The ultimate convenience and utility of fly fishing is in the way you can meet fish on any terms they dictate. With a fly rod in hand, you may deliver flies that are light or heavy, flies as large as your palm or smaller than the freckles on your hand. You can fish flies on the surface, the rocky bottom, or the middle of the water column, and you can fish them dead drift, swung or stripped. Yeah, the fly rod is a Swiss Army knife.
With all that versatility, an ambitious angler can find a fly and a matching technique to fool trout on any given day.
So, why not learn to use each tool available?
Success in my early years of trout fishing was dependent on the fish themselves. If they weren’t interested in my live minnows or red worms, then action was slow. And there were noticeable times (even to a ten year old boy) when live minnows seemed a futile approach. Indeed, my interest in fly fishing was spawned the day I waded past hundreds of rising trout, desperately slinging strung minnows through a mayfly a hatch, my hope vanishing with every step. I knew I needed a fly rod and dry flies to match those surface insects and fool the trout.
Like many anglers new to fly fishing, I assumed that dry flies were the best way to make use of a fly rod. To be honest, I didn’t even know that nymphs were a thing for a couple years. So imagine my surprise one day, when I walked into a fly shop and came out ten minutes later with a box of nymphs in one hand, scratching my head with the other.
“How do I catch the fish I can see on the bottom,” I’d asked. “They won’t take my flies.”
“Fish nymphs,” the shop owner told me. And he graciously passed the keys to my next steps as angler.
I like to focus on one thing at a time, so I spent many trout-obsessed years, streamside, learning each type of fly, fishing one way and rarely deviating, no matter the conditions. Dries, nymphs, streamers, then wets — eventually, I gained confidence with every fly in my box, learning that each has a time and place for success.
I won’t speculate in what order you should learn things, or how you should learn them. That’s your own process to discover. I just encourage every angler to make full use of the fly rod. It’s a big, deep bag of tools.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N