I’ve been helping new and returning fly fishers to get the most out of their fishing sessions for a number of years now and I’ve seen some amazing transformations and results along the way!
Although every novice fly fisherman or woman is unique, I’ve noticed that there are some common issues that most beginners suffer from along with techniques they don’t know about or haven’t learnt yet like- Planning your fishing session, Mindset, Confidence, The right tackle, Finding the fish.
In this article, I’ve broken down these 5 reasons you aren’t getting the most out of your fly fishing sessions and may be finding it hard work! More importantly I’ll be telling you what you can do to fix them (because I’m kind like that).
1. Plan your fly fishing sessions
Yes I know it sounds obvious. But really, you’d be surprised how many fly anglers I know who are always on the last minute, usually forget something critical (usually me haha 🤣). This will then play on their mind, setting those mind monkeys racing and impact on confidence, which will in turn spoil their fly fishing session.
You need to have a plan. If you don’t know what you’re doing ahead of time, it’s difficult to stick to it and get the results you need. Here’s a quick checklist of key things to think about and organise-
- What time you’re leaving, do you need to swing by and collect a buddy en-route?
- How long does it take to get to your chosen fishing location (allow for travelling time there and back).
- If it’s a new fishing location, have you got directions?
- Tackle up the evening before, getting all your gear ready and loaded in the car.
- Get as much information on the fishing spot as possible, best flies, tackle and techniques to use.
- For longer sessions ensure you have the correct clothing, waterproofs, enough food, water, (beer!) insect repellent and or sun cream.
- If overnight or longer have you booked accommodation?
- Do you need a guide, gillie or instructor?
2. Fly fishing mindset
I believe it was the famous baseball player Yogi Berra once stated, “90% of the game is half mental.” Well I believe it’s the same for fly fishing! It requires a big level of mental input and focus along with the physical involvement.
When You’re fishing, you’re fishing, not thinking about all the things you’ve got to do when you get home or back to work. Live in the moment.
I have developed a mindset that I switch into when I set off on a fly fishing session. It’s a positive confident state of mind, concentrating on the task at hand. I don’t go fishing hoping to catch trout; I go certain I will catch trout having confidence in my own ability, knowledge and tackle set-up. Don’t get me wrong, It’s not about being cocky or over-confident, just focused. Above all I go intending to enjoy it.
3. Fish with confidence
When you go fly fishing, if your confidence level is low or you’re just hoping to catch fish, you may be in for a long, slow, unproductive day! So how do you get and keep your confidence up as you go through a day?
Well keep reading and find out!
Always and I mean always fish with confidence.
When it comes to confidence and building it into your fishing, there’s a lot of crap advice and tosh out there! Things like the zen fishing this, that and the other. Then you get those articles alluding to using xyz technique, which will give you god-like fishing powers. All this hogwash, along with various other bollocks, is usually written and generally peddled by so-called ‘experts’ or ‘gurus.’
I don’t blame you if you’re following this advice, but if you do follow it, I think you will struggle to see any real tangible benefits. Don’t get me wrong, yes of course you need to understand how confidence can impact on your fishing, but really!
Now I’m a hands-on practical kinda guy, being from God’s own county of Yorkshire I like things “straight, no messing, done proper!” And I reckon there’s a far more practical and straightforward way to get some fishing confidence than reading a right load of tosh.
I’m no expert or guru, what I am is an experienced fly angler who wants to encourage and help newcomers and seasoned rods alike with information, knowledge and ideas which aim to develop you as fishermen and maximise your enjoyment of our fantastic sport.
So this is what I recommend and have done myself, continue to do-
Fish with skilled, experienced fly fishermen. These could be friends, fishing club members, an instructor, coach, guide or the local legend!
Pick their brains on anything and everything related to fly fishing. In my experience most fishermen are knowledgeable and happy to pass advice, tips and tricks.
Hunt these people down! Go fishing with them as much as possible, you will learn a lot from them. I guess this is my way of saying that knowledge translates into confidence and confidence up’s your game and the enjoyment you get out of it.
When on the bank casting, stay within a range you are easily capable of. Don’t flog yourself to death just to get an extra few yards on your cast. It’s far better to cast within your capability, you’ll enjoy it more and feel less stressed. (also if you’re still learning you won’t get knackered).
