In the previous article I talked about the enjoyment of fishing with friends. I wanted to include a few techniques I have found that make fishing with friends less stressful, more enjoyable, and more productive.
These steps are geared for the "guide's" perspective as he (or she) takes a beginner out fly fishing.
FOR THE "GUIDE" (Mentor)
Prepare yourself if you are teaching a new person how to fly fish. You are a guide. You may not feel like it, get paid for it, or even want to be; however, whether you think it or not, you are the newbie's guide.
Two overarching themes in this are: 1) treat them with respect and 2) be patient. These two things should reach their claws into every part of your day with the student. Aside from those two things there are several more helps that can assist you as you prepare to teach a newbie.
1 - Teach
Teach what is necessary for the situation. This is a balancing act. You don't need to take a first time beginner on a black diamond lecture about the variances between caddis species from sizes 12, 14, 16, 18, and 20 that all hatch in the month of May. You don't even have to say the name caddis. Tie their fly on for them and show them how to fish it. Leave the black diamond speeches to more experienced anglers or later days. Your goal is not to impress your student with your "immense" knowledge, but to help them catch a fish (or fish fever).
As well, many times your student may know far more than you think or have more experience in other forms of fishing that may prove valuable if you only listen. I take some people out who don't know a ton about fly fishing for trout, but they can put the hammer down on some striper with conventional tackle, something I am near clueless about.
2 - Read your Student
Some people don't want to know anything more than where they should cast, and how to do that best. Read your student and don't vomit useless information they don't want to know. If they never ask a question, they may not want to know anything - or they could just be nervous. Read your student as best you can and help them by sometimes remaining silent.
Other students will want to know everything they can. Questions leave their lips faster than you can answer them. With this mentality, help the student as much as possible, but know your limits. Engrain this in your brain - if you don't know the answer to a question, say these simple words - "I don't know." No one knows everything, and it's okay to admit that.
Also, notice when your student is finished. Don't stay all day if they clearly are finished and ready to head home. Don't drag on the day. I once met a man in the parking lot of a local fishery who was waiting for a friend. Through casual conversation, I learned he had been waiting for 3 hours for his buddy to return. He had finished fishing and his buddy wanted to stay "a few more minutes." I bet you that day strained their friendship - that or his buddy was lost somewhere in the woods...
3 - Fish
I have noticed one of the best ways people learn how to cast and where to cast is by watching someone else do this. When I take someone who wants to fish, I bring two fly rods, one for me and one for them. While we walk to our destination, usually a river I know decently, I will stop and show them stretches of water and briefly showcase how to fish (i.e. cast beside and behind rocks, show them how to approach water, and maybe how to do a roll cast). I may go to one or two prime spots in the beginning so they can see what it looks like if a fish strikes. This is helpful on small streams so they can see how blazing fast a brook trout slams a dry fly.
After I have given them a crash course, I normally let them take most of the prime spots, until they tire. After all, if you are trying to get someone into fly fishing, a fish should be involved if possible...
This will also be a balancing act, as you don't want your student to grow weary of their failures, especially if you are standing behind them the whole time arms crossed with a judgmental gaze. On the other hand, you want them to put a fly on the water a few times throughout the day.
It's not bad if you catch a fish first, it's only bad if you hog all the prime water and neglect your student so they feel incapable of fly fishing. Don't shove someone out of the sport because you want to make the most of your one day off.
4 - Prepare
As the more experienced angler, prepare beforehand to make both you and your student's day on the water enjoyable. Be sure you have all the equipment necessary: flies, flotant, proper fly rods, and make sure they are all in suitable working order.
I'll never forget the day I took someone out and they continued to complain about the difficulty of casting. I took the rod after a while, and cast it a few times. After feeling the line and watching the cast, I realized what was wrong. The fly line was backwards. They were casting the running line instead of the WF head. Had I taken a few minutes before the trip, it would have been a lot more enjoyable for that angler. Luckily, he still fishes with me.
Prepare yourself mentally for your student's failures. Beginners will mess up. Lots. They have not read the articles, logged the hours, and seen what you have seen. Be patient. This requires mental toughness, and perseverance on your part. Don't be discouraged after you watch them miss fish after fish, or see them miss the big one because they were staring at a blue bird in a bush. The experience and memories you will make together will last longer than the temporary high of that 18 inch brown you would have landed.
- I always like to include hi-vis flies so it's easier for students to see what's going on. Especially if they have poor eye sight.
- Brightly colored Thingamabobbers make nymphing a lot easier, and I usually only put one fly on their rig so they don't tangle as much if they're a recent beginner. No one needs to be tightline nymphing their first time on a trout stream.
- Remind them to bring food, water, bug spray, and sun screen. Obviously, this will all depend on the season, and duration of time you'll be out.
- Lend them some polarized glasses if you have a spare pair, or tell them to purchase some if they intend on fly fishing for the long run. They are an invaluable asset to the fly angler.
- Remind them to wear a hat even if it's an overcast day.
- Stay with your student. Please don't take them to teach them, then ditch them in the parking lot. I heard of one friend who wanted to learn, so a "mentor" took him out. Before his waders were on, his "mentor" was out of sight. He caught zero fish that day and hasn't been on the water since.
- Patience, Patience, Patience. I will forever harp on this. Give them the kind of patience you wanted when you first started fishing. You didn't want some jerk screaming in your ear about how you screwed up. Don't treat them that way, no matter how many times they've screwed up.
Hopefully, these lessons I have learned will help you on your endeavors. Next, we will look at "How to Fish With Friends" from the newbies perspective. What to expect when your experienced buddy wants to take you fishing.