There is nothing to beat a day or two at the waterside with a qualified professional fly fishing instructor to set you on the road for success and enjoyment from this wonderful sport of ours. After a full day of instruction most beginners should have enough skills and knowledge to be able to go fly fishing on their own without further assistance.
The key aspects of a day’s fly fishing tuition would be:
- tackle and knots fly casting fly fishing methods, i.e. dry fly, nymph, wet fly, lure, buzzer, etc. fly selection – ‘match the hatch’ watercraft, observation and stealth
- safety at the waterside
Too many instructors focus too much attention on casting. Whilst it is very important to be taught the basics of correct fly casting technique and to indicate good and bad casting habits it is also vital that fly fishing techniques are taught. These vary from water to water with some methods, such as wet fly, being very different from one water to another, e.g. from a loch-style wet fly on a lake to a nymph on a chalkstream to ‘North Country’ spiders wet fly on a freestone spate river.
I always start my beginners’ lessons with a detailed description of all the major items of tackle, from the rod, reel and fly line, down to the backing line, leader, tippet and flies. The more you understand about why the tackle is designed the way it is and what its roles are the more likely you are to use it correctly, to cast correctly and to play the fish correctly.
For over six years now I have been using the Orvis Clearwater rods and reels for the vast majority of my tuition both on stillwaters and on rivers. Clearwater rods have an excellent casting action and mine have each withstood considerable usage from many hundreds of days of use. The one rod breakage in this time was caused by a rod being stepped on. And with the Orvis 25 year guarantee I had a replacement back to me within days.
I use the Clearwater II 9’ 6-weight and Clearwater II 9’ 5-weight rods for the majority of my clients taking their lesson on a small stocked stillwater. On the chalkstreams a Clearwater II 8’ 6” 5-weight rod is preferred and I would also use the latter for ladies or children learning on the small stillwater. All my tuition rods are 4-piece rods because of their convenience and portability benefits.
My Orvis Clearwater III reels have withstood considerable abuse over the past few years and are all still in perfect working order. They are ideal for beginners at an amazingly low price.
I use Orvis Wonderline Gen 3 fly lines for my fly fishing lessons and guided days. I believe that a beginner needs a good quality line more than anyone. A better quality line will help a learner to cast longer distances. If on a budget by all means cut cost on the reel but the £50’ish spent on the fly line is a very worthwhile investment. If looked after correctly a good fly line could easily last ten years of average intensity use. During the off-season store it in a cool, dark, dry place and at least once a year give it a wash down with a sponge and warm soapy water.
For leaders and tippets I have seen no need to look beyond the Orvis Super Strong knotless tapered leaders and Super Strong tippet material. I use 9’ 4X 6lb breaking strain for lessons on small stocked stillwaters holding hard fighting Rainbows and 9’ 5X 4.75lb breaking strain on the chalkstreams. For tippet I would drop one breaking strain for dry fly fishing in each situation, i.e. 5X 4.75lb for the stillwater and 6X 3.5lb for chalkstreams.
I tie many of my own nymphs but because I am a full time guide/instructor and I get through so many flies the vast majority are bought in my local Orvis store. I believe that to be successful at catching fish you need some skill and knowledge, enough persistence and alertness but also some luck.
I believe it’s best to be an impatient fisher. If you are not catching fish ask yourself why not and do something about it. Maybe you need to change your fly and/or tippet, swap to a different technique or change location. Also always talk to the local fly fishers. They will be glad to help you and their advice on flies, techniques, location, etc. can be worth its weight in gold. Best of all take a lesson with a qualified local instructor. They will take years off your learning curve and help you get maximum enjoyment and success from your time at the waterside.
Dave Martin, Orvis Endorsed Guide
Guiding and tuition: Chalkstreams and lakes of the South of England
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