The Blind Leading the Blind

Fly Fishing made Simple, but Not on Purpose

When I started to fly fish, I never picked up a fly rod with the intention of teaching others.

However, when my good friend Chad Wilson showed interest in a sport that has consumed the past three years of my life, how could I say no? 

Though I am certainly not qualified to coach casting, I can handle the basics. So off we went, in the middle of a heatwave, to try a tiny lake in central Ontario for smallmouth bass. A seemingly easy fish to trick into biting.  

My first mistake was thinking that because it had little to no fishing pressure, a small lake during a drought would be a sure bet. It was 35 degrees Celsius outside and I’m betting the surface temperature of that lake was 28 or higher.

To sum it up, our first night I had so much confidence in, was a bust. Not a single take on the fly.

I couldn’t leave Chad’s fly fishing experience without a fish, so we planned another outing. This time with even bigger hopes as the temperatures started to drop.

Chad was hooking fish left, right, and centre off the dock, I immediately had a better feeling about this evening. We hopped into the leaky john boat and started casting towards a steep rock drop. Within a few minutes, I had a nice 3-pound slab on a black woolly bugger, which I foolishly tried to lift into the boat on a tippet far too light. Snapping my leader, and stealing my fly, the fish was gone.

The rest of the evening was spent trying different flies that would entice a bite, meanwhile, Chad continuously had a fish on his wacky rig. Not exactly a great testament to fly fishing.

Getting frustrated after another unsuccessful night, I suggested we try a different body of water. It had more pressure, but it was larger and deeper, giving us some variety to target them.

It was late August, and getting to the launch, the weather was less than desirable. We went from a draught to wearing long underwear and rain gear in 45kph winds on a lake that stretched west to east. What had I done?

Fighting the whitecaps, we quickly noted rock piles in the middle of the lake would be out of the question, so we high-tailed it to sheltered bays. Without wasting any time, Chad picked up my fly rod and started casting to the wiry structure off a deserted beaver lodge.

His patience with fly fishing finally paid off. With a hook set to envy, he landed his very first fish on the fly. A scrappy little smallmouth bass with an eager will to live. Chad noted that, even though it was a small fish, the 6 weight fly rod made it feel like a two-pound football coming in.

And with that fish, Chad didn’t grab his gear set up for the rest of the day.

Fly fishing purists will want to cover their ears or avert their eyes for this part. 

What I noticed when I was teaching Chad was that you don’t have to always worry about form and perfection. At the very least, don’t be discouraged by it. Those things will come in time, but the fish are out there now.

Using the fish as a goal to learn is certainly more rewarding. By all means, grab a friend that knows the basics, get out in a jon boat that has a time limit, and catch some fish you can practice hook sets on.

About Alyssa Lloyd

Alyssa Lloyd is a photojournalist based out of Kenora working with Ontario's Sunset Country. The outdoors has been the center of her work and personal life for as long as she can remember. As an angler, Alyssa spends most of her time time chasing multiple species on both conventional and fly gear. 

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