Journey of a New Agnler

A New Angler’s Journey: Wade into Fly Fishing

Welcome to the Enchanting World of Fly Fishing

I am excited for you. Congratulations on starting this fly fishing adventure; I sincerely hope to participate. Sign up here for more content and fun, and connect with me through the social media links at the bottom of the page.

Every time I step into a river or stream, I still get giddy about being there. That’s one of the significant aspects of fly-fishing; it is something you will never perfect, and, at times, even after decades of fly-fishing, you will still feel like a beginner, especially when you catch that gnarly tree branch instead of the beautiful, hungry brookie feeding in the shade behind the giant boulder.

Imagine standing on the banks of a rushing stream or beside the serene waters of a secluded lake. You’re about to engage with nature in a way few other activities can match. Fly fishing is an art steeped in history, where every flick of the rod and precision of the line unfolds like a story waiting to be told. With holiday spirits high and your new fly-fishing kit in hand, embark on an angling adventure that will challenge and reward you equally.

For me, fly fishing is meditative and healing. Whether suffering through depression or anxiety, fly fishing has provided great relief for me. It’s also an escape from the self-imposed race to get through each day. It allows me to live purely and simply in the moment, return to nature, and think about nothing else. Academic and scientific research indicates that there is something special about this sport. I find peace on the water whether I catch a fish or not. Organizations like Casting for Recovery and Project Healing Waters utilize fly fishing to rehabilitate people living with breast cancer and breast cancer survivors and combat veterans, respectively. These two groups significantly improve peoples’ suffering out on the water. During a time when chaos seems to reign on social media, network television, and the world in general, forest streams and rivers provide a much-needed respite for all of us. Welcome to the peaceful world of fly fishing.

If you take away only one thing from this article, let it be this:

  1. Get outside and hit the water.
  2. Don’t wait until next week or tomorrow.
  3. Just go right now and find some peace and serenity on the water.

The First Cast: Essential Gear and Techniques

Understanding Lines, Leaders, and Tippet

Before we get into lines, leaders, and tippet, let’s first discuss the overall cost of fly fishing. This sport does not have to cost a fortune, but it can if you’re willing to spend. The ancient proverb “you get what you pay for” rings particularly true in fly fishing, but you DO NOT need to spend much money to get started. You can go to a big-box retailer and purchase a starter outfit for under $100. It will be acceptable to begin with that; it is a way to test the experience before committing fully. But I recommend spending a little more and starting with something along these lines:




Moonshine Rod Co.

Of the recommendations above, I have only personally used the Orvis Clearwater, so research warranties and pricing and come to your conclusions. I also have an Orvis Recon 3-wt rod, but I would recommend starting with something other than that. A 5-wt rod is far more usable in a variety of different environments. Others are out there, so a quick Google search will take you to some far reaches of the fly fishing for beginners realm. I will say, though, that I smashed my Clearwater in my car door this summer, and Orvis replaced the rod, no questions asked. I snapped my 3-wt Orvis Recon on the water the day after purchasing it, and they replaced it in the store the same way.

The warranties from fly rod and reel companies can vary, but I have smashed rods in car doors and snapped them on trees and bushes while moving from one hole to another. It helps to have a warranty, which is part of the price.

The foundation of fly fishing lies in understanding your gear. The fly line is arguably the most crucial component of your tackle. The right fly line will allow you to present your fly most naturally and effectively. Good “presentation” is challenging to master, but don’t let that stop you from getting started. Fly-fishing legends still don’t do it right every time – none of us do, no matter what anybody tells you! Presentation is the ballet-like choreography between your arm, the rod, the line, the leader, the tippet, and ultimately the fly. In its simplest terms, a good presentation is gently landing the fly on or in the water without a giant splash or ripple from the line and leader, thus simulating a bug of some kind landing delicately on the water.

Beginners will likely start with a floating line as it covers many fishing conditions and is easier to learn. Sinking lines are typically used in deep waters where fish feed below the surface, while sink-tip lines are great for stream fishing where you need a mix of both. 

