Long considered a niche activity, fly fishing is experiencing a renaissance. Both sustainable and accessible, the sport is gaining attention as society increasingly values connections with nature and the protection of wild habitats. “The contemplative man’s recreation” is a fun and inexpensive way to spend quality time outdoors, and here’s how—and why—you should give it a go too.
There are few sports in which you can observe nature as closely and attentively as fly fishing. And, if it seems complicated, it’s nothing but. Lefty Kreh, the grandfather of the sport in modern times, described it as the easiest form of fishing to teach to a child. Of course, it involves finesse and employs technique, and it can be competitive, but you will catch fish even without the perfect cast.
The fly fishing starter pack
The main difference between fly fishing and any other type of angling is the gear. Fly fishing rods are slightly more expensive than the more common spinning rods, but buying secondhand is the perfect option for a beginner, with entry prices often below $100. Rods differ depending on the size of fish they’re designed for, so getting to know what can be caught in your local body of water is the first step.
No special clothing is required to cast from a riverbank or a canoe, but most fly fishers will eventually find themselves standing in deep water. Special boots and waterproof trousers called waders are not the cheapest, but to get started, a couple of accessories to go with your rod are sufficient.
Fly fisher’s goals and intentions
Fly fishing usually targets a specific kind of fish, like trout or salmon. It is described as both peaceful and pure, and a catch and release approach is a staple of modern fly fishing culture. Fly fishers challenge themselves to know the waters where they cast, learn about fish behaviors, and understand changing weather conditions. It’s a sport about quality over quantity, and you don’t have to fly to the other side of the world to find the perfect spot. You can likely cast in small bodies of water not far from home.
Where to start
Yvon Chouinard’s book "Simple Fly Fishing" is a great starting point for any beginner, but if you’d like to connect with real people who can teach you the craft, there are plenty of fly fishing clubs that welcome new members. Many of them champion diversity, with more and more women’s clubs springing up nationwide, and non-profits such as Brown Folks Fishing reimagining angling for the future generations. Many view the sport as a gateway to conservation and the fly fishing community is increasingly advocating for protection of the wild and beautiful places where fish thrive.