Perfecting the art of fly fishing takes years of practice, patience and determination. For those of us with years of experience, it’s easy to forget that we were beginners ourselves many moons ago.
Fly fishing skills were once passed down from one generation to the next. Now, this knowledge is freely available online.
Totalling 27 minutes and 8 seconds, the six videos below make a great introduction to fly fishing. From setting up fly reels to tying a simple fly, here is our crash course in fly fishing.
Choosing the right equipment
Start your foray into fly fishing by kitting yourself out with the right tackle.
How to set up a fly reel
This might be a long video, but it is very thorough. You can’t catch any fish without first setting up your reel.
How to cast a fly rod
The next step is learning how to cast your fly rod.
How to tie a simple ‘Bloodworm’ fly
Fly tying is a craft that many fly fishermen enjoy. The joy of landing a fish is even greater when you’ve made the fly yourself.
How to improve your casting distance
After learning how to cast, you’ll be keen to practice and improve your technique.
How to target big fish
Now you’re ready to go after the biggest fish in the lake. Impress your friends and beat your own records by targeting a whopper!
Once you’ve mastered the basics, these fly fishing tutorials will help you to improve and perfect your fly fishing techniques.
How well do you know your fly fishing lingo?
Avoid a verbal faux pas on the river bank with our – not so handy – guide to fly fishing terminology and some alternative meanings for angling terms. Read on for some good old fashioned misinformation.
|Phrase||Common definition||Fishing definition|
|Arbor||A place to moor a boat||The centre part of a fly reel – an arbor knot is used to tie the line to the reel.|
|Beadhead||Someone who takes a small hat size||A fly with a bead just behind the hook eye – some are sinkers, others floaters.|
|Conehead||A comedy alien||A cone shaped beadhead.|
|Damsel||A maiden in distress||A fly – looks a bit like a dragonfly but smaller and with folding wings.|
|Eddy||Name of an abdicating King||The edge of a current where the water flow is reduced.|
|Foul hook||A nasty pirate captain||Hooking a fish – but not in the mouth.|
|Hemostat||Some sort of thermometer||Forceps used to extract hooks from the mouths of fish.|
|Impressionist||A 19th century French painter||A fly tied to look a bit like a number of insects. Usually most useful in fast flowing streams.|
|Jumping rise||Getting better at high jump||A trout leaping from the water to catch an insect.|
|Knotted leader||A Stressed out PM||Tying different diameter lines together to create a tapered leader.|
|Lie||The opposite of the truth||Where the fish tend to congregate.|
|Mayfly||Might prefer to catch the train||One of the most commonly tied flies.|
|Nymph||A fiesty female||An immature insect.|
|Overhead Cast||Poor weather for sunbathers||The traditional fly rod cast.|
|Palming||Ahem||Using your hand to slow the spool of a fly reel.|
|Riparian||A German with a personal hygiene problem||Something situated on the riverbank?|
|Scud||A Soviet style missile||A small freshwater shrimp.|
|Tight loop||An aerobatic manoeuvre||An aerodynamic fly cast|
|Undercurrent||A tricky conversation with the inlaws||An underwater current|
|Wet fly||A boxer with confidence issues||A fly fished below the water surface.|
|Zinger||A burger from KFC||A handy retractable lanyard for keeping fishing tools handy when not in use.|
If your favourite fly fishing lingo is not on our list, please add it to the comments below.
It’s a delight to catch a decent fish. Some of us will have even landed a specimen – one of the greatest joys for anyone who dabbles with rod and fishing reel.
But here we take a look at some slightly different records of the watery world. The biggest the smallest, the rarest, the longest and of course – the weirdest.
A survivor from the age of the dinosaurs, the whale shark is the biggest fish in the sea. But unlike ‘Jaws’, these gentle giants feed on tiny sea creatures – plankton.
Whale sharks are vast – the largest confirmed specimen weighed over 21 metric tonnes and measured more than 41 feet long.
