Once a person gets geared up and ready to go fly fishing, it is important to pay attention to all benchmark achievements that are sure to follow. There will always be a “first” of everything, and it is fun to observe personal improvement in the sport. The criteria regarding what constitutes a benchmark will vary from person to person, but there are several key events that should be noted over the developing career of a fly fisherman.
The first spill
Just remember that every wading fly fisherman has taken a nasty spill into the river at one point or another. It is all part of the game and never let this minor setback ruin your day. Rocks are slippery and river bottoms are uneven, so getting wet is just an inevitability of fly fishing.
The first fish
There is no feeling in the world like battling that first nice fish on a fly rod. When this benchmark is reached, it means that everything has finally come together. The sense of accomplishment at this moment in time is undeniable, but thoughts quickly turn to catching that second fish. For some people, that initial taste of success comes very quickly, while others will endure one heartbreaking moment after another before breaking through and landing their first decent fish.
The first trophy fish
Fly fishing is primarily utilized for catching trout in moving water, with several notable exceptions. Landing that first trophy trout on a fly rod is a moment that will become etched in your memory. Big fish are hard to fool, so actually catching a beast marks the end of being a neophyte – it is like a test has been passed. On some rivers, a trophy fish may be as short as 16-inches, where on other waterways; a trout must be 20-inches in order to be considered in the trophy class. Regardless, bringing one of a river’s oldest residents and a top predator to hand can be the fishing thrill of a lifetime.
The first fish caught in unfamiliar water
Most fly anglers learn the sport on a specific body of water, and over time, they get proficient at catching fish close to home. There is nothing quite like feeling the satisfaction of visiting a new fishery and catching fish while there. This benchmark signifies the transition to becoming an experienced fly fisherman. It is also enjoyable to utilize familiar techniques while fishing new water. There are plenty of examples of visiting anglers showing the local know-it-alls a thing or two.
The first fly tied
This benchmark refers to tying one’s first fly and catching a fish on it. There are many excellent fly fishermen who do not tie their own flies, but fly tying is a rewarding activity that allows a fly angler the chance to interject personal creativity into their fishing. Tying flies is not very difficult to learn, and it feels great to fool a fish with a personally-created pattern. Over time, it will become expected that you will catch fish on your own flies, but that first breakthrough moment will stay with you for awhile.
The first foreign fish
Sometimes it is easy to forget that we live in a big world, and there are wonderful angling opportunities in lands far away. Fish are fish, and there is something pretty cool about catching a foreign trout on an American fly. Since the advent of the Internet, hardly any quality fishing destinations are a secret anymore, but there are still many pristine resources to be explored all across the globe.
The first saltwater fish caught
Although saltwater fly fishing has evolved significantly over the last 20 years, this adaptation of the sport has been thrilling anglers for decades. Catching fish utilizing saltwater fly fishing techniques require making long and accurate casts, so the first fish caught in this situation is a huge benchmark accomplishment. Catching exotic and dangerous species of fish on a fly rod definitely takes the sport to the next level.
The first time that you feel like an expert
When this moment comes, it is time to relax. All of the hard work and learning have finally paid off, and now you can take pride in how far you have come. It provides perspective to think of those early periods of your fly fishing career and how little was understood when you initially picked up a fly rod. You can now hold your own in any fly shop conversation and there is not a fish out there that you do not think that you can catch with a fly. The most important realization that occurs after reaching the expert level is that there is still so much to learn in the world of fly fishing.
The journey from a novice fly angler to an expert is defined by achieving benchmarks. Each new level is more satisfying than the last, and progressing in this sport is defined by all the fun had along the way. Beginner fly fishermen should realize that improvement is inevitable, and experts can find joy in reflecting on the ups and downs of becoming an accomplished angler.