As a kid, I started with a good floating line with regular monofilament (mono) leaders and tippet and have had success ever since. While sink-tip lines are beneficial in certain situations, I can keep my floating line on and add fluorocarbon leaders to achieve the depth I need in deeper pools. Is it perfect, and am I a professional angler? No, but it works. There are also techniques I will discuss in future articles, like the dry dropper, that can provide methods for finding fish at various levels in the water column (and we’ll examine the water column, too).  

Fluro is dense and sinks faster than mono. When you need to get deeper in the water column and submerge a fly, fluoro is the way to go. Mono is less dense and floats just like the floating line. Mono is my go-to leader and tippet material with dry flies.

The leader connects the fly line to the tippet and, ultimately, the fly. The clear, tapering leader is designed to present your fly in a manner that mimics natural prey, while the tippet adds additional invisibility and finesse. Think of the leader and tippet as the bridge between your brain and the prize. It’s essential to match the size of your tippet with the fly you’re using – finer tippets for smaller flies and more robust, thicker ones for larger or heavier flies. You will feel it if you have not matched your line, leader, tippet, and fly-weights correctly. Casting will be jerky, and you will know something needs fixing.

Mastering Your Knots: The Foundation of Fly Fishing

Knots are the unsung heroes of fly fishing. Your arsenal should include a range of knots, with the Double Surgeon’s Knot being your go-to for its robustness and ease of tying. The improved clinch knot is essential for attaching the fly to the tippet. It is simple to tie and strong enough to hold your catch. The perfection loop knot is also crucial; it allows you to change leaders quickly and is ideal for connecting the fly line to the leader when loop-to-loop connections are required. Start with the clinch knot for the fly, though, and use the provided loop on the leader to get everything set up and get you out on the water initially.

The Art of Choosing Flies: A Seasonal Approach

Deciphering The Mysteries of Fly Types

Your flies are your bait, and choosing the right one is akin to selecting the right lure in conventional fishing. Thousands of fly patterns are available, each designed to imitate specific prey at various life stages. Don’t let the variety intimidate you. You should figure out what bugs are flying or hatching and pick flies that match those in your area. Some flies are 100% better than others, and it is important to determine accurately, but to get started, get a fly that looks like something a fish might eat and get out on the water! If they’re hungry, they’ll devour it! 

When picking up flies at your local outfitter or fly shop, the regional experts will tell you what works well on nearby water. If you’re ordering online, ask me on Instagram or Facebook. I am always willing to help. If I don’t know the answer, I won’t make it up, but I will assist you find it. Sometimes, it takes a village to get a fish out of the water!

While the Chubby Chernobyl is an excellent choice for its visibility and buoyancy, other dry flies like the Elk Hair Caddis and the Adams cover a variety of insect hatches that trout feed on. Wet flies, nymphs, and streamers dive beneath the surface to entice fish looking for a bigger meal. The Woolly Bugger and the Pheasant Tail Nymph are time-tested patterns that can trigger bites in various conditions. In winter, freestone and spring creeks present excellent opportunities to tie on some midges, cress bugs, and shrimp. I will post some videos of the flies I use for specific situations and provide some fly-tying videos (subscribe here). If you want to buy them instead, I plan on selling a small selection of flies through this website shortly, so sign up for updates. 

Aligning with the Seasons and Fish Behavior

In spring, when waters flow clear and cold, and temperatures rise, trout feed aggressively after a long winter, targeting emerging insects like mayflies and caddis. In summer, when hatches peak, dry flies become exceptionally effective, allowing for exciting surface action as fish leap to catch their prey. As summer wanes and fall takes hold, the focus shifts to larger flies as fish bulk up for winter.

During these cooler months, flies that imitate baitfish, like streamers, take center stage. When targeting bass as they prepare for spawning, adjust your selection to include more significant prey profiles like the Game Changer and various crayfish patterns as the water warms.

Sunny days may call for lighter-colored flies, while overcast weather can be an excellent opportunity to experiment with darker patterns. Always observe the natural insects and baitfish present, as matching the local hatch is fundamental to fly fishing success.

Reading the Water: Locating Your Trophy

Advanced Tips on Reading Water

“Reading water” isn’t just a skill; it’s a dialogue with the ecosystem. Understanding currents, discharge rates, temperatures, depth changes, and water clarity affects where fish hold and feed. Study the seams where fast-running water meets slower pools, as these interfaces are usual hotspots for feeding fish. Overhead birds circling and diving can indicate insect activity and, subsequently, fish presence.