In Vietnamese culture the huge creatures are revered as a deity. Meanwhile, officials in the Philippines have made whale sharks the fishy face of the 100 Peso banknote (worth £1.50).
The world’s smallest aquarium measures just 30mm x 24mm x 14mm. The miniature tank (which held just 10 ml) of water was unveiled in 2011 by Anatoly Konenko from Omsk, Russia.
The tank was perfect – complete with decorative stones and plants, but was let down by the stocking. Zebrafish were introduced to the mini ecosystem, though they’re small, they’re not the smallest fish.
That title goes to the Paedocypris fish – a type of carp that lives in the swamps of Sumatra. At 7.9 mm, it’s the smallest vertebrate on earth – surely the perfect occupant for such a tiny tank.
From the smallest to the longest – the Oarfish, otherwise known as King of Herrings measures up to a whopping 56 feet.
When they’re sick or dying, these incredible fish tend to languish in the shallows. It’s thought that ancient sightings of sea serpents were, in fact, oarfish.
In Japanese folklore, the fish is known as the ‘Messenger from the Sea God’s Palace’. Increased numbers of oarfish were observed in Japanese waters during 2009 and 2010. But, as if warned off by the Sea God himself, they disappeared 12 months before the devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
When you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. That’s a slight exaggeration but you have to go a long way to find a Devils Hole Pupfish.
In fact, to catch a glimpse of the rarest fish on earth, you need to go to Devils Hole, an insignificant pool in the Amargosa Desert in Nevada, USA.
If you haven’t already died of heat and thirst, ignore the circling vultures and head for the hole. There you’ll struggle to find any pupfish – they’re less than an inch long and there are only an estimated 35 of them left.
There are any number of candidates for the title of weirdest fish – but the honour is awarded to….
The moray eel.
They may look friendly, but keep away. Here’s why.
When a normal fish bites you that’s one pair of jaws chomping on your leg (or worse…). But when a Moray eel gets a hold of you, it bites – and then it bites you again with its SECOND PAIR OF JAWS.
That’s right – Moray eels have two sets of gnashers. The first bite gets a good hold so that the second jaws can poke forward from its throat to drag you further in.
Anyone for a swim? The water’s lovely!
Once upon a time, local knowledge was a closely guarded secret.
But now fishing wisdom accumulated through the ages is available via the super computer in your pocket. Thereby turning anyone with a rod, fishing reel and smartphone into an expert.
Here is our guide to some of the best fishing apps out there, helping you to harness technology and keep reeling ‘em in.
This clever iPhone app tells you where to fish, which species to target and even suggests what tackle setup to use.
It combines several key factors impacting on fish feeding and set up patterns, to produce what they think will be a winning strategy. As well as that, the weather forecast and phases of the moon are integrated with expertise provided by angling experts, meaning you need never think for yourself again!
Every day you’ll get three different fishing options that best match the conditions, together with advice about rigs, baits and tactics.
Priced at £2.99, we feel sorry for the fish.
A comprehensive resource for sea anglers, What Fish boasts a 164 fish strong identification index. Whilst the app will help you to correctly identify your catch, it is much more than just a fish identification tool. You’ll also be able to access useful information such as minimum catch size, specimen shore and boat weights. Detailed maps show where target fish are likely to be swimming.
Add to that suggestions about baits and rigs that work best from different locations such as shore, boat and kayak. And as if that wasn’t enough, there are even recipes so that you can cook your catch to perfection when you get home.
An impressive amount of info for £1.99 and available for both iPhone and Android.
A wealth of information for anglers, you can use this app to save time locating the perfect fishery. Using your phone’s GPS, no matter where you are, you’ll be able to see where the fishing spots are in your area. Better yet, they’re rated so you won’t waste valuable angling time trying to find a decent spot.
