How to catch a fish

My previous blog looked at the steps involved in learning to cast, this time my subject is taking that skill and learning to fish.

Casting the fly isn’t an end in itself. The purpose of fly fishing is to catch a fish. Before we start fishing, the very first consideration is staying safe. Whenever we fly fish we wear eye protection and a hat to protect our head and eyes from hooks. Polarised sunglasses are the best choice as they reduce the glare of sunlight reflecting from the water surface and make it easier to spot fish. It is also important to be aware of and to understand the risks associated with being on or in a river or lake, especially when wading or fishing from a boat.

Right, let’s go fishing!

Step 1: Find your fish. This can be the most daunting aspect of fishing for a newcomer (or for the most experienced fishermen). All you can see is an expanse of water so where should you cast? The first lesson is to learn about the quarry – what sort of fish are we hoping to catch, what sort of food does it like, where does it like to hang out? How does its behaviour change with different conditions? You will spend the rest of your fishing career learning some of the answers to these questions but we’ll start you off in the right direction.

Step 2: What fly should I use? The essence of fly fishing is to identify what the fish is feeding on and then select on an imitation. We’ll teach you about what insects fish eat, their different life stages and how to identify them. We’ll show you the different artificial flies we use to imitate them and also introduce you to some old faithfuls that can be relied on to attract a fish when there aren’t any clues to what the fish are eating that day. You will learn the difference between dry and wet flies, and between nymphs and lures.

Step 3: Present the fly to the fish in a lifelike way. This is where your fly casting practice comes into play. You will need to deploy the skills of accurate and delicate casting to get that fly to fish without scaring it. We will teach you about fine tuning your tackle to suit the type of fly you are using and the prevailing conditions.

Step 4: Hooking a fish. At some stage a fish will decide to eat your fly and you will need to tighten the line to set the hook before it realises the fly isn’t real and spits it out. We’ll show you how to detect when a fish takes the fly and what to do when that happens. Depending on where we are fishing, we may teach you some new tactics to make it easier to detect the take.

Step 5: Landing the fish. Most of the species we try to catch using fly fishing techniques are strong fighting fish that will do their best to escape by leaping from the water, making sudden long runs, shaking their heads or seeking respite in weed-beds, under stones or in tree roots. We’ll teach you how to play the fish quickly and safely, using the flexibility of your rod to protect the delicate line. We will show you how to use a landing net to land the fish and we’ll show you how to remove the hook and return the fish unharmed. If we are fishing a stocked fishery and you want to keep a fish we will show you how to kill the fish humanely and to ensure it is in good condition for the pot.

Fly fishing tuition will help you understand these five steps but the real teachers are the fish and I can guarantee that you will spend the rest of your fishing career being continuously surprised by and learning from them.

Find out more about learning to fly fish on our tuition page.

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