Anglers have different opinions and varying experiences. If offered advice, take it, try it, keep what works for you, and move on. The one thing we can all agree on is that the fish are under the water.
I don’t have a doctorate in this stuff, but trout focus on efficient feeding to me. Fish want to avoid expending energy swimming up and downstream, endlessly finding food. Instead, they will hover in a calm spot next to a stronger current of running water and wait for prey to come to them. Once they see something tasty, they will charge at it and enjoy a fresh farm-to-table meal.

Moreover, understanding the habits of your target species during various weather conditions and times of day can give you a decided advantage. Early mornings and late evenings during summer are often the best times to catch trout rising to feed on insects. With this in mind, it is also essential to understand the impact of a catch on a fish, notably when correlated with water temperature.

Also vital is handling a fish during a catch and release. Your actions at that moment can affect the fish’s ability to reproduce and, ultimately, its survival. Wet your hands before handling the fish to preserve its exterior coating. Make every attempt to keep the fish in the water. Use crimpers to get a hook out if your fingers are ineffective. If you must take a picture, make it quick. Remember that every second the fish is on the line and in your hands, it is in shock and under stress. Shock and stress significantly impact that fish. Treat each one with respect and help us ensure the population in local streams remains relatively unaffected by our presence.

Wrapping Up: Conservation and Continuous Learning

Embracing Stewardship and Knowledge

The privilege of fly fishing comes with the responsibility to protect our waterways. Conservation opportunities, like participating in stream cleanups and adhering to catch-and-release best practices, ensure the future of our sport. Take an active interest in exploring your local area and find new corners of your state, province, or country that you would have yet to discover. Learn about the water quality of your various waterways and seek an understanding of what affects them. Is the stream fine? Great. Is the stream affected by local agriculture, storm runoff, mining, dumping, or pollution? If so, get involved; you’ll find that you can make a difference.

Fly fishing is an infinite learning curve; each outing presents new challenges and opportunities to refine your approach. Read extensively, from classic angler tales to modern tactical guides. I recommend some of my favorite fly fishing books below. You don’t necessarily need to read them cover to cover, but you can use the information and guidance as a reference when questions pop up. Consider keeping a journal of your outings, noting what worked and what didn’t. Over time, you’ll amass a personal repository of wisdom.

Weaving the Social Fabric of Fly Fishing

The angling community is as rich and diverse as the sport itself. People in this sport are fantastic. There is just no other way to say it. By joining local conservation groups or participating in forums, you engage with a wealth of knowledge that can accelerate your growth as an angler. Be active in local angling clubs, attend fly-tying workshops, and support river restoration projects. Sharing stories with peers and mentors weaves you into the communal tapestry of fly fishing.

Regarding safety, my primary recommendation is to ensure someone always knows where you are if you’re heading out for a solo trip. Weird things happen, and someone should know when you are supposed to check in. If running to water with a high discharge rate and slippery rocks like the famous Savage River in Maryland, bring a wading stick. You will not regret it. And cleats for wading boots are a must in waters like this. If people are white water rafting where you’re fishing, cleats, wading sticks, and check-in times are a must.

Casting Into the Current: Your Fly Fishing Endeavor Begins

Embrace the patience and persistence that fly fishing demands. Each cast is an opportunity, each strike is a lesson, and with time, you’ll develop an intuitive sense of the waters you fish. Welcome to the riverbank, where nature’s ballet unfolds at the tip of your line. Your journey has no final destination—every day, every river, and every cast is a chapter in the ongoing saga of your angler’s lore. Start writing your story, and get out there!

I wish you good fortune on your fly-fishing journey. I am on mine every day, even when not on the water. The river is calling! May your lines stay tight and your waders never leak. Enjoy the journey!

I am always happy to answer questions on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. You can also sign up for my email list here. This will not be spammy; you can easily unsubscribe if you don’t like it. I send only the information that I want in my inbox. If there is information you’re interested in or questions you have, please ask because you’re not the only one.  

I appreciate you taking the time to read this article, and I hope it helps. I look forward to seeing you out on the water one day. Stay safe, relax, and have fun.

Tight lines!


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