Start with the basics and it can only get better
Birth is the first page in an endless book of knowledge called life. As humans we are sponges that absorb information. I consider myself to be one of the enlightened sponges of our society. I hold a degree, I am mechanically inclined, I am financially sound and ponder the existence of fish in all bodies of water but for the first 22 years of my life I ignored fly-fishing. I regarded fly-fishermen as "a bunch of primadonnas who chased carp with pretty colors (trout) and could not master a bait casting rig".
This "fly fisherman bashing" continued until I picked up a fly rod with the intention of mastering it the first day. Heck I had fished all my life with real gear, how hard could it be to cast 1/8 inch rope on a wimpy little rod? This was my first mistake. I did not need to practice casting in the yard. Grass is made for cutting not fishing. Second mistake. Wind is just a part of fishing, I fish in it everyday, why is a fly rod any different? Third mistake. Ive seen other people do all this before how hard could it be? All I need to do is pull the line as the rod loads and then whip it forward. Right? How hard could it be? There is nothing more humbling than being smacked by your 2/0 deer hair fly going Mach one, I hope no one saw that. During the course of the day sheer macho aggression gave way to a basket case of nerves with a lot of bruises. Rather than ask for help or put it the rod down I continued to flail away at the water getting madder with each cast. I spewed language that would make a sailor cringe and blamed my lack of casting skills on everything known to man. I did not need someone to show me how to cast; I am a guide for goodness sake! I learned to cast a baitcasting rig; I can master the wimpy little fly rod. The madder I got the worse my casting became. By the end of the day, I was ready to sell my rods and forget about fly-fishing. Sometimes just surviving a day of fishing is a major feat.
From this checkered past came the angler of today. A confident fly-fisherman that has boated a ton of fish and sold bunches of flies to other anglers. Youve come a long way baby! If ever there was a sport that I had to master this was it. I could never hold my head up in public if it was known that a fly rod kicked my butt and sent me home with my tail between my legs. This is an example of a lesson learned the hard way. I would like to convey some tips and tricks that will save you some scares and some pride.
First, buy good gear. I am not suggesting you purchase a GLoomis GLX rod, even though I think they are the best in the world, but I do recommend good balanced gear. In this statement I referred to good and balanced which I will now define. Good: the best and most that you can afford and preferably something with a lifetime warranty (this is a justification point for all you married people) that feels good in your hands. Balanced: refers to the relationship of the equipment to the species it will be used to catch. For example, a saltwater reel does not go well on a bream rod and vice versa. These two factors can be eliminated if you consult a local fly shop or someone who is an avid fly fisherman. If you dont have access to either of these you can call rod companies and ask for their help. They may not answer all your questions but they can get you started in the right direction. Mail order shops are great and I give them a ton of money, but have someone help you decide what you need before you buy things that you dont need.
Second, get good help. If you have questions ask someone. I have found that most outdoorsmen are very helpful if you ask them for help and show a genuine interest. The same people who you asked for advise on your gear will probably give you casting advise. If you cannot get the advice that you need, invest in a good casting video or attend a casting class. Videos are a great help because you can use them as a refresher course and see someone cast with more experience than you do.
Third, practice as much as possible. You can have the best gear in the world but if you cannot use it, it is worthless. Make the time to get out and practice as much as possible. If you can cast for thirty minutes a day for a month you can become a good caster. This is not a negotiable point, if you dont practice you are going to use your fishing time for practice and that costs you plenty of fish. Put forth the effort and you will see the rewards each time you fish.
Fourth, respect fly-fishing for what it is. Fly-fishing is the personification of casting and the pinnacle of timing. You dont need to be a mutant to cast a 10-weight rod just a feel for the timing of it. If you are able to chew gum and walk at the same time there is a good chance that you can cast a fly. Fly-casting requires you to cast the line not the lure as with other forms of casting. Everything that the rod tip does during the cast the line will do. So if the fly line is doing ugly things it is because the rod is doing ugly things. As the line goes back it follows the rod and moves as the rod moves, so you need to know what you and your gear is doing at all times so you can correct these timing errors. In my experience timing errors account for 90 percent of the problems.
Follow these simple words of hard-learned wisdom and it will make you a better fly fisherman. Remember it is much easier to learn right than it is to break bad habits. Everyone needs a little help from time to time, don't be to pig headed to ask for it.