Written By Alex Mangels (Pictured Below on The Oregon Coast)
A Beginners Thoughts On Fly Fishing
My journey into the fly fishing world has been brief so far, but it’s something that I dove into headfirst. I have only been slinging streamers and floating dry flies for the better part of a year, and I have found that my days on the water are becoming more sacred to me. Growing up bait casting every now and then, I had developed an interest in the pursuit of pulling these scaled beauties out of the water. Once I started using a fly rod I decided that it was something I needed to try and get good at, and I quickly became enamored with the practice.
Since starting out a relatively short while ago, I have dedicated much of my spare time to learning the ins and outs of reading rivers, fly presentation, and fish behavior. It’s a tricky thing to take an inanimate object and to make it appear like a live organism in order to fool a fish into eating it. Through the headaches and curse worthy incidents that can frustrate anyone who has taken up the pursuit of fly fishing, there are some things that I have found can be applied and reinforced from the river and back to civilization.
1. There Is Only So Much In My Control
The controllable aspects of life are the things that really should attract the majority of our attention. Fly selection, knot tying, retrieval speed, technique: these are all parts of the fly fishing process that are in our control. It becomes easy to obsess over why we aren’t catching fish and what we can do better. We can’t control what hatch is going on, how strong the water is flowing, fish activity, or water temperature. While these are all important factors, they shouldn’t be a source of stress that takes away from the joy experienced on the water. I would rather be focused on whether I’m going to fish a streamer with a Spawn Head versus a dry fly, rather than things that I know I won’t be able to influence. Focusing on things that are out of your control becomes a factor that adds unnecessary stress into our lives. If it is out of your control, then there is nothing that you can effectively do to influence the outcome. Instead, focus on the variables that are in your control and be comfortable and confident that you have done the very best that you can to achieve what you are after.
2. Even Days Without Success Can Be Good Days
It goes without saying that the goal is to land fish, but not every day is going to be filled with a take every other cast. Some of my favorite days on the water have been days where I may have not caught any fish, but I am still in a place where I can take in the beauty of my surroundings and enjoy the nature that I am roaming in the midst of. Maybe this has to do with the fact that I haven’t had too many marquee days filled with fish. But a big reason that I fish is to escape the rapid movement of reality and life in the city, and I achieve that most days even without having caught any fish. Just like I do with fishing, anyone can take something from an unsuccessful day and enjoy life, but also to make themselves better for the next challenge that lies ahead.
3. Nature’s Order Is So Cool... And Has to Be Preserved
Before ever having fished with a fly rod I had been quite active in the outdoors, whether it was hiking, camping, or just getting away from densely occupied human communities. I’ve always been in awe of the wildlife that I’ve either encountered myself, or seen through virtual means. But it wasn’t until I started fly fishing that I became more in tune to the order that exists within nature. I am more aware of the cycle of the ecosystem, from the life cycle of bugs and how to mimic them, to the spawning cycles of fish, their migratory patterns, and other predators (besides ourselves) that fish are vulnerable to. This new knowledge has expanded my mind in a couple of ways: giving myself a better chance at catching the fish I’m after, and building a greater respect for the natural world that we are a part of. Not only has it helped me with my own craft, but it has sparked a greater desire to do what I can for the conservation of fish and the habitats they live in. It has become increasingly rare to find low trafficked areas, even in the outdoors, where human presence hasn’t left some sort of mark on the territory. While we can have good influences, we need to be cognizant of how we impact the areas we choose to explore.
4. Keep Calm, Wade On
Seems pretty basic, I know. But it really does make sense in the grand scheme of things. I know just as well as anyone that constant tangles, snagged branches, and lost flies are going to get the best of you mentally from time to time. If a particular stretch of water isn’t producing results, just take a few minutes to breathe, then move on to another section. Your honey hole could very well be around the next bend in the river, not far from where you had your worst stretch of the day. For me, fly fishing is a hobby that I have picked up to escape the stresses of my daily grind, so I don’t want it to be something that brings even more tension into my life. Find the things that put you at ease, and make sure that they remain a relaxing part of your life that allow you get a mental break from work, school, or whatever may be your source of stress.
In the the grand scheme of things, we are just a small part of this world we live in. Fly fishing has given me a more intimate experience within the natural world, and I feel like I have developed a slightly different perspective since I’ve become more involved in it. I’m no expert, but I care enough to improve myself every chance I get, and to have an impact where I can. Learning about the decline in populations of fish has helped to open my eyes to how much we as humans have affected the natural life cycles of different species, especially looking at the returns of salmon and steelhead in the Northwest. I’ve been lucky to have been exposed to some people within the industry with a wealth of knowledge and experience, who have let me pick their brains while I’ve just started out. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon, and I cant wait to see what I’ll learn as I continue to explore the water.
***Check Out @Alex_Mangels on Instagram for more great content!