Missing the rivers in May? Fancy trying something exciting and totally different this season? Forget the clichés of JR Hartley, chalkstreams and tweedy types, because it’s never been easier to start fly fishing! Angling Trust blogger and Flyfishing for Coarse Fish author Dom Garnett explains why.
“While past generations of anglers have often been creatures of habit, there has been quite a culture shift in the last 20 years. You only need to look at the world of carp fishing, or the thousand and one vivid lures on tackle shop displays to see how types of fishing once seen as a bit odd or elite are now mainstream.
But what about that most traditional style of angling, fly fishing? Well, elitism is diminishing and the sport is evolving fast. Far from requiring a banker’s salary or ninja-like skills, it is open to everyone these days. Here are just some of the reasons to give it a go this season:
It’s deceptively cheap!
Ok, so you can pay a small fortune to fish the River Test or Itchen. A day’s stillwater fishing is likely to set you back £20 or more. But there are so many cheaper options, too. Brilliant trout fishing token schemes where the fishing starts at £5 a day (more on these in a bit). There’s also free urban fishing, not to mention a massive variety of rivers, canals and lakes to fish for beer money. Nor do you need anything beyond your usual “coarse and non-migratory trout” rod licence to start with (until you fancy going for salmon and sea trout!).
You can fish on running water all year round
While coarse species are still out of bounds from mid March to mid June, fly fishing gives you the chance to continue on various game fishing rivers for trout. If you’re the sort of angler who loves trotting a float or exploring an intimate little river, you’re guaranteed to love the trout streams. And when the game season ends (usually end of September) you can cast flies at pike, chub and other species back on the coarse rivers.
It’s visually exhilarating!
Forget the prosaic stereotypes; watching a big fish rise up and snatch a dry fly is addictive, heart-stopping, box office stuff. It’s the crack cocaine of angling, as JR Hartley almost certainly never said. Well, in fairness he is a completely fictional character no more real than Gandalf or Voldemort.
It’s fantastic for quick sessions and “time poor” anglers
Do you struggle to find hours, let alone days, to hit the water? Not a problem. With fly fishing, the tackle is so light and you can leave a rod set up and ready to go within seconds. Alongside lure fishing, there is no better method for “quick hit” fishing.
Fly casting is a fun and easier than you think
Granted, casting takes some practice. Trust me, though, it really isn’t so terrifying. Most coaches can get you making a tidy basic cast in less than day. Once you’ve got the basics, it’s incredibly satisfying too. Even when the fish aren’t biting, casting is a pleasure that anyone can get the hang of and enjoy.
You don’t just have to fish for trout
Not fussed about trout? Or perhaps there just isn’t a heck of a lot of game fishing where you live? No problem. Carp will put one hell of a bend in your rod. So will pike, while fish like roach, rudd, chub, perch and dace will all take a fly, to name but a few. So will bass, pollack and mackerel, for those who enjoy sea fishing.
It’s supremely light and portable
Do you ever get fed up carrying way too much gear? Tackle up with a fly rod and you might be forgiven for thinking you forgot something. Rod, reel, net and a few basics and you’re away!
It takes you to beautiful places you couldn’t otherwise fish!
By learning fly fishing, you are also opening the door to a whole host of “fly only” venues that you may not ever discover otherwise. Whether it’s a beautiful wild loch or a reservoir noted for big pike, that fly rod is your ticket to brilliant new experiences.
It’s bloody effective!
This can be a tough one to get across to bait anglers, but in so many cases the fly is every bit as deadly as a boilie or lure. Even wary fish eat natural food, right?? Nor could you wish for a more subtle presentation, with no floats, feeders or other gubbins to scare the fish in clear water.
It brings a deeper understanding of your favourite fisheries
From sussing out local fly life to tuning into the different currents of a river, fly fishing not only deepens your appreciation of angling, but can seriously improve your watercraft. Sure, it’s all about the pleasure for most of us, but it will make you a better, more complete angler in the process.
No smelly bait or storage issues
Part of the cost and hassle of so much fishing is the continual purchase of maggots, boilies, rigs and all the rest. Fly fishing is so much simpler -and less smelly! Once you have the gear and some flies, there is very little you need to keep buying other than day tickets. Your partner might appreciate fewer funky smells in the fridge as well.
Further free reads, useful links and cheap UK fly fishing
Tempted to give it a try this year? If so, you’ll find many great resources online. That said, one of the best bits of advice we would give you is to treat yourself to a day of fly fishing tuition. This way, you will learn to cast much more smoothly and quickly, while getting a head start on all the essentials.
We’d also recommend a simple search for fly fishing clubs in your area. Many of these offer much cheaper memberships than you would imagine, with special discounts for young and elderly anglers. Many are crying out for new members and can offer free advice and sessions such as river walks to give you a head start.
Here are some other great resources:
Fly fishing for beginners blog and tackle checklist : Our blog post from last season has lots of handy information, including a checklist of fly fishing basics and further useful tips for beginners. Click here to read more.
Urban trout fishing is another brilliantly cheap, growing area to explore. Theo Pike’s book Trout in Dirty Places comes especially highly recommended, with rivers all over Britain to fish, many of them free to anyone with an EA rod licence. http://www.urbantrout.net/trout-in-dirty-places/
Fly fishing for coarse species is another exciting avenue. Pretty much all the main species you already enjoy catching will take a fly. One great source of information, with catch galleries, tips and fly patterns is http://flyforcoarse.com
Brilliant value fly fishing passport schemes:
Right across the country there are now excellent value token or booking based schemes that let you go fly fishing for as little as a fiver a day! Among the best of these are:
The Westcountry Angling Passport (Devon, Cornwall and Dorset): Miles of great fly fishing in the South West, from just £6 a day! See https://westcountryangling.com
The Wye and Usk Foundation: Stacks of affordable fly fisheries in the West Midlands and into Wales, in beautiful surroundings. See http://wyeuskfoundation.org/fishing/passport.php
Severn Fisheries Passport: Another great low cost option in the West Midlands and Wales, with lots of choice and very pretty trout streams to explore. More info at http://www.severnfisheries.com/
Ribble Rivers Trust: Amazing value fly fishing in Lancashire and North Yorkshire. https://ribbletrust.org.uk/go-fishing/
Peak District Angling Passport: Wonderful wild game angling in this national park, within easy reach of Sheffield, Stoke on Trent and Macclesfield. See http://www.peakanglingpassport.co.uk/