tube also showed me how to fix the ac on my truck, which broke again right after

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