Newbie Fly Fishing Mistakes We All Make
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Newbie Fly Fishing Mistakes We All Make

We are guilty of doing silly things on and off of the water. I fish with lots of different people, some very experienced and some not. My assortment of fly fishing companions exhibit a commonality of head scratching goofy habits that make me wonder how they get along in the modern world. I am as guilty of the same bad form and unique quirks as any angler out

A fly fisherman in simms waders sitting on the rowing seat of a drift boat tying on a fly to his leader.
Newbie or not: We all make the same common mistakes.

there. Because of writer’s block the size of a Patagonian Brown trout I have come up with a list of things that you should and shouldn’t do as a fly fisherman.  They will probably make your life on the water a bit easier or at the least your buddy from giving you “The Look.”

Here is a simple list, one that you can add to yourself:

  1. Don’t Thread the Needle – A TV show could be made based on the premise of how anglers string up their fly rods. I have one friend who weaves his line in and out of the four pieces of his Winston in the cab of my truck as we drive to the river. Only once have I seen him not have to re-thread the entire rod when we arrive. And yes, I do beat him to his favorite spot usually just to prove a point.

The most common mistake I see though is an angler trying to thread the leader through the guides on their rod. One of two things usually happens and sometimes both. First, the stringer doesn’t strip enough line off of the reel.  When he or she gets to about the second from the last guide the tippet goes tight, pulling the skinny tippet from his or her fingers. Gravity takes over as the helpless angler watches their line as it slowly snakes its way back through the guides eventually ending up in a pile next to their reel.

To combat gravity and save your own sanity, please take the time to strip 12 to 15 feet of fly line off of your reel. Then double it over close to the leader and thread your guides. This makes it easy to thread a rod even with cold fingers and allows you to not have to fight gravity. Just remember that the line’s weight will pull the line back through from whence it came if you let go of it and the rod is vertical or semi-vertical. Yes, this is a Beginner 101 skill that I still fail at several times a year.

  1. Wet’em and Wear’em – Watching someone try to wedge their feet into wading boots that have been cooking in the sun in the back of a truck for a month or are frozen solid from being left outside a tent is one of my all-time favorite things. I remember watching an old business partner completely unlace his mummy-like boots to get them on while sitting four feet from the Crooked River. I waited until he was done Gomering out, then I walked over and dipped each boot in the creek. He cussed me as each of his wading boots slid right on like slippers without me even having to pull them on.
  1. Break It Down or Break It – This is the maneuver I am personally guilty of more than any other. I am also the most self-righteous angler alive about making sure others don’t violate this rule. Don’t be the guy/gal who pulls his/her new fly rod apart at the second ferrule then slides the indicator down to the first nymph and hooks the dropper to a guide. Then the angler reels up the slack. Voila’! The rod is ready to go into the backseat or rod tube and you are ready to go home knowing your rod will be instantly ready to go next time you head out.

But wait! This is what usually happens as your rod is in transit. The flies and bobber come loose, wrapping themselves into a massive ball around your four-piece rod that is currently in two pieces. Either you end up cutting the mess or you take three times the amount of time unraveling the

A fly fisherman in a drift boat put his fly rod together tighter
Break your rod down..don’t break your rod

wad of line, flies, split shot and bobber that it would have taken to completely re-rig your rod. This is the best case scenario.

The worst case is that a fly snags on a jacket, bag or something else in the back of the car or truck. When you go to pull the rod out with that joyous smile of knowing you don’t have to tie any knots in the freezing cold the rod snaps. If you do it right, the fly will have snagged your waders and not only break your rod but a 2-inch tear suddenly appears under your Stone Fly Nymph. Funsies huh?  This is particularly awesome if you are on a boat ramp getting ready for a three-day trip down The Deschutes.

Take a second to break your rod down. Put it into its tube as if you were putting a baby into its cradle. Doing this simple thing will ultimately save you time, often times money and save a trip from being ruined.

  1. Boats Are Meant To Keep You Dry – Boats and rafts are somewhat dangerous propositions by themselves. Anglers, it seems, try to multiply this danger as much as they possibly can with the incredibly bizarre ways they get in and out of a floating craft. Watching someone catch a toe on a gunnel as they climb out and end up face first in the water is somewhat hilarious. Watching someone catch a toe on a gunnel as they get in and end up missing teeth or a broken nose ruins a fishing trip.

If you are in a drift boat or raft don’t grab your rod and jump out. Sit on the tube or gunnel and pivot on your rear until both legs are dangling over the side and then simply stand up.  To get back in just do the reverse, making sure your rod is already in the boat. Quick, easy and painless.

These are just a few simple things to think about. These four things are common errors that get overlooked by the most seasoned anglers. Using these few little hints will make your fishing day go smoother, less expensive and possibly safer.