How to prepare for your first fly fishing trip

By Sigurd Neubauer

12/03/2022

For those of us with fond childhood memories involving recreational fishing but never got around to learn fly fishing, do not despair. With spring just around the corner, the very thought of picking up a new hobby as the weather warms is a dream within reach.

But before you embark on your next adventure, due diligence and preparations are required for it to be successful. Otherwise, all you’ll catch are leaves.

A first step, of course, is to determine what kind of equipment and how much it is going to cost you. The last thing you want is to spent hundreds of dollars on equipment and gear for it to end up only collecting dust in the garage. If your wife is a minimalist, who doesn’t like clutter, a little preparation for a new hobby – even if it is aspirational only at this stage – can be beneficial to your marriage as well.

With all these factors in mind, I spoke to fly fishing pro Steve Moore, author of Hacking Fly Fishing: Keep Your Sanity and Don’t Go Broke, who is also a blogger and YouTube personality.

“I first got into fly fishing with my younger brother Dave but kept getting hung up with all the leaves,” Moore says with a laugh. Moore kept watching his brother catch fish but couldn’t even get a nibble.

Taking the matter into his hands, Moore purchased a fly fishing kit and watched several videos before returning to a stream.

“This is how I became a fly fishing enthusiast,” Moore recalls but cautions the aspirational angler against buying expensive equipment. “The quality of the high-end equipment is good, but it does not match with a beginners’ lack of skill,” he explains.

A budget of $100 for a rod and $40 for a reel is a good place to start, Moore says but emphasizes that it all “depends on how sure you are about wanting to learn fly fishing”.

Next, a fly fishing line will cost between $3 to $40 on the high-end while an average price of a pair of waders are around $60. He cautions, however, that the aspirating angler must avoid what he describes developing a “boot foot” because he can slip and fall on rocks.

Instead of waders, Moore recommends a proper pare of wading boots, which averages around $80. He also recommends getting wading boots with studs, along with a stick to keep the balance.

“The one kind of boot you must avoid is one with a felt bottom as the material carries invasive species from one stream to another,” he says.

What the aspirational angler needs is a rod, reel and line, along with a fly fishing vest which carries all the tools. “I strongly recommend a grey vest as predators like birds and fish can’t see blue. Gray helps you blend in easier,” Moore explains.

Fly fishing enthusiast Steve Moore says one can join a club to learn new skills

How to learn

There are four ways to learn fly fishing. The first is to hire a pro for a half-day fishing excursion, which costs around $400. “The benefit is that you learn the basics from the expert as he’s able to show you in real time.  He’s there to help you fish and improve,” Moore says.  But cautions that it is important to do a bit of internet research before selecting a pro to ensure that one is getting the best possible experience as well as your money’s worth.

The second way to learn is to schedule a class with a certified fly fishing school, which is provided by either Orvis or LLBeen. “Both companies make excellent equipment and have fly fishing schools all over the country,” says Moore. The price for a day course is around $280, he adds.

Orvis provides programming for families and children. The company also has a two-day version.  While equipment is generally provided, Moore suggests inquiring about it before attending.

“You’ll learn the skills in one day, but like anything else, it takes practice to excel at it,” Moore says.

The third way is to join a fly fishing club. Some clubs have membership fees and others are volunteer run, Moore explains. On the upside, he says, “when you join you develop camaraderie with fellow enthusiasts. Your newfound friends will not only share their fishing experiences as you seek to develop skills, but they can also show you the best places to fish.” Many of the clubs are organized under the umbrella of Fly Fishers International.

Moore recommends joining a club to expand the horizons as the aspirating angler will learn much more from being a part of a community then from internet searches and YouTube videos.

The last way to learn, Moore says, “is to find a very patient friend who is willing to show you the stroke and techniques. Having a friend is a very good source as it is very hard to learn it on your own.”

Once the angler has decided to pursue his new hobby, the time has naturally arrived for purchasing equipment.

Moore cautions that one should not buy flies until the angler knows where he will fish and during what season. People tend to fish close to home, he adds.

He advices the aspiring angler to look up the relevant state Department of Natural Resources where information about when rivers and creeks stocked with fish are to be found.

Etiquette for equipment purchase

“The proper etiquette for inquiring in a fly fishing store about equipment is to purchase a couple of flies even if you have them because the store needs to stay in business so that it can continue to provide advice,” Moore says while clarifying that one should only buy the flies that are needed for a planned fishing expedition.

Moore cautions that one should not buy flies until the angler knows where he will fish and during what season

Safety first

In addition to ensuring that one has the right equipment, Moore takes an uncompromising stance on safety which is why he insists that everyone fishing in a river must wear a personal flotation device.

Always bring a friend when fishing, he says while adding that in addition to doing so he has a subscription-based satellite beacon service with a 911 button to summon help in the event of an emergency.

“What happens if you break a leg? Do you want your friend to leave you to get help? You could go into shock” Moore asks rhetorically, explaining why he has the beacon.

He adds that when fishing with a friend, bring an FRS radio along with sunscreen and appropriate clothing.

You will have a blast, he concludes.

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