I’m 50 now... here’s the sum total of the knowledge I’ve collected. I’ve been saving this up for a while;
Buy a good rod and learn to cast it. Find the one that works for you. No one else’s opinion matters on this subject. Only yours.
Buy a good reel too because no one likes shitty stuff and frankly, you’re gonna spend way more time NOT fishing than fishing. Might as well own one that makes you happy all the time.
If you’re gonna be a cheap ass, don’t do it on the fly line. It’s what you’re actually fishing with and a good line casts, floats and mends better than a cheap or worn out one. The only reason people don’t replace their fly lines more often is they forget how nice a new fly line is.
Buy good waders once every 5-7 years. They’re worth it. There’s no degree to waterproof and warranties don’t keep you dry. And yes, get good boots too. You only need to eat shit once to learn this. If you work in Alaska or someplace else that you wear them every day, think of them as jeans and buy them in twos.
The type of pack, bag or vest you decide on is temporary because none of them are perfect. Know this going in.
Hats are sort of up in the air. You definitely need one and it should shade your eyes well and offer some sun protection, but keep in mind, if things go well you’re very likely to have your picture taken in it.
You probably need a net. It’s easier on the fish, but good luck figuring out a way to carry it without looking and feeling like a fully rigged Navy Seal. Better yet, find a fishing partner who carries a net and you’ll never be encumbered yet still always have it handy. Same goes for boats.
Get yourself a really good pair of polarized sunglasses. Go all out. Your eyes are important and you’re not a kid anymore...if you need cheaters, get the kind with the built in bifocal. Don’t be the guy who can’t tie his own flies on or stands on the bow saying, “I don’t see them”.
Try different leaders and see what length you like for different methods. Don’t try to get away with one length or size. They vary for a reason.
Good tippet makes a difference too. There have probably been more advancements in tippet in the last few years than any other product. Take advantage of it.
Learn to tie a few important knots at home on your couch. Practice them until they’re second nature. Don’t wait until you’re fishing to figure it out; it’s not the time or the place.
On that note, pull that pair of shitty five dollar nippers off your pack and throw them away. Get a pair that cuts clean and close and will last more than fifteen minutes. One of my least favorite things is watching someone chew through a piece of 4X with bad nippers.
If you give a mouse an indicator, chances are you’re gonna want some split shot to go with it. Quit crying about casting it. No one else likes it either.
When all else fails, use logic and reason and see if you can’t figure it out for yourself. That’s a pretty handy super power.
You need a better understanding of the bugs. Learn what “emergence” is and what flies you might pick to imitate it. There’s more to it than you think. Hell, there’s more to it than I think.
Let’s talk about car top rod carriers for a minute. I can kinda see the point of you’re either A) a guide fishing the same water with the same rig everyday and don’t want to re-rig every morning even though it’s kinda your job and shouldn’t take you that long or 😎 you’re the guy that fishes the same river and same holes on that river every Tuesday all summer long. If you move from river to river and mix things up between rigs, I don’t see the point; you’ve got to change the rig up too often to save it for tomorrow. All that thing is saving you is the time it takes to actually put the rod together. And yes, I have one on my truck too so I speak of this empirically. How else would the casual observer know I’m a super serious angler without it?
Don’t get stuck on one method or one river or lake or stream because you get good at it. Mix it up. You have to suck for a while before you don’t. Being an absolute stud on a fifty yard stretch of water helps very little anywhere else.
Don’t be afraid to hire a guide on new water, regardless of your experience level. While guides sometimes get a bad rap, they’re generally hard working people who love fishing even more than you do and are likely a lot better at it. You might learn a new trick, get a better understanding of what’s happening out there and maybe even make a lifelong friend because a lot of these folks are just plain super cool people.
Respect others when you’re out on the water. All of them, including the family that’s going for an inner tube ride. Don’t crowd in on other anglers even if they’re in “your” spot or catching fish after fish and you’re not. There’s lots of good water, use these times as a chance to explore a little and break out of your comfort zone instead of ruining someone else’s day.
