ARE WE MAKING FLY FISHING TOO DIFFICULT FOR BEGINNERS?
As I read posts on FAOL I constantly read about the problems that new fly fishers are having or have had and I cannot help but wonder if we are making fly fishing too difficult for beginners to grasp. For instance, I see posts from people stating that they tried fly fishing several years ago and quit because they just could not do all that is required. I have read posts that state that they would like to learn how to fly fish because watching a fly fisherman fish looks so relaxing and looks like fun, but, they just do not think that they could master all that casting they see being done. When I am fly fishing the rivers I run into many spin fisherman, young and old, that have an interest in learning fly fishing but make statements that they just do not want to learn about all the bugs that you need to know and hatches. They know that their Mepps Spinner or Roostertail spinner will catch fish and they have confidence in using them, but they still have that inner drive to learn fly fishing.
Are we making the sport sound difficult to learn? If we are, are we keeping beginners from learning? If we are, then our sport of fly fishing may "dry up on the vine" and no longer have the power to get more support from those who control the money that could help us by improving the water quality and the trout program. If we are, then the prices we have to pay for our equipment will continue to rise because the demand will be low.
What do we need to do to attract more beginners to this sport? I have a few suggestions that some may find interesting and some will immediately "turn their noses up" and quit reading. The following are some of my thoughts on this:
The first problem is that some people believe that you must learn what kind of "bugs" are in your river system and you MUST "match the hatch" if you want to learn to catch any trout. Now ask yourself, is that really true? I got out of tournament bass fishing over 20 years ago and picked up a fly rod and went to the rivers to escape the crowds and recapture the joy of fishing. That was over 20 years ago and I know nothing about the bugs in my rivers. I never worry about the "hatch". I will tie a fly on my tippet at the parking lot before ever walking to the river to see what is "hatching" and, guess what, I will catch trout. About 96% of the time I will be in the "double digits" with how many trout I have caught. Yes, I have a counter and use it, so, get over it! That is just my "style". When I begin the day, I zero the counter and use the last time out number as my goal to either match or exceed. It is just what I do to provide the goal and challenge I need. I tie my own flies and very seldom use anything smaller than a #12 hook. I use buggers, flymphs and wets that have a lot of movement in the material in the water because I heard a guide at a TU meeting state that a trout is not the smartest fish we fish for, but they know the difference between something that looks alive and something that does not look alive and they like to eat what looks alive. He stated that if a trout turned away from your fly at the last second, it was probably because your fly just did not look like something that was alive and trying to get away which a "bug" in the river would be doing. Why do we insist that a new fly fisherman must fish a size 20 or smaller if they want to catch fish? Do you not remember how difficult it was for you to fish flies that small and how difficult it was to keep a fish on that small of a hook when they did bite it? No, I am not saying that "matching the hatch" is not important because it is for some, but if you want to attract new people to the sport and keep their interest you better get them "catching" fish because if you don't, they will quit and go back to what was "catching" fish for them. Start beginners off with something that is easier to fish with and does not require a lot of "learned" experience and time on the water before they learn to fish it properly to catch fish.
My opinion is that dry fly fishing and midge fishing is not the proper way to start out beginners to this sport. Those two forms of fly fishing take a lot of time on the water to learn to fish properly before one begins to catch fish on them. Once learned they are something that you need to be very proud that you can now present them properly and catch fish on them. I guess what I am suggesting is to start the beginner out with a fly that is easier to present and catches fish for them and more forgiving if not presented right. Once they start "catching", then they will be "hooked" on the fun of a fly rod and it then becomes their choice if they want to learn dry fly or midge fishing. Let's face it, some fly fisher people are content with just presenting a dry fly or midge perfectly on the water and are not concerned with "catching". That is the enjoyment they receive from fly fishing and that is great. Beginners want to catch fish and once that happens, they may stick with the fly rod and have an interest in learning more.
Another problem I wish someone would correct is with the "casting" part. A lot of people I run into on the water state they do not think they can do all the "casting" they have seen people doing either on the water or in a video. After questioning them on what they are referring to I find that no one explained that all that "casting" they were observing was being done by a dry fly fisher person to dry the fly out so that it would set higher in the water and that they would not need to learn to do all that "casting" with a bugger or flymph when they are learning the sport at first. That is something that they will want to learn later when and if they should decide to fish dries.
If you are still reading this, I apologize for the length of it but on second thought, no, I do not apologize. This is something I feel is very important to this sport and if we want to get more people interested we need to keep it simple to learn. I feel it is more important to start beginners out with "catching" and let them progress to the more difficult forms of "catching" when and if they want to. I say "when and if" because I have been fly fishing for over 20 years and have not had the desire to learn the art of dry fly fishing or midge fishing. I guess I am satisfied with the "catching" and buggers, flymphs and wets are what I use and teach to beginners and I am proud to say that some of the beginners I taught to "catch" have now progressed to dry fly and midge fishing and I am very proud of them. Those who catch their fish with dries and midges need to hold their heads high and be proud of their accomplishments. I guess I just do not want to put that much work into my fly fishing.
My opinion: Start beginners out "catching" and let them decide where they want to go with it from there and maybe, just maybe, they will stick with the fly rod. If they continue with the fly rod long enough they will discover that the fly rod will also show them the sounds of water running over rocks, nature in its purest form, peace and quiet, solitude and bring them closer to their Creator.
Warren Patterson (WarrenP on FAOL)