The data on offer is comprehensive – with over 2,800 coarse and game venues listed. You can also access the five day weather forecast and lunar calendar and interact with other coarse and game fishing enthusiasts. This encyclopedic app also includes over 1,000 fishing tackle shops.
A serious amount of knowledge to keep in your pocket with member deals and discounts to boot. £1.99 from iTunes.
Carp Lake Maps
Ideal for those crossing the channel to France in search of specimen carp, this app offers clear maps that detail features of lake beds, to help you maximise your strike rate. Whilst it doesn’t have a vast number of lakes as of yet, there is plenty of scope for future inclusions.
Bought individually, the maps would total £54 but the phone app costs just £2.99 and is available to iPhone and Android platforms. Bargain! So if you’re likely to fish any of the locations featured it surely makes sense to download the app. If you’re a keen angler and want to see some new features, Carplakes are looking for new suggestions to add.
A favourite with us, wreckfinder has been developed by Cornish company, App Future, to help anglers and divers locate wrecks at sea. Data from the UK Hydrographic Office is integrated with Google maps to give the location of 12,000 wrecks in UK and Irish coastal waters. And you don’t even need to have a phone signal to use it either, as all the locations are downloaded with the app.
Where possible additional information about the wreck is included and all co-ordinates can be input into other electronic navigational aids. Your phone’s GPS also gives your location in relation to the wreck sites in your sea area.
A great concept and one we’re sure will be a hit with sea anglers everywhere.
£3.99 and available for iPhone and Android.
Found a fishing app that you think is a star performer? Why not let us know so we can review it?
Back in the days of sail, life for your average mariner was a harsh existence.
Long periods away from home, were punctuated by disease, brutality and the constant risk of injury and death. Coastal communities didn’t have it much better. Dependent on the sea for their means of survival, life was precarious to say the least.
Perhaps that’s why the fishing reels and sea shanties of the day were so lively; folk making the most of any and every chance to lighten the load with music and dance.
Manx salmon leap
During the 18th century, a wave of strict Calvinist religious fervour swept the Isle of Man. Enjoying yourself was out, and frivolities frowned upon – to admit to knowing how to dance the traditional Manx reels, became a source of shame. But few can tell a fishermen what to do. The men of the sea helped keep the old songs and dances alive – performing in the pub, in return for a pint of ale.
One of the trickiest dances of all was called the ‘salmon leap.’ In one fluid movement, the performer had to lie flat on his back, then leap to his feet. Sadly this is one dance that has passed into history – and no one now knows how this feat of flexibility was achieved.
The Cornish pilchard reel
At the peak of the Cornish pilchard industry, in the early 1800s, as many as 40,000 barrels of pilchards were processed each year. The fish were first put in baulk – gutted, then layered with salt, into walls several feet high. After a month, they would be put into barrels, and pressed to remove excess oil, which was used to fuel lamps. The pilchard season must have been immensely smelly.
When the work was finally over, the festivities began in earnest with a ‘troyl’, or Cornish ceilidh held in every cellar. Often the music, dancing and drinking would continue into the small hours.
The Lang Reel
We journey from one end of the country to the other for this staple of wedding festivities. In the fishing villages of North East of Scotland, the whole community used to dance from the harbour, through the streets of the town. As each house was passed, the occupants would break off from the reel, until only the bride and groom were left to enjoy the last dance by themselves.
The fish slapping dance
When it comes to our favourite fishing reel, it can only be this monumentally silly offering from the immortal, Monty Python. John Cleese and Michael Palin dressed in safari outfits and pith hats, perform the mightily ridiculous ‘Fish slapping dance.’
Blue Monday is statistically the most miserable day of the year. In 2013 it falls on 21st January (today).
To help our fellow fishing enthusiasts get through the long dark nights and beat the winter blues, we’ve selected some of the best ever ‘fishing reels’- films that contain fish.
