I’ll never forget the day my dad took me fly fishing for the first time. In classic dad form he jumped right in and told me everything I needed to know and with great optimism. While at times it was frustrating, it was one of the greatest gifts he gave me. There are a number of best practices to abide by when it comes to teaching a new angler the ways of fly fishing and we hope to prepare you to do so through this blog. First and foremost, you must be patient! Trust me, having taught many of my friends how to fly fish it is far more frustrating as a new angler than it is for the instructor. I’ve allowed my frustrations as an instructor show and I immediately regretted it. When your mentee knows you are upset they will be timid and make unnecessary mistakes. I often find myself inadvertently whistling Three Little Birds by Bob Marley when tensions are high. Practice the “Don’t worry…about a thing” motto and it will be smooth sailing.
There are a number of things you can do before you even hit the water. You can give them a rundown of the essentials. See our Fly Fishing Preparedness blog for more details. While it is not completely necessary to take out the gear and show them, we highly recommend it. Additionally, and this will be a great precursor for tips to follow, you can practice casting on the lawn. It may seem cheesy, but you will be happy you did. Set up your rod with some yarn tied to the end of the line and cast towards a given target from various distances. Then walk them through your fly box. Explain the basics between dry flies and sub-surface flies. This step is imperative to success and involves a steep learning curve so you might as well get them thinking about it while you can. You’ll also want to go over fly fishing etiquette. I’ve ranted in the past about how infuriating thoughtless anglers can be, but I would like to think that whoever taught them to fly fish skipped this section of the lesson plan.
When you get to the water and after you determined which flies to use, begin with a few practice casts from the bank to dial in on what they learned from the lawn making sure to avoid shrubbery and trees. Then, when they are comfortable, show your mentee how to wade through the water safely. Wading, as you know, opens up a world of new holes to fish and angles from which to cast. At this point you will have a great vantage of the river and should explain the various features on the water that you’ve determined are “fishy”.
Finally, you need to prepare them for setting the hook and landing their first fish! This is when all of their training and your patience comes together. It is so rewarding watching someone you’ve taught hook into a fish and land them in their net. As a final note, show your men-tee how to properly handle and release a fish.