Spend a little time every fishing day looking at bugs and observing what’s happening instead of staring at your indicator. It’s really pretty out there and looking up every now and then is highly advised. Maybe even walk up to the river and sit down for twenty minutes before making a cast. This little timeout will show you all kinds of things the young bulls miss and make your day more fun.
No one cares about your fish pictures, bro. This statement is true in almost all cases. Unless it’s something truly unique, really pretty or in someway particularly special, don’t offer it up unless someone asks. We’ve all seen 14 inch brown trout before.
Fishing reports should be short and to the point.
“How was it?”
“What’d they eat?”
“How was it?”
“Well, my friend Pete and I weren’t sure where to go so we stopped from breakfast on the way but Pete is a big pancake guy but I really like breakfast burritos so we had to drive around a bit to find someplace that serves both you know that place in the right near the hardware store in woodland park they have really good breakfast burritos....”.
Ain’t no one got time for every detail of your f’ing day.
If the mood strikes you, don’t feel bad about sacking a fish from time to time. Don’t do it every trip and don’t kill the special ones, but where legal and sustainable, it ain’t gonna hurt anything.
Learn to tie flies, it’ll make you a better angler. Don’t do it half assed, either.
Buy the absolute best vise you can right off the bat and it’ll last you the rest of your life. Buy the one you wished you had because you’re gonna buy it sooner or later anyway. Don’t buy it twice trying to save a few bucks.
Tie on the best hooks you can get. You’ll never regret spending the money on good ones but you’ll be real mad about spending $7 on crap when you’re standing there holding a straightened hook and the fish you’ve always wanted to catch swims away. You’ll be even more mad when you figure out you now have a boxful of flies tied on hooks you don’t trust.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that true barbless competition style hooks are in any way easier on the fish. That long thin point makes TWO holes in ‘em and goes in pretty deep. The elongated point is designed to take the place of a barb so think that through. Not saying you should fish barbed hooks at all, but pinch them down. You’ll learn this the hard way when you find out just exactly how much meat a barbed size sixteen dry fly hook holds when it’s stuck in your face
Tying scissors. You almost certainly need new ones. If you can’t make a clean, precise cut with the tips, throw them out. They don’t last forever. They really don’t.
Bobbins- don’t fall for the latest and greatest iteration of what should be a really simple tool. Get one with brass feet and a ceramic tube. You don’t need an adjustable drag, the dang thing lives in your hand right next to your fingers and you already know how to use them.
Add a quality Materelli style whip finisher to your kit too. Old guys will tell you they whip finish everything by hand, what they won’t tell you is doing that twists the thread and unless you use a gallon of head cement, their flies fall apart. The tool is always smooth, too...unlike your fingers.
Buy the feathers you need as you need them. You’ll be surprised how many you DON’T need. Want, on the other hand, is a whole different story. Sometimes you just want to possess them and that’s ok too.
Never pass up a pack of dubbing. They take up almost no space and the possibilities are endless. When you use it, take whatever amount you think you need and start with a third of that. You’ll use too damn much. Everyone does. Treat it like you’re about to run out and it cost fifty bucks. Ain’t no reason anyone ought to ever have to buy a second bag of the same dubbing. It’s pretty much a lifetime purchase.
Collect all the thread you want. There’s more variations to it than you think and you’ll only learn the nuances by tying with it. Treat yourself.
Beads should be tungsten and if they’re super cheap there’s a reason. You really think some guy in New Jersey has a corner on a Chinese bead factory?
Don’t pigeonhole yourself by saying “I only tie nymphs”. Everyone ties nymphs. Don’t be afraid to get better at other things too. This sport will last your entire life, you’ll never run out of things to master. Don’t hold yourself back thinking you can’t do it. Everything is hard when you start. It gets better.
Ask good questions and question the answers. Dumb questions are ok too.
And for Christ’s sake, wear sunscreen.
There’s tonight’s wisdom in a nutshell. Go forth."