A fish called Wanda
A jewellery heist, a lot of double crossing, and the attempted murder of the sole eyewitness to the crime. One at a time the dear old lady’s dogs are accidentally killed and when the last one is done in, she succums to heart failure. Jamie Lee Curtis seduces John Cleese, Kevin Kline and swallows Michael Palin’s beloved tropical fish – until Wanda is the only one left.
Somehow there’s a happy ending – ‘A fish called Wanda’ is a magical farce that’s as funny now as when released all the way back in 1988. This is one ‘fishing reel’ not to miss.
The scariest rubber shark in history. The film’s soundtrack alone gets the heart racing. Repeated failure of the prop department’s mechanical sharks meant that Spielberg could use them only sparingly. But in ‘Jaws’, anticipation builds a delicious sense of tension.
Who could fail to jump a mile in the air when the skinny dipping Chrissy Watkins becomes a late night snack for the sharp toothed marine marauder? Often compared favourably to the work of the master of suspense – Hitchcock himself, Spielberg’s Jaws is a timeless classic. Come on in the water’s lovely!
Shock, horror, dehydration, jellyfish stings and circling sharks. Open water, released in 2003 is a retelling of the true story of Tom and Eileen Logan. The real life couple and peace corps workers – were on a scuba diving trip to the Great Barrier Reef, when their dive boat left them behind. An incorrect headcount meant nobody realised they were missing for two days, and despite a massive air – sea search, the pair were never seen again.
The film details the end-of-life experiences of an American couple as they tread water alone and scared. It’s a simple story – the sharks get them in the end. The film cost a mere $500,000 to make, but it ‘netted’ $55 million worldwide. Not a bad return for a low budget horror flick.
A fishing disaster flick and a cautionary tale. The crew of the Andrea Gail are hard up – so they make one last late season fishing trip. While they steam far out to sea in search of a catch, behind them a ‘perfect storm’ brews. When their ice maker fails, the crew have to choose whether to stay offshore and wait for the storm to abate, or steam through it and land their catch. The fatal decision is made, the ship makes for harbour, but is lost with all hands. Perfect storm was a box office smash, but controversial.
The film was loosely based on the book of the same name – an account of the real life disaster of 1991. Names weren’t changed and families of the lost fishermen felt their folk had been misrepresented. Lawsuits ultimately failed – defeated by the assertion of the right to free speech. Perfect storm is a compelling story but its release less than ten years after the actual events was possibly in poor taste.
A river runs through it
The Blackfoot River, Montana is the backdrop to this thoughtful tale of the contrasting fortunes of two fly fishing brothers. Set in prohibition America, Norman, (Craig Sheffer) and Paul (Brad Pitt) are young men, living under the watchful eye of their Presbyterian Minister father (Tom Skerritt). Sensible Norman, returns from college to take up a teaching post. Paul is a journalist on the local paper and a gambling, liquor swilling rebel.
Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Norman Maclean, the film was released to critical acclaim in 1992 and was nominated for three academy awards. ‘A river runs through it’, is seen by many as Brad Pitt’s career making performance. For us, it’s a film with trout in it.
A film about whales rather than fish, ‘Whale Rider’ tells the story of a young girl called Pai, as she struggles to overcome the prejudice of her grandfather (the Maori village leader). Steeped in the traditions and mythology of her homeland, Pai alone can unite the old ways with the new.
To make her grandfather see sense takes the beaching of a pod of right whales, and Pai’s near drowning as she leads them to safety. A sensitive portrayal of the issues facing many modern Maori, ‘Whale Rider’ won numerous accolades when it was released in 2002. One of several cinematic gems to come from the shores of New Zealand – this film is well worth watching.
Commercial fishing has come a long way since the days of rod and reel, handline and net. But do falling fish stocks show we’re now too good at harvesting the wealth beneath the waves?
Perhaps the old ways are best. Here we look at some of Europes last traditional fisheries. We start with some Dutch fishermen who are keeping it ‘reel’.