More importantly if you’re not trying to reach the horizon, you won’t need lots of false casts to get more line out. This benefits you with minimal water disturbance in the area you are fishing and you won’t get frustrated when you can’t achieve the distance you’re aiming for. Best of all you won’t spook any fish in that area.
Don’t worry about the choice of fly pattern too much, go with one you have caught on previously, it will help give you more confidence. Spending time trying to select the right/best fly will only frustrate you.
4. Fly fishing tackle
Most anglers take too much gear with them on their fishing sessions, two or three rods with different set-ups, space reels and lines and far too many fly boxes.
One of the most beneficial lessons I’ve learnt over the 45 years I’ve been fishing is- less is more. Do you really need all the stuff that weighs a tonne, hampers your movement and has turned you into “Packhorse Joe” Five minutes after leaving the car, you’re sweating buckets and you haven’t even got to the fishing spot yet!
Think about what you really need and if you’ll actually use it. I find that for the vast majority of my day sessions one rod & reel setup, landing net and a floating line with a small range of sinking and intermediate leaders is enough. Add a loaded lanyard or fly vest and you’re good to go!
watch out for my FREE Fly Fishing Tackle Checklist …..it’s coming soon!
Remember clothing is king! Wherever you are and for however long you intend to fish for, wear the right clothes, comfort is paramount. If you get cold, wet or too hot it will niggle away at you and you’ll lose focus, get distracted and it’ll spoil your fishing.
5. Locating the fish
You can have the best gear in the world, dozens of fly boxes full of the latest patterns but if you’re fishing in the wrong part of the lake or river you won’t catch anything. This is where knowledge and experience come into play, but you will also need to have some patience.
An experienced fishing guide once told me that he believed that the three key points to finding fish in order of priority were-
1. Location- You’ve found the correct feeding depth, water column or an area with a group of feeding fish
2. Presentation- You are casting and presenting your fly well, in a way that’s enticing the fish
3. Fly pattern- You have the first two points sorted, so the fly is on their noses, which means odds-on you will catch
To be fair this has proven to be the case with a lot of my fishing sessions!
Remember that like any skills and activities, finding where the fish are needs a good general fishing knowledge and a dose of what I call watercraft. Now this stuff takes time to learn, after 45yrs of fishing I’m still learning! It’s a process that’s built up from experience and takes time to develop. Watercraft is a broad title but it covers things like Entomology, wind direction, trout rise forms, matching the hatch, feeding depth, water temperature and colouration, along with a raft of other great stuff!! Putting in some time and effort here will really pay dividends 👍
In a nutshell it’s general fishing knowledge built up from experience and learning. It’s a vast interesting subject area, but hey don’t get daunted by it. There’s loads of resources readily available, because I’m a nice generous kinda fella 😃 I’ve listed some useful video, book and podcast links below-
- Paul Proctor- Dry fly River fishing
- Paul Procter- Entomology Class & Fly Tying
- Pocket Guide to- Matching the Hatch
- Orvis- Streamer fishing-
- Orvis- Guide to leaders, knots & tippets
- Podcast- WFS- Entomology & fly fishing
So what do you need to do now?
Well you could find a good fly fishing coach or guide in your area who will give you the right advice and information (even if it’s not always something you want to hear)
I can certainly help with this, just visit my Contact Page to get in touch and we can set something up.
I’m sure after reading this article you can see why you’re not getting the results you want. Hopefully, now you have some guidance on what you can do to fix these problems, improving your fishing sessions and maximising your enjoyment.
We were all beginners once, so don’t be too hard on yourself or set your expectations too high. We all want to be perfect casters with great presentation and know where the fish are! Fly fishing, like any specialised sport or activity, takes time to learn, experience and master.
If you need some more tailored advice and help on why you’re not getting the most out of your fly fishing and want to improve, head to my Contact Page drop me a mail, titled- “Book my power hour for just £39.95” and let’s spend some time looking at your knowledge, experience and techniques and work out a schedule/action plan that’s tailored to your needs 👍
Remember…. There’s more to fishing than fishing! Keep your head in the game, enjoy being outdoors away from all the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives and focus on your fishing! 😃
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Here’s to tight lines & wet nets 👍