Spencer Knibbe is the Managing Editor of Feather and Fin, an outdoor blog focused on all things fly fishing and upland hunting. He is an avid outdoorsman forged in the tradition of chasing brook trout and ruffed grouse through the New England woods. Spencer is passionate about conservation and ensuring the continuation of the traditions for generations to come. He resides in Ridgefield, Connecticut with his wife and two sons.
Managing Editor, Feather and Fin
Fly fishing is both easy and accessible for the first-time angler. However, many would-be fly fishers never pick up a rod due to false perceptions and perceived ‘barriers to entry.’
Every potential entrant that forgoes waders for another pursuit is not only a missed benefit to the fly fishing community, but sadly a lost comrade in our fight to ensure the survival of the delicate ecosystems that support the beautiful variety of fish we hold dear.
As with anything else in this great life, a missed opportunity is a regrettable shame – particularly if it is due to a misconstrued notion. I constantly bump into these illusions and feel compelled to counter them in the hope that the open-minded beginner will read this, pick up a fly rod, and give it a try. Here is a list of the top five most commonly held fly fishing misconceptions that I have encountered over the years.
1) Fly fishing is too difficult and complicated.
Fly fishing is no different than any other type of fishing – it involves a rod, a reel, some line, and a lure…in this case a hook adorned with various materials to mimic a fish’s natural prey. Throw in some basic waders for those who do not want to get wet, and that’s about it. Forget the classic image of the goofy fly fisher wearing a vest packed full of knick-knacks and gadgets. Similar to all other forms of fishing, casting takes a few tries but ultimately the angler will pick it up with some practice. It does not have to be graceful or pretty, just get the lure in front of the fish without spooking it…that’s it, you will catch fish and your skills will improve with more time spent on the water.
2) The gear is too expensive.
It’s not…Similar to any other activity one may pursue, there are degrees of gear – there are ‘high’ end, expensive brands, ‘lower’ end budget brands, and everything in between. Often there is no correlation between price and quality. There are many very high quality, high performance options available in all gear categories for the beginner who has yet to fully commit to the sport. With a bit of research, you’ll easily find the right option for your price point – whatever it may be.
3) Fly fishing seems snobby and elitist to me.
This was my impression when I started out, and I am glad I ignored it. I was embarrassed to ask questions at my local fly shop because I felt the staff looked down their noses at me…shocked that I would actually ask them about the difference between a 5WT and a 6WT. I quickly learned that my first experience was the exception and while a few people who derive a sad sense of self-worth from belittling others’ and extolling their own virtues, the fly fishing community is full of men and women who truly care about the environment, building relationships, and introducing others to the sport. The stodgy codgers who exclusively fish dry flies upstream on cloudless 65 degree mornings in May have gone the way of the automatic fly reel. They have been replaced by a vibrant, diverse group of anglers who are challenging the norms of the sport in new and exciting ways…to the benefit of everyone.
4) I don’t live near trout water.
It doesn’t matter, fly fishing is not a one species game. We all live near a fish-able body of water of some sort – pond, stream, river, or the ocean. You can use a fly rod to catch anything that can be caught on a traditional rig, in freshwater and in salt. Some of my most exciting fly fishing moments have been targeting species other than trout – don’t let it stop you from getting out there.
5) I don’t have a mentor or someone who I can go out with.
The fly fishing community embraces newcomers with open arms…take advantage of it. I urge every new angler to join Trout Unlimited. There are chapters nationwide and, for little money, new members gain instant access to the knowledge base of other members, frequent chapter outings, a large supply of ad hoc fishing buddies, and impactful local conservation initiatives. Though you may not live near trout water, TU is less about the species and more about the fly fishing community in general. The willing angler should never be very far away from a like-minded companion willing to get out there and introduce someone else to this wonderful world.
If you suffer from one of these misunderstandings, I encourage you to reconsider. You are depriving yourself of a new world of beautiful places, cherished relationships, and breathtaking excitement. Please take advantage of the many readily available resources out there (e.g. books, Orvis Fly Fishing 101, etc), find a buddy, and join Trout Unlimited. You will thank me.