Dutch Bass fishing
Fishing doesn’t get any more sustainable than this. The whole fishery consists of just 21 small boats and their crews of three.
Together they harvest around 75 tonnes of sea bass from the North Sea each year. That’s 1.2 tonnes per person, a lot less fish per person than on a factory trawler.
The boats are anchored on wreck sites and fish are caught using fishing reel and rod. The bycatch is nil, the sea bed is protected and fish stocks are maintained. The catch is sold the same day, its freshness ensuring it fetches top prices.
As fishing methods go – they don’t get much more destructive than dredging for oysters or scallops. But there’s always an exception that proves the rule.
Falmouth in Cornwall boasts Europe’s most ancient oyster fishery. Traditional gaff rigged sailing boats and rowing punts haul three foot metal dredges over the muddy estuary silt. Because no engines are allowed, dredges are small, and weather conditions limit the number of days skippers can work.
The fleet doesn’t overharvest and so represents a uniquely sustainable fishing industry. The Falmouth oyster festival held each October, offers an excellent opportunity to savour the produce; the taste of the sea, Cornish style.
Goose barnacle picking
Some seafood can only be harvested by hand. The goose barnacle fishery is one example. The long necked Spanish and Portuguese delicacy lives only on cliffs pounded by big waves and washed by strong currents. To be a successful goose barnacle harvester, or ‘percebeiros’, you have to be mad.
The technique? Tie yourself to a rock, dodge waves the size of houses and lever the creatures off the rocks. Then dart out of the way before the next wall of water smashes you to smithereens. Not for the faint hearted or sane.
There’s only one traditional eel trapper left in the UK. Peter Carter’s family have trapped eels in hand woven willow traps, since at least 1470.
The Fenland tradition remains little changed since the bronze age. An archaeological dig in Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire found that the traps used by our ancient ancestors were virtually the same as those used by Peter today.
Sadly, eel numbers in the fens have dwindled in recent years as less elvers have made the journey from the Sargasso Sea, and over fishing has taken its toll.
Mud horse shrimping
Another last man standing – in the mud this time, is Adrian Sellick of Bridgewater Bay on the North Somerset coast. He uses a wooden sledge called a horse, to fish for shrimp.
Resting his weight on his belly, he uses his legs to push the contraption along. When he reaches the low tide line, he sets shrimp nets.
Catches aren’t what they used to be, and few young people are interested in such a hard, dirty life. Adrian is the fifth generation of his family to practise the art – sadly it looks like he’ll be the last.
When it comes to fish dishes, why mess around trying to prepare the strange concoctions of celebrity chefs, when the original recipes are best?
The real experts are the ones who use their fishing reels to catch the ingredients. So let’s take a look at some traditional fisherman’s fare – reel fish dishes!
This creamy fish dish originates in New England. A simple soup of potatoes, onion, a little bacon, butter and clams – it is the taste of the sea.
Fishermen would have used any fish and shellfish to make the dish but over time, chowder has evolved to become the eponymous clam dish.
There are several versions – including a New York derivative that includes tomatoes in the recipe. This so enraged devotes of the original chowder that in 1939, the legislature in Maine made the addition of tomatoes to clam chowder – illegal.
For your ‘legal’ New England Clam Chowder recipe click here.
Legend has it that Venus the Roman Goddess of love, fed her husband Vulcan the God of fire, bouillabaisse to ensure that he nodded off. Once he was sound asleep, off she went cavorting with none other than that dashing God of war, Mars.
More down to earth sources point to Marseille as the city of origin for this delicious fisherman’s stew.
The fish are only a bit part player in the drama of flavours that make up a sumptuous bouillabaisse. A unique blend of ingredients including saffron, fennel seeds, orange zest and pernod, have led the dish to be described as a ‘magical synthesis’.
Fancy feeding your god of fire with some fisherman’s stew? You’ll find a fantastic Bouillabaise recipe here.
