Where to Start?

Written By: Pete - Photos By: Justin Dobson     

If you are like me you may be coming across this page because you recently picked up a fly rod and are scouring the internet for every possible piece of information you can absorb on the days you can’t fish. I was there just a short time ago and thought some of you may like to check out a couple of resources that I found to be extremely helpful. As I looked at many of the items that were broad based introductions to fly fishing, I found that they were too broad and didn’t teach much except for the terms used and very high level concepts that would allow you to ask the right questions to get the real answers you needed. However, over time I did find a couple of things that I found extremely useful and I would like to share them with you. I was lucky enough to have a lot of help from Jamie and Justin but I also didn’t want to be the guy that was taking up all of their fishing time asking for tips and advice so I tried to learn as much as I could on my own and only ask questions about things that didn’t make sense to me or that wouldn’t take up a lot of their time to help. Obviously if you are lucky enough to have generous mentors like I was (thanks Justin and Jamie) it is a lot easier but if not here are a few good places to start:

I have to say I could read about this day in and day out and it wouldn’t translate to making me any better at all. For me it was about repetition and seeing it happen. For this I would recommend two things I found very helpful. The first is to get a practice caster. They can be found at most fly shops and online. I got mine from Orvis but they are all the same, small fly rod and a piece of long string/yarn attached. The great thing about these is that it is easy to see the loop and you can cast them in the house or yard without worrying about damaging anything, including the rod. My dogs hate this thing but I love it and it really helped me advance at a fast pace.

The second was you tube. I know many of you have probably looked there already but my personal favorite is the account BUMCAST by on the fly productions. They break the basic cast into easy sections of focus allowing you to progress as you master techniques. The host is also an amazing caster to watch and when you get tired of working on the basics you can watch some of his advanced casts and marvel at the technique that we all hope to one day possess.


Reading Water
Once you have mastered the very basics of casting it is extremely important to understand where the fish eat. Unlike many of the species I have chased in my life trout tend to move very little to feed and therefore you need to be sure you are fishing the right water. While some of this is very basic, i.e. foam is home, on the tougher days or with spookier fish you will want to be sure to hit all the spots that can hold fish. In my opinion there isn’t a better resource than Tom Rosenbauer’s, “The Orvis Guide to Reading Trout Streams.” While this book may seem like a text book at times it is a valuable resource that to this day I will pick up and read after slower days on the water. While many of us like to focus on casting I believe this is the best resource to focus on to actually catch fish. Understanding the drift is the next step but if you don’t know where to find the fish you are going to be fighting an uphill battle.


Once you know where the fish eat and you know how to get the line to that location you want to be sure you are serving up something that they will likely eat. While this one becomes a little harder to give advice on globally I can tell you what worked for me. This one really comes down to local knowledge. If you live in a place that is fished often there is likely at least one book on the fishing waters of your area. For me it was, “Trout Fishing in North Georgia: A Comprehensive Guide to Public Streams and Rivers” by Jimmy Jacobs. Many places also have fly shops or other sources that post hatch charts online. I searched the region of my state and hatch charts by month to get started. I then took that information to the local fly shop and heard a little more about what was actually working based on what they heard. This will be a trial and error experience but the hatch charts should really help. If all else fails tie on the trusty San Juan! (Kidding, sort of)

For Georgia Fisherman- http://www.amazon.com/Trout-Fishing-North-Georgia-Comprehensive/dp/1561454036

Once you are equipped with the right information it comes down to presenting the right flies drag free. There are probably a lot of places you can learn this. The main thing I did here was watch other people fish. Mending is truly an art and those who do it well tend to catch the most fish. While not all of us have the ability to watch people often try and do it from a safe distance and pick up anything you can.

The other place I learned more than anywhere else was the Gink and Gasoline blog. I can’t thank those guys enough for the guide level expertise they share with all of us on a regular basis. While not all of the articles will relate to you, I found myself digging through their blog for a week reading old posts and articles and I learned more than I could ever imagine. I would highly recommend spending some time there.


These were the resources that seemed to work the best for me but everyone learns differently. Please feel free to leave any of the resources you found useful in the comments section. At the end of the day this is all about helping people catch that dream fish and continue to enjoy the sport that brings so much joy to all of us.

Tight Lines