Teaching a Newb Fly Fisherman?

Teaching a Newb Fly Fisherman?
Teaching a Newb Fly Fisherman?
I?ve had the pleasure to introduce a few dozen people to fly fishing and take them fishing with a fly rod for the first time.  What I have learned is that if they are successful on that first trip fly fishing they are more willing to pick up the sport.  I have taught my kid, my sister, cousins, friends, and a few soldiers in Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing how to properly hold the rod and how to cast.  These two basic steps can plant that seed of addiction.

When I first started teaching people I would take them out on the trout stream, teach them to cast, tie on a fly, and explain where they should be casting on the river.  Then I would follow them around helping fine tune their casting and line control and help them notice the bites they were missing and why they missed the hook set, etc. The problem was we were fishing but not catching so in the end it was kind of boring experience for the person learning.  I have since remedied my approach and now whenever I am teaching someone to fly fish I make sure they catch fish.  This is done one of two ways, on some heavily stocked private water where we are almost guaranteed a fish or at the local bluegill ponds.  I love taking them to the bluegill ponds, there is something magical about sunfish.  Since they are usually the first fish most fisherman catch growing up learning to fish, they are transported right back to that childhood feeling when they are again catching them on the fly rod. 
Truthfully bluegills are kind of a dumb fish that mostly feed on bugs, so they will pretty much eat any bug you throw at them.  I however prefer ant patterns and small bead heads preferably with legs when first taking people out.  But have caught them on hoopers, stoneflies, midges, caddis, and wooly buggers.
 When fishing sunfish, your casts do not have to be perfect, your presentation can be off, line control doesn?t matter, they are a very forgiving and aggressive fish willing to take a fly from each other even if the previous fish spits out the fly.  The good part about this is you can work with your newbie showing them how to fix what they did to make it better and how to get a good hookset in.  It stays exciting the whole time they are fishing and after a few hundred bites you can watch them start targeting the large fish and adjust their cast, presentation, and line control to try and get the big one.
After the day they usually have the confidence to fly fish just about anywhere knowing they can catch a fish on the fly rod.  Then taking them to the trout stream is easier, they have the basics and you can go over fly selection and help them get those first few fish on and explain why they missed the ones they did.  Pretty soon you have a fly fishing partner who enjoys hitting the lakes and streams with you.

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