Take a Pal Fishing!

Updated on April 17, 2019

Fisheries up and down the UK have reported a decline in the numbers of visitors. Times have been hard and the recession hit participation drastically. But now things seem to be on the up and to bolster this, we’re urging you to take a friend flyfishing.

If you follow the points raised below you could well put your pal on the path to a hobby that will serve them well in life. We teamed up with Anton Wells, a beginner from Peterborough,for a day at local Earith Lakes near Huntingdon. He was mad keen.

1. Be legal

Obviously, before you reach the water your pal must have a rod licence. If you’re not sure that they’ll eventually take to fishing then avoid buying a year licence. Instead just purchase a day rod licence from the Post Office or Environment Agency website.

2. Get them into the action

Many newcomers’ first introduction to our wonderful sport is to endure an hour-long casting tuition course. Obviously learning to cast is necessary butit shouldn’t be the very first thing a newbie should do. To gain their interest and hopefully get them hooked we should get them to feel the fight of a trout. After all, the take and the battle is the crux of what we do.

So we should set up a rod, cast out, hook a fish then hand the rod to the newcomer. When they feel the fight they should be ignited to learn the ropes.

We at Hunting-Tips magazine have seen too many people fall away from the sport after a long casting course. Catch first, cast second…that’s our motto!

3. Set-ups

Now that your pal is excited after feeling the pull and speed of a trout, it’s time to briefly talk about the tools of the trade. Tell them the function of the rod, fly-line, leader and fly – but don’t get bogged down with detail. Stick to the basics, otherwise they might lose interest.

Rods are essentially acting as a spring to propel a fly-line, the latter being the equivalent to a weight. On the end of the weight is a length of clear leader material to which we add a fly. Leaders should be at least the length of the rod to allow enough distance between fly and the end of the fly-line, so as not to spook the fish. Choose a weighted fly because it helps to turn over the leader and get down to the fish.

It’s important to note that you’re both still fishing atthis point, you’re casting out and they are now ready to learn the retrieve.

4. Retrieves

By far the best retrieve is a continuous one, created by what we call the figure-of-eight. This can take some mastering but try to demonstrate this retrieve and if your pupil struggles with it teach them the short strip or pulling technique, which is the next best thing.

5. Rod position

Explain that it’s important to keep a reasonably tight line to your fly in order to feel any takes. So get them to point the rod tip down towards the water while retrieving the fly. Many newcomers keep the rod high which means that a take won’t register at the rod tip and fingers. While explaining this the angler is still fishing and could well get a take.

Choose a weighted fly with a marabou tail
Choose a weighted fly with a marabou tail

6. Creating action in the fly

It’s always best to use a Damsel Nymph or lure first because a beginner might not have the patience needed to fish a Buzzer static or a dry fly and you can teach all the basic retrieves with mobile patterns. Today we’ve chosen one of the top small water patterns – a Hothead Damsel. If you explain that you’re trying to create movement in the marabou tail then your pal will understand the purpose of the retrieve and use stop-start jerky twitches and long pulls to add variety.

7. What to do when a fish takes

Your beginner may well experience tail nips while retrieving the fly. Explain that it’s best to continue the retrieve until everything locks up. And once a fish does take and is hooked, get them to lift the rod high so that the rod absorbs the lunges from the fish. Teach them to keep a tight line on the fish by pulling line in when the fish swims towards them and allowing line through the fingers when it wants to run. Encourage them to apply side strain when fish move either side of you, especially if they’re running towards snags.

To simply put fly-line out in front on the water the rod is raised sharpish to the one o’clock position.
To simply put fly-line out in front on the water the rod is raised sharpish to the one o’clock position.
Then just priorto the fly-line totally straightening behind, start the forward movement. Stop the rod at10 o’clock.
Then just priorto the fly-line totally straightening behind, start the forward movement. Stop the rod at10 o’clock.

8. Casting – the basics

So now your pal has seen what it’s all about and is excited. Now teach some casting basics. Get them to hold the rod with thumb at the top and grip it as if performing a handshake.

Tell them to avoid trying to reach the horizon at this stage. Fish can be caught a mere 15 yards out and that’s what they should think about – 15 yards, nothing more atthis point oftheir journey. There’s no real need to aeria lise line either. Get them to flick 15 yards of fly-line out of the rod tip and perform a roll cast to get the line out on the water in front of them. All they have to do is flick the line out a bit and then raise the rod back so that the fly-line forms a ‘D’ shape to one side of them and slightly behind. Then they just flick the rod forward and the fly-line rolls out.

Alternatively they can simply lift the rod up and flick line out again to almost “put” line straight out in front of them. Once that’s achieved they can retrieve the line and repeat the process. They’re likely to retrieve too much line so there’s not enough to load the rod. Solve this by getting them to flick the rod tip from side to side, which should force slack line out of the rod tip again.

Ask them to get used to flicking the rod up and down to get line out or by roll casting. They should get a feel for it before progressing to shooting line.

9. Shooting line

Now that they’re used to getting line onto the water by raising the rod and putting it down again or by roll casting, it’s time to try shooting some line.

Pull a few yards of extra fly-line off the reel so that it coils at your feet. Now get them to false cast the rod back and forth, stopping the rod at the one o’clock position on the back cast and 10 o’clock on the forward movement. This should be a graceful process with hardly any effort at all.

Remember too that the fly-line follows the rod tip so don’t lower the tip too much on the back cast because line will just hit the grass etc behind.

Practise will get them used to the timing of the cast and it’s now that you should recommend booking an hour’s lesson with a qualified instructor.

When they’re ready to shoot line forward make sure that the rod position is pointing to the horizon and not at the water, otherwise line will land in a heap on the water’s surface.

Get them to avoid pitfalls such as wrist break,which encourages lowering of the rod tip on the backcast. This can be solved by tucking the rod handle inside the sleeve.

Stop the rod at about 45 degreeswhen shooting the fly-line. The inset picture is almost too low
Stop the rod at about 45 degreeswhen shooting the fly-line. The inset picture is almost too low

Our day at Earith

Anton had tried coarse fishing before and like most newcomers he struggled to get to grips with the casting. But having felt the pull of a fighting fish he can not wait to try fly-fishing again.

After all the tuition Anton then fished unaided for around 30 minutes during which time he managed to detect a take without any help whatsoever. Although he didn’t hook this fish, he said he was “buzzing” at the experience.

Many first-timers don’t even manage to feel a take on their maiden session so Anton should be well pleased. He feels confident that he’ll catch on his next trips out.


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