When I was learning to fly fish, I mistakenly believed I needed a boyfriend to teach me. I met a boy who owned a raft, knew the very best fishing holes, and was cute enough. He’d do the trick. But just as I was learning to cast and way past falling hopelessly in love, I broke him off so to speak.
I was left with a 6 wt rod, a handful of dry flies, and a burning desire to fish. Heartbreak aside, I would learn to fly fish gosh-darn-it. I am no damsel in distress! Soon after the breakup I went to the river only to find I had no idea how to rig up a rod, select a fly or read water– he had always done that for me.
Years after, still single, I can at least say I now know how to fly fish. And, perhaps, it was a more rewarding process to learn on my own. So, to my striving fly gals, this is how you learn to fly fish like the badass heroine you are:
Find a Mentor
Women now make up over a quarter of anglers in America (this is obviously too low, but at least we are growing). Finding yourself a female mentor can be highly beneficial. Not only can they teach you, but they can be a sort of a role model to encourage you to keep at it. A mentor can be someone you meet through Instagram, a fly shop, or a guiding outfitter.
Hire a Guide
That brings me to my next point; if you have the funds, hire a guide. But, don’t let them guide you the way I let my ex-boyfriend guide me… ask questions, insist on tying your own knots with their supervision, and pry them for as much information as you can. Guides fish for a living, have a plethora of knowledge to share, and will likely be excited for a client who actually wants to learn. Let them instruct you and listen.
Use the Internet
If you are broke and single as I was, and hiring a guide is not an option, the internet is your best friend. YouTube and informational sites like Flylords can teach you everything from how to improve your streamer fishing to fly fishing hacks in under 3 minutes. Go to the park, or better yet the river, and practice your cast with a video or article by your side. Practice and accurately practice again. I learned a double haul cast, a fisher(wo)man’s knot, and various fly fishing techniques from the internet. It can be done.
Frequent Your Local Fly Shop
Fly selection and reading water can be learned for the mere cost of a few flies at your local fly shop. On their website or written on a whiteboard at the shop, you can often find trip reports and flies that are fishing well. The shop may say “copper johns and elk hair caddis are fishing well.” Then, look those flies up on your phone or shamelessly ask someone at the shop. Buy a few of each fly and go to the river. If you are feeling gutsy ask them to show you some Google Map pins—they may look at you like you are crazy or they might show you. What do you have to lose?
Join Female Fly Fishing Groups
Another great resource is female fishing groups such as United Woman on the Fly that host free or low-cost events and have Facebook groups to connect you with others. I attended a free beginner fly fishing event a few years back. They clothed me in oversized waders and showed me a basic cast. I met other beginners to share the steep learning curve with as well as experienced anglers to teach me their secrets. I still fish and keep in touch with these people today!
Get Out There
Simply get out and fish. You can learn to fish on your own. Be prepared to make more mistakes than if you had a boyfriend to show you, lose more fish than if you had a boyfriend to help you, and have a crappier time than if you had a boyfriend to kiss you. That being said, learning how to fly fish on my own is the most rewarding endeavor I have ever embarked on, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Article by Gloria Goñi, a content creator based in Bozeman, Montana. Check her out on Instagram at @lapescadora.