Why fly fishing is fun
They say there’s only ever one ‘first trout’ smile – and I’ve recently seen it on my 12-year-old daughter. Nope, I’m not talking lip fillers or collagen. She’s 12 people, get a grip.
Last week I took her fly fishing – and she fought that one-and-a-half-footer with passion, determination and a cool I didn’t know she had. Once it was in the net, with her heart still pounding that ‘first trout’ smile spread across her face. And there it stayed. All day.
It was a wonderful experience, and one that brings a smile to my own face just recalling that moment. As the daughter of a keen amateur fisherman – my dad is in a boat fishing off the coast of Australia as I write – I grew up around rods and reels, tackle and bait. So when Marc O’Regan at We Fly Fish offered to take us out for the day, I jumped at the chance.
Marc teaches fly fishing at all levels, offering lessons for complete beginners, days out for families, corporate days, and guided fishing trips for anglers with a bit more experience.
His personalised tuition means you can tailor the experience to get the most out of your session depending on your fly fishing skills and knowledge. Marc, and the coaches at We Fly Fish, fish at some of the most beautiful spots in Surrey, Hampshire or Sussex.
Despite growing up with a keen angler I had never tried fly fishing, so Marc was going right back to basics with my daughter and I. We met at midday on a bright but chilly January day at Frensham Trout Fishery in Churt. It’s a stunning spot, and with the sun out, but low in the sky behind us, the light playing on the fallen leaves created a picture postcard setting. There are fabulous amenities too – an open lodge with a gas hob for making hot drinks, and a loo. Even if we didn’t manage a catch, I thought, there are far worse ways to spend a day out.
Marc had said we’d need to wear a peaked cap and sunglasses (for safety), and suggested fingerless gloves and plenty of layers for comfort and warmth. Even so, he came prepared with an extra gilet, which came in handy for my daughter midway through the afternoon when the cold started to bite.
As you’d expect, we started our lesson with an introduction to the basics of fly fishing, which uses an artificial ‘fly’ to catch fish rather than live bait. Marc gave us a run through of some of the different flies that can be used: the flies are imitating natural insects so it makes sense to chose one that would naturally occur in the area you’re fishing. We started out with bloodworms, but moved on to a fly that imitated a small fish.
Then, of course, there’s the gear. We were fishing for rainbow trout, or if were were really lucky, wild brown trout. And we were using a nine-foot single handed fly rod. As you’d expect, the rods come in a range of sizes, and size depends on what you’re aiming to catch. The bigger the fish, the bigger the rod and line.
Marc took us through the gear then showed us how to cast. I’ve cast using a traditional rod, but fly fishing is quite different and it takes some practice to get it right. It would perhaps be overstating it to suggested that we girls had mastered it by the end of the day, but we’d certainly improved a lot. In fact, my daughter was looking pretty comfortable flicking that line out – in no small part due to Marc’s incredible patience and gentle instructions.
So after getting to grips with the basics, it’s just a matter of waiting for a tug on the line. For my daughter, that came not long after lunch. But she played it like a pro – with Marc coaching gently from the sideline -letting the fish go out on the line, reeling it in, then letting it go out again. There’s probably a more technical angling term for it, but basically she was tiring the fish out so we could bring it into the net. Which, after several times of letting it go out, then reeling it in, she eventually did.
Marc says there’s an art to playing the fish, and that my gal got it pretty spot on. She didn’t panic. She didn’t shriek. And, importantly, she didn’t lose the fish.
And then that smile.
After the excitement of Mr Trout, we went back to the business of fly fishing, me secretly hoping to catch one of my own, while maintaining I was super chuffed with my daughter’s catch. And then it happened. A tug on the line – and I had my own Mr Trout to play.
I’m not sure I was as cool and calm as the 12-year-old. My heart was pounding, and I felt sure I was going to lose him every time he went took off with that line. But after a bit, I got him into Marc’s net and onto the bank.
Another big trout smile. And the perfect ending to a great day of fly fishing.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: If you’re looking for adventure, thrills and excitement, but also peace, tranquility and a way to relax. You don’t need to have any experience of fly fishing, and We Fly Fish provide everything you need. They do suggest that kids be aged 10 years and up, so they have the concentration and coordination needed – although it’s not a deal breaker.
Not for: If you’re a firm ‘indoors only’ type of person – fishing probably isn’t for you.
The damage: The cost for a day of fly fishing depends on the number of people – but starts at £230 for one angler, £320 for two people and £410 for three. A half day starts at £150 for one angler, £210 for two people and £270 for three. This includes the dedicated services of the coach, all fly fishing equipment, and fishing permits for the day.