Are you new to fly fishing? It can be a slightly confusing hobby for newcomers; but the good news for anyone getting started is that it’s a friendly and accessible sport.
1. Pick an easy venue to begin with, preferably with lots of casting space and plenty of fish. Small, stocked stillwaters are ideal because you needn’t cast far and the fishing is consistently good. You can always graduate to natural waters such as rivers once you have the basic skills.
2. Choose a reliable starter outfit. You needn’t spend huge sums of money, but do go for a reputable make. Airflo and Snowbee are two companies that make good quality starter kits that won’t break the bank. A good all round fly outfit for stillwater fishing would be something like a nine foot, six-weight rod, reel and line.
3. You will see many kinds of fly line (the thicker, coloured line that provides the casting weight in fly fishing), but start with a simple floating version. To this you will attach your regular, clear line, often called the “leader”. A handful of “tapered leaders” are well worth buying too, because these help your casts land neatly without scaring the fish. Start with a leader about as long as your rod (9ft).
4. Begin your collection of flies with a few tried and trusted patterns. For the stillwater beginner, you won’t go too far wrong with flies like the Cat’s Whisker, Viva, Fritz, Hare’s Ear, Diawl Bach and Montana. Several companies, such as Turrall, sell selections of quality flies with a handy box included. Don’t buy too many to start with though and try to avoid bargain basement flies; the price can often reflect the quality and cheap flies often use hooks that lack strength and sharpness.
5. Get yourself a pair of polarising sunglasses. These are very important for two reasons: not only do they protect your eyes from wayward casts and hooks, but they also help you to spot fish by removing the glare on the water.
6. Practise casting on grass at first. A piece of wool or fly with the point nipped off is ideal to avoid catching trees and obstacles! You might feel odd doing this on your lawn or at the park, but it’s well worth focusing all your efforts purely on casting from time to time, without the distraction of fish!
7. Get familiar with basic fishing knots. If you were to learn only two to start with, these would be the half blood knot (the easiest way to tie a fly or hook to line!) and the overhand loop knot. There are lots of free resources online these days.
8. If you’re new to fishing, or just new to a particular fishery, do check the rules carefully. On most wild fisheries, all fish must be released. With stocked trout lakes, the reverse is often true and you must kill your catch. Wherever you fish, you will also need a rod license; these can be bought from most Post Offices or online. For most beginners, the “coarse fish and non migratory trout” license is the one you want, unless you intend to fish for salmon. Under 16s can apply for a free license. Note that in most cases you will also have to pay a day or season ticket from the fishery owner or local club.
9. It’s always worth chatting to other anglers, whether on the bank, online or in the tackle shop. Indeed, one of the best things about fly fishing is that it is such a friendly sport and anglers love to share advice and ideas! Be sociable and you’ll often pick up useful information, whether it’s a hot spot to try or which flies are working best.
10. Last but not least, it is well worth booking a session with a coach or guide if you are new to the sport because they can provide a big head start and save a lot of frustration. In the space of a few hours, a guide can often teach you things that would take several seasons to figure out for yourself. It may be worth asking at local fishing clubs and looking out for events too, where demonstrations and “have a go” sessions are often a helpful feature.
All pictures are the copyright of Dominic Garnett & Lake Country House
Lake Country House is a fantastic destination for fly fishers of all abilities. As the name suggests, the hotel’s idyllic grounds include a wonderful fly fishing lake for guests. This is well stocked with rainbow trout and open all year. The hotel also has special access to seven miles of the beautiful River Irfon. Nationally renowned for its excellent trout and grayling fishing, it is excellent for the slightly more experienced fly fisher. Fishing is for hotel guests only.
Dominic Garnett is a fishing writer and licensed coach based in Devon, South West England. Besides a weekly column in the Angling Times, he is the author of the UK version of Fishing for Dummies, Amazon bestseller Flyfishing for Coarse Fish and the acclaimed collection of fishing tales Crooked Lines. You can read his regular blog and discover more about his books and guiding services at www.dgfishing.co.uk