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THE GREAT OUTDOORS — Fly fishing has been a part of American Western culture for more than 150 years. Ever since the first verified account of fly fishing west of the Mississippi in 1847, by Wilford Woodruff, the sport has captured the attention of countless men and women. These days, the sport is more popular than ever.
Back when Woodruff fished, fly rods were built of bamboo, fly lines were made from silk, and it was a hobby enjoyed mostly by those with a good deal of money.
While it's still possible to spend thousands of dollars on fly fishing gear, there's never been a better time to start fly fishing than right now. Here's a look at some of the most basic fly fishing tips for beginners.
Don't break the bank on gear
Fly rods vary in cost from as little as $20, up to $7,000. Some reels go for $700. A pair of top-of-the-line waders from Simms can cost $900.
Luckily, to be a successful fly fisherman you don't need to spend that much money on gear. Entry-level fly rod and reel combinations, like the Cabela's Three Forks, RLS, or the Redington Crosswater are great options and won't cost more than $200.
Waders and wading boots are items worth spending a bit more on. Waders keep you dry, while a good pair of boots will reduce the probability of slipping and falling while wading rivers like the Provo or the Weber.
Learn basic terminology
Fly fishing has a language that's a bit overwhelming for beginners. From large-arbor fly reels to understanding what a dead drift is, it pays to educate yourself on basic fly fishing terminology. This will help you understand the sport better when learning to cast, read water, and ultimately, catch fish.
Redington, a gear manufacturing company, has put together a dictionary of fly fishing lingo. It's a great resource for new anglers and is worth studying.
Learn how to cast
Now that you've got your rod, reel, waders and boots, it's time to learn how to cast a fly rod. While your casting doesn't need to be as rigid as in the famous scene from "A River Runs Through It," learning how to properly cast a fly rod will make catching fish much easier.
Orvis, one of the fly fishing industry's most respect brands, has a great online learning center full of videos on how to cast a fly rod.
Learn basic knots
Knots are an integral part of fly fishing. From tying flies onto the leader (the clear monofilament line that attaches a fly to the bright-colored fly line) and the leader onto the fly line, an angler needs to be able to easily tie a handful of knots. The most basic to know are the surgeon's, clinch and nail knots.
Scientific Anglers has a very detailed post to help you learn about the basics of fly fishing knots.
Learn how to read water
Reading water refers to the ability to look at a river and identify spots where fish will be holding. Identifying current seams, eddies and learning how to present a fly in those tricky water conditions is all part of learning how to read water.
Orvis has perhaps the best resources available, short of hiring a guide and going out yourself, to learn how to read water.
However, hiring a guide is one of the best ways to learn how to fly fish. Guides spend anywhere from 250-300 days a year on the water. They're intimiately familiar with fly fishing and are eager to pass on their knowledge to the newcomers of the sport. While guides typically run $250-500 per day, depending on location, they're worth the cost for some anglers who are having a hard time figuring things out on their own.
What are other tips would you add for beginners learning to fly fish? Let us know in the comments.
Spencer Durrant lives and breathes fly fishing. His writing has been published by Hatch Magazine and On The Fly Magazine, and he authors the monthly "Trout Bum" column for Ogden's Standard-Examiner. Connect with him on Twitter, @Spencer_Durrant.