There Are Parallels Between Skiing And Fly-Fishing.

Skiers are attracted to fly-fishing because of the skills, the outdoors, and the lore. Credit: Jan Brunvand
Skiers are attracted to fly-fishing because of the skills, the outdoors, and the lore.
Credit: Jan Brunvand

Ski season is over; what now? Some turn to hiking, biking, tennis, or pickle ball. For me it’s fly fishing.

The pursuit of wily trout with fake insects has things in common with skiing. Both involve exercising in beautiful places, both are great family activities, and both offer satisfying complications of gear and technique.

The daunting details of fly fishing, however, deter many from trying it. How to navigate the complex world of equipment, casting, fish behavior, and aquatic etymology? The challenges are part of the fun, but they erect a barrier for beginners.

You can sample fly fishing without too much frustration. I offer three suggestions.

First, go with a pro, if you can possibly afford it. Nobody learns to ski from the pal who takes you to the top of a run and says “Follow me.” Similarly, you usually won’t get the best introduction to fly fishing from a friend or partner. Hire a guide for your first time out.

Step One: Hire a guide to show you the basics. Credit: Jan Brunvand
Step One: Hire a guide to show you the basics.
Credit: Jan Brunvand

A guide provides gear, lunch, flies, and coaching. Explain that you are entry-level. Guides know where and when to go, and they want you to catch fish. A day of guided fly fishing is costly, but you’ll get a good start, have fun, and learn if you want to lay out cash on rods, reels, waders, etc.

Even after years of fly fishing, if I’m on new waters or trying a different approach I like to hire a guide the first day.

Second, find a local support system. If there’s a chapter of Trout Unlimited or the Federation of Fly Fishers near you, join. Look for fly fishing classes taught by community colleges or local sports shops. Go fishing and chat up others you meet on the stream.

Third, start to read about the traditions and subtleties of fly fishing. I say “start” because you’ll never finish. For basic information, get The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide by Tom Rosenbauer. Someday you may acquire top-of-the-line Orvis gear, but for starters buy this affordable paperback.

Even cheaper in its comic-book format is Sheridan Anderson’s The Curtis Creek Manifesto which offers excellent advice in a rib-tickling style. Published in 1976, it’s outdated as to gear, but the fish-catching techniques, including “The Curtis Creek Sneak,” are priceless.

Beyond facts, you want inspiration, so watch the 1992 film A River Runs Through It, and read Norman Maclean’s story that inspired it. Forget about the fancy “Shadow Casting,” though; that’s more Hollywood than realistic.

There’s much wonderful writing about fly fishing, but let’s keep it simple. Google Robert Traver’s “Testament of a Fisherman” and print a copy to ponder. This classic statement consists of one extended sentence less than a page long; it’s packed with emotion, whimsy, and poetry. Traver concludes that he loves the sport, “ . . . not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant—and not nearly so much fun.”


Like skiing, there's more to fly fishing than just fishing. Credit: Jan Brunvand
Like skiing, there’s more to fly fishing than just fishing. Traditions, literature and lore abound.
Credit: Jan Brunvand

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