Every angler, regardless of their experience, shows up to the sport day after day aware that a catch is never promised. You can spend your entire life trying to capture a creature undeniably smaller than you, but no one or nothing can promise that you will. Some find that maddening, for others, that’s the great thrill. All we can do is attempt to be a little better than the day before. No matter your current level of knowledge or experience, these five sensible tips will give any angler the sharp edge they seek.

Match the Hatch

You wouldn’t bait a hook with corn on the cob to catch a polar bear. Everyone agrees that would be both ridiculous and illogical. Same goes for fly-fishing- don’t take your trout for fools. “Match the hatch” is an expression that is both easy to remember and has proven effectiveness. Find out what insects the trout are eating and mimic that with your fly. Depending on the season, trout hone in on a certain variety of bugs, ignoring all others, to ensure a full belly. You don’t want to go out there with a fly that trout consider off menu for that time of year.

It’s also important to keep your fly size in mind. Two-thirds of a trout’s meals take place underneath the surface of the water, not on it. The simplest way to determine if your fly size is too big, too small, or just the right size is by taking a streamside sample. Scope out cobblestone sized rocks that are fully submerged. Inspect the rock and you’ll find it coated with several insects. You don’t need to know the type. All you are looking for is size, color, and if you have a decent match in your supply.

Be Wise and Precise About Your Gear

An angler is only as good as his rod and his reel. That may seem hyperbolic, but one of the greatest mistakes a fisherman can make is acquiring cheap gear. It’s often easy to experience sticker shock in this industry, we know. There’s also a lot of flashy and superfluous equipment out there that, while appealing, is unnecessary. Only start out with what you need; the fish won’t know the difference, but your wallet sure will.

A graphite fly rod within the medium price range is going to pay for itself in a short amount of time. Be sure to pair it up with a metal fly reel, too. While plastic is more affordable, “cheap” is a homonym for this route of purchase. Thankfully, most manufacturers sell fly rods and reels as a set. Not only are they going to be matched by weight already, but a bundle-like discount is usually applied. Winner winner trout for dinner.

If you’re just starting out in the game, all you will need is a rod, a reel, fishing line, a few flies, a fly pack or vest, and a net. That’s it. Build from there and don’t get the fun sucked out of the sport with a hefty investment upfront. See if your passion and dedication sticks and then go for more accessories.

dry dropper fly fishing tips

Location, Location, Location

It’s a bit silly to spend more time commuting to a fishing site than time actually spent there. If you’re in a proper location fairly close to home, make that your go to spot. That way you can get there early, before or after work, on the weekends, or for spur-of-the-moment visits. If that’s not in the cards for you based on your location, it’s no sweat. Just look for an area open enough where you are able to cast your line without worrying about getting caught in some trees or brush.

“Trout don’t live in ugly places” is important to keep in mind when planning a fly-fishing trip if you must travel a far distance to cast your line. This might go without saying, but some scenery that you like to spend time in doesn’t hurt either. Like fly-fishing in Colorado!

If you’re the pioneering type and want to seek out uncharted waters, great! Just do yourself a favor and pack light and with equipment that is fitting. Packing too much weight is going to rob some joy out of the experience for you and can be avoided rather easily. If you’re more trusting of spots that have already been discovered and just want to start fishing, that’s also fine! No matter what kind of place you have in mind, it’s all around good etiquette to avoid competing with other anglers for space and for fish. Speaking of etiquette…

Don’t Forget to Pack Your Manners

Unfortunately, participants of any sport can often put their own wants and needs over that of their peers or even total strangers. The best view of the basketball court is limited sitting down, so we stand up and block the view of the person behind us. A laugh that’s too hard to hold back interferes with a man’s golf swing. It’s not always intentional, but it’s all too common and fly-fishing has seen its fair share of breaks in basic codes of conduct. That’s why it’s good to

Remind all anglers; if you think that you might be a little too close to another fisherman, you probably are.

If you’re going to fish in the same area, it shows respect and cooperation if you ask your fellow angler if they mind that you fish near them. If they happen to give you the green light, figure out which direction they are casting and then put some great distance between you and them further upstream. This will allow both of you to reap the benefits of the spot simultaneously, but feels as if you’re fishing alone.

Keep in mind, this rule of thumb goes both ways. More fishermen appear in the sport every day. Fishing spots are not. This leads to overcrowding and an every man for himself attitude that is all too common. If someone approaches your waters looking like they have intent to fish, imagine you are them. Show good sportsmanship and work with them to make sure you both get to tap into the wild.

Have Fun and Keep Learning

If you’re a greenhorn, the single greatest piece of advice anyone could give you is to have fun. It’s going to take more than one trip to get your cast down, to understand the functionality and inner workings of your gear, and where the fish are. Don’t work too hard and try to reinvent the wheel either. There are tons of online forums, YouTube tutorials, and fly shop employees out there ready to help.

If you’re not having fun, what is the point? Similarly, if you’re not taking the time to learn or opening yourself up to the possibility that there is anything left to learn, why bother? This venture is all about enjoying yourself and the outdoors. We appreciate the way Roderick Haig-Brown puts it; “There will be days when the fishing is better than one’s most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.”