Fly Fishing for Beginners

Reviewed by Joel Strimling

Many books are written with the novice fly fisher in mind. Usually their goal is to impart a desire to take up this new activity, to give a basic understanding of how to do it, and to instill the urge to learn more. A good beginner's book walks the fine line of informing while being entertaining and inspiring.

Fly Fishing for Beginners, by Chris Hansen, manages pieces of this equation but overall misses the mark.

Too Much about Some Subjects, Too Little about Others

The book covers the basics, including reels, rods, flies, wading, casting, etc. There are 200 photos that illustrate these fundamentals. However, parts of the book delve too deeply into details that could easily confuse a newbie, while other parts pass too quickly--or skip entirely--essential subjects.

For example, the book discusses how to play a fish by hand, but it makes little reference to playing one on the reel. It also does not inform the reader that fly reels are single action and that you cannot reel against the drag as you would with conventional tackle--an essential point.

The chapter on casting also had its problems. I remember when I switched from spin fishing to fly casting, so I can't agree with the author's statement "if you have ever cast a spinning or baitcasting rod, you can already make the motions required to cast a fly rod." There is also no discussion of the arc a fly rod travels or how that affects the cast. While the author recommends keeping the rod parallel throughout the stroke he does not discuss watching your rod tip or give tips on how far the rod tip should move.

Moreover, some photographs are contrary to what is discussed. For example, the text advises keeping your casting hand below your head, yet there is a photo of a single haul with the caster's hand clearly above head height.

Discussion of aquatic life is also glossed over. While the author discusses the three main stages of insect life (nymph, emerger, and adult) that a fisher might target with flies, he does not include other insightful facts that could greatly assist a newcomer, such as that 70-80 percent of a fish's feeding is subsurface, or the best point at which to target each stage.

The author makes some valuable suggestions, such as not paying top dollar for fancy nippers when you can use cheap nail clippers. Unfortunately these nuggets are buried by the book's shortcomings.

Better Resources Available

While there is useful information in Fly Fishing for Beginners, newcomers to the sport will find better resources at their local fly shop or on the internet. This book is geared towards people who already have some fishing knowledge and were thinking of adding fly fishing to their repertoire. However, a true beginner, or even someone with some minor knowledge of fly fishing, would be better served to save his or her money and take a class at a local shop or join a fly fishing club.