A fusion of African, European and North American cookery, a decent cajun gumbo includes meat, fish and shrimps cooked in a thick, strongly flavoured stock. Add celery, bell peppers and onions and you’re in for a treat.
The sauce is thickened by a variety of means – okra, a flour and fat ‘roux’, or filé – dried, powdered sassafras leaves which also add a spicy zing. This delight of the deep South developed during the 18th century and is the official dish of Louisiana.
Cook up a Cajun storm with this seafood gumbo recipe.
Stargazy pie is a famous Cornish dish consisting of Pilchards baked with eggs and potatoes under a pastry top. Stargazy get’s it’s name from the fish heads that poke through the pie crust.
This delight of South West England is traditionally eaten in the tiny fishing village of Mousehole, as part of Tom Bawcock’s eve celebrations on 23rd December. Tom is reputed to have saved the inhabitants from famine by bringing home a bumper catch from the stormy winter seas, just in the nick of time.
For a taste of the South West, get stuck in to this wholesome Stargazy Pie recipe.
Fish and chips
The ubiquitous British fish dish came about as a result of the industrial revolution.
The advent of beam trawling in the North sea, greatly increased the size of the catch. At the same time, the spread across the country of the railways, enabled the swift transportation of fish to market in the big cities.
The first fish and chip shop was opened by John Malin in London in 1860, and the fast food industry was born. Incidentally, fish and chips were one of the only foodstuffs not rationed during the second world war.
Today’s fishing reels are evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
They may look like miniature satellites, but for centuries the driving force behind fishing reel technology has been nature.
Here we take a look at some of the materials and techniques involved in constructing today’s fishing reels.
Strong and light, aluminium is the perfect material for the block – the core of the reel. But manufacturing techniques vary considerably.
Top end reels are machined from a single piece of aluminium, often either 6061-T6 or duraluminium. Space age names perhaps – but in reality, tried and tested materials. 6061- T6 dates from the 1930s and is regarded for its strength and resistance to corrosion.
It is still used in the manufacture of private light aircraft, yachts and SCUBA tanks. Duraluminium is an even older material – dating back to 1903 and was used in the construction of airships.
Cast, machined or forged?
Does it matter? In fact the various methods used in forming the core of the reel do impart different characteristics to the finished product.
The toughest of them all is a cold forged frame. As the metal is pressed into a mold, its internal structure deforms to follow the shape of the mold. This results in a grain that runs in the same direction, throughout the piece, making it stronger.
Carbon fiber drag washers are incredibly hard wearing and effective but the technology itself though born in the United States, was developed and patented by the British Ministry of defense.
Rolls Royce was one of the earliest adopters of the new material, using it to construct the blades of its RB211 jet engine. Unfortunately having passed all other tests, the material then failed spectacularly, shattering when a chicken was fired at it!
Ball bearings are one of the technologies of the industrial revolution. The concept is simple enough – rolling balls create less friction than sliding surfaces. However, not all bearings are equal.
Top of the range fishing reels may well contain hybrid ceramic bearings. This actually means, ceramic bearings in a ferrous bearing race. The advantages of ceramic versus steel are three fold.
First, ceramics are much harder than steel, resulting less compression and reduced heat and friction at high speeds. Second, the surface of a ceramic bearing has a smoother finish than steel – again cutting back on resistance. Third, ceramics are harder wearing – a longer lasting fishing reel.
Fishing reel gears are commonly constructed from stainless steel, brass or bronze. Go on any fishing forum and you’ll find a debate about which is best and why different alloys are used in combination.
A popular setup is a stainless pinion and bronze main gear. Brass gears are perhaps smoother, but softer, and stainless can be noisy but hard wearing. Do bear in mind that the quality of the gears is just as important as the material used to make them.
So now you know. Modern fishing reels are the product of manufacturing knowledge and natural materials, not space age discovery.