On the Fly: Learning to Fish…Again

The Meaning of Lifelong Learning

Contributors: Amanda Reynolds, Wesley Reynolds

Anyone who has grown up spin fishing and made the transition to fly fishing knows how different and difficult it can be. You literally have to learn a skill that you learned as a child all over again. This has been my biggest struggle. It has also been a struggle learning the difference between stream/river fishing and lake fishing. As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts: I grew up fishing on a lake, in a boat. I am the most comfortable on a lake, in a boat, in water that isn’t moving.

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Stream Fishing with Bella

This whole new concept of fly fishing and stream/river fishing has basically changed my world and the way I view fishing.

As someone who makes a large portion of their living in school, I am not new to the concept of being a “lifelong learner” and knowing that “learning never ends.” But those are words and concepts. Like many words and concepts, we never really understand them until we experience them enough to know their meaning on a personal level. Fly fishing has reminded me that learning a skill isn’t just something that happens. It’s a choice. And like many skills, you’ll never get any good at it, if you don’t choose to learn it and immerse yourself in it.

This is my journey of learning how to fish for the second time in my life.


Remember the push-button reels that you used as a kid? Mine had the Disney character Pluto on it. I loved it and hated it because it was super easy to cast, but if it rats-nested you had to basically deconstruct the entire reel to fix it. In a way, it’s the same as fly fishing: At one point you’ll eventually end up with a tangle of line in your hands, at your feet, in trees, and on the ground. Somewhere in that tangle of line is a very sharp hook, sometimes there’s two. If you’re lucky, you’ve remembered to pinch the barbs down.


Little Wood River, ID

Casting a fly rod is different from a spinning outfit. You can’t just reel in line and a lure and sling it back out there. I mean, you can…just not the same way. You have to create the mechanical action of loading the rod and creating drag between the line, the fly, and the rod. This action is normally performed by the reel in a spinning setup. In a spinning setup, the reel itself keeps tension on the line when you cast, so you’re not physically having to create that tension yourself. Casting a fly rod is all about creating and manipulating that tension to get the fly where you want it to be.

If this sounds hard, it is…and it isn’t. Just like a golf swing, if you let the rod to the work its easy. If you think about it too much, try to muscle it, or throw it around, it’s hard. It takes practice.


Much like any other type of fishing the ultimate goal is to make whatever your fishing with look alive when its on or in the water. The difference between an up-stream mend and a down-stream mend will help determine where your fly ends up, and just how alive it looks. It is also something that’s imperative in moving water.

What’s the key to mending?

You have to know how the water is going to react with your line and the fly you’re using. Once you know how the water is going to move the line and the fly, then you can react


Little Wood River, ID

appropriately. Notice I said “how the water is going to move”? No matter how hard you try, you can’t change the direction the water is going. It’s your job to learn to work with the water, not against it, to make the fly end up where you want it.


If this sounds hard, it is…and it isn’t. It’s kind of like learning to swim. Once you figure out that the water is going to push you wherever it wants, then you can figure out how to use it to your advantage to get you where you want to go.


I probably should have prefaced this post with the context: the only sport I’ve ever played is golf. I played it for two years before giving up on it and resigning to the fact that I’m a “hacker”. In other words, I’m not the most coordinated person. It takes me a LONG time to learn some things, especially when it comes to establishing muscle memory. But seeing and making a connection with these fish is worth it.

So this is my process; this is me practicing. This is me choosing to learn and get better with each new experience.


Box Canyon, ID

For more information on fly fishing and getting started here are a few helpful links:

Red’s Fly Shop: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYCS7rft1xY6wvONblIpYdA

There are hundreds of instructional videos, but when I was researching, I found the ones on Red’s easiest to understand and follow. All learners are different! Find what works for you!

Denver Outfitters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUUGJpbvX1g

Denver Outfitters has some good updates and tips along with Simms, Orvis, and Fishpond.

Orvis: https://news.orvis.com/fly-fishing/video-cast-fly-rod-basics

Orvis has some great articles and tips that are updated fairly consistently on their website/facebook page.

Idaho Angler: https://www.guidefitter.com/news-and-advice

For fishing in Idaho and just in general, this fly shop has some good information and could be another good starting point.

Disclaimer: NONE of the above links are paid sponsors, it’s just information I’ve found helpful. Keep in mind that everyone learns differently. What works for me may not work for you, but hopefully this information can help you find your starting point.