Fly Fishing 101 - Hook, Line, and Sinker

Jumping into Fly Fishing with Both Feet

When I'm nervous about trying something out for the first time, I frequently think about a small scene from the John Wayne movie Hondo. A 6-year-old boy is fishing a small pond and John Wayne advises him to fish from the other bank to avoid casting a shadow on the water. The boy says he can't make it over there because he can't swim. John Wayne, unable to understand why he hasn't already learned how to swim, grabs the kid and proceeds to hurl the boy head over heels into the water for an effective first lesson.

I love this scene because in 20 seconds it offers a solution to a problem most of us face often: we routinely find excuses to not do something we are genuinely interested in or find fascinating. "I can't get enough time off from work" or, "I'm afraid of making mistakes."; Blah blah blah. Fly-fishing can easily become one of the things we just push aside because we're intimidated or don't know where to start. There's so much technical knowledge involved in fly fishing that it can become overwhelming. It's a blessing and a curse. It's daunting, but it also allows for a lifetime of learning and enjoyment. If you are interested in learning to fly-fish, you have to take the leap and start somewhere, but you don't have to do it all by yourself. The easiest place to start is by walking into a fly shop and asking someone with experience for advice. They've made all the mistakes for you and can give you years of knowledge in an afternoon. There's no better way to get started.

Hook, Line and Sinker

First, you'll have to choose equipment. Brands and prices vary greatly, and it's unlikely that a beginner will be able to grasp all the subtle differences. In my opinion, you should have at least a working knowledge of the equipment before investing in a set up, and the staff at Cutthroat Anglers will be more than happy to help. Picking equipment is hard. To buy your own stuff is a large investment, so having an experienced fly fishing professional explain the pros and cons of each piece of equipment and help you decide what you're really looking for.

The first decision you will have to make is on your basic rod, reel and line combination. Here in Colorado and most of the American West a 4-6 weight rod is very typical although all different types can be found. Depending on your chosen river and terrain, you will also have to decide on the length of the rod, and the 9’ is one of the most prevalent. It allows flexibility on the smaller creeks and enough "umph" to keep you in range on the bigger ones. In the end, you'll have to try out a rod and make the hard decision on your weapon of choice. The reward of the easy sway of a top-notch rod is unbeatable, and the satisfaction of a looping cast at rising trout unforgettable.

Reels are more of a personal preference, and as long as the drag works and it can hold all your line without being overburdened, you should be in good shape. I find it useful to have a reel that lets you switch out spools quickly as you might want to alternate from floating line to sinking line. Our staff will give you invaluable information on the pros and cons of each model and can point you in the right direction. You will find that most anglers love their reel above all else. Reels are beautiful in the simplicity of their mechanics, and nothing can beat the "ZZZZZZZZZ!" of the reel singing happily as a large trout pulls out your line on a long run. I'd bet that most anglers feel the same way about that noise as car enthusiasts do about the roar of a V8 engine.

The key to choosing a line is to make sure that it works with your reel and is the same weight of the rod. Most modern rods can hold up to three weights -one above and one below their designation- so a 5 weight rod should easily handle a 4 or 6 weight line. You can use either a floating or sinking line. A floating line can more easily fish streamers or nymphs as long as the river isn't moving exceptionally fast and you don't need to get it really deep really quickly. Again, a guide can show you firsthand the benefits of specific line in a hands-on manner to really understand these subtle differences, and a good line is well worth it.

Starting the right way

Once you have the right set-up, you just need to get on the river, and a guided trip is the best way to start your journey. A rough day on the river trying to fly fish solo can easily turn someone off to fly fishing, but it doesn't have to be this way. Fly fishing is not a sport that you can pick up in a day, and it's very difficult to navigate the river without someone to explain and walk you through the process. Guided fishing is the best way to introduce anyone to the sport; the fact that the many enthusiastic fishermen who can catch plenty of fish on their own still rely on the expertise and of a local guide is a testament to the value of local knowledge.

I'm a regular patron at Cutthroat Anglers and highly recommend you stop in before heading out to the river. They have all the equipment that you don't have or might have forgotten. Also, we they have a crack team of friendly and incredibly knowledgeable guides. From floating the Colorado River to fishing the Blue River in their backyards, they are the go-to fly-shop in Summit County. If you have some free time and would like to adopt the rewarding sport of fly fishing, or if you're looking for a guided weekend, don't wait --come on in to our shop in Silverthorne or call us and try it out. John Wayne would be proud.

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