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8 Ways to Be a Better Fly Fisherman

Want to be a better fly fisherman or woman?


Fly fishing can be a sport with a surprisingly steep learning curve. On one hand, the casting motion has a lot in common with other types of fishing. On the other hand, fly fishing can be difficult to master thanks to its wealth of different lures and the unique strategies that fly anglers employ here that they wouldn’t in other types of fishing. If you are looking to become a better fly angler, consider following any or all of the eight tips listed below.

View the slide show to become a better fly fisherman.

1. Learn to tie as many flies as possible

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Want to be an expert fly fisherman? It’s not all about catching the fish. On the contrary, if you are going to be a specialist in the art of fly fishing, you aren’t just going to rely on your ability to ensnare fish, but also on your craftsmanship when it comes to tying flies. Sure, you can buy pre-tied flies from fishing outfitters, but there’s something to be said for catching a fish with a fly you tied yourself. Learning to tie a wide range of flies can also help you to memorize which flies are best for different varieties of fish and different varieties of fishing scenarios. From saltwater to freshwater, sizable game fish to smaller species, trout to bass, deep water fishing to flats fishing, a skilled fly fisherman always knows which fly is appropriate, and that’s a kind of knowledge that can really only come from learning to tie all the flies yourself.

2. Learn to fish your flies in different ways

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With that said, simply being able to tie a wide variety of flies – or having an encyclopedic knowledge of which flies work best when – won’t automatically make you a great fly fisherman. On the contrary, some fly anglers are of the mind that you only need a dozen different flies in your tackle box at any given time. Indeed, having hundreds of flies in your box can be an incredibly overwhelming thing, and if you instead learn how to fish 10 or 12 key flies in a variety of different situations, that may well prove to be a better choice for you.

3. Teach others to fly fish

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Arguably the best way to become better, not only at fly fishing, but at just about anything, is to teach someone else how to do it. When you teach something to someone else, you are forced to look at it in a different way than you otherwise ever would. Since people understand things differently, a teacher might have to try four or five different angles to communicate a subject to their pupil. When your subject is fly fishing, these different communicative attempts can help you to form a deep and comprehensive understanding of the sport that you didn’t have when it was just you, a rod, and a reel. In addition, as you teach people how to fish and watch them work, you may find yourself actually learning techniques and strategies from them that you might not have ever thought of.

4. Read books, magazines, and online articles

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An awful lot has been written over the years about fly fishing, both in the form of fiction (novels like A River Runs Through It and The River Why are bona-fide literary classics) and non-fiction. Whether you prefer to disappear into a story that involves fly fishing or read a guidebook or article full of tips and tricks of the trade, you can learn an awful lot about this sport simply from reading about it. Compile a reading list for yourself and try to knock out a book or article at least once a week. Take note of what you learn so you remember to put it into practice when you head out to fish.

5. Know how to play fly sizes

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Different fly varieties are rendered more disparate by the fact that almost all of them come in a range of different sizes. For your favorite flies, always have a few different sizes of each on hand, just in case. For the others, consider which fish you are shooting for and then do some research into your flies to determine which sizes will be most efficient in netting your desired result.

6. Be patient and learn from mistakes

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As with hunting or any other type of fishing, fly fishing is a sport that is all about patience and resilience. You need to be able to sit in the same spot, trying out different fly strategies for hours, and knowing that you may or may not catch a fish. You need to remember that every time you change out a fly, you are spooking fish and diminishing the time that the fly can be in the water enticing them. Furthermore, if you make a mistake and lose a fish thanks to a slipped hook or a broken line, you need to be able to keep on trucking and to understand why you lost the fish. An angler who can stay strong and learn from his or her mistakes is one who will eventually find success.

7. Try out fishing in all different types of water, for all different types of fish

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If you want to improve as a fly fisherman, you need to take every opportunity to expand your horizons, use different flies and strategies, and go after different kinds of fish. If you find a combination of fly and fishing spot that seems to net you a trout or two every single time you fish there, it can be difficult to want to shake things up a bit. However, if you only fish in the same way every time, you won’t learn anything or improve, and you’ll eventually get bored as a result – even if you are catching good fish.

8. Be willing to experiment

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In the same spirit as the last tip, remember that it’s okay every once in awhile to set aside fishing days as “experimental outings.” If you’re fishing a new lake or pond for the first time, or if you’re testing out a new batch of flies, why not also play around with your fishing technique? Try different strategies with casting or manipulating your line and your fly to stir up fish interest. You could hit upon a few dud techniques, but you also could discover a new way of catching fish.

Check out another fishing slide show…

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8 Ways to Be a Better Fly Fisherman