The Four Stages of Fly Fishing


A wise man once told me that every fly fisherman goes through 4 distinct stages of fly fishing throughout their fishing life.  At first I thought that he was simply spitting B.S., but I have recently realized that what he told me is totally true.  Every fisherman has their own style, their own favorite fishing spots, and their own attitude towards the sport.  So without further adieu, here they are.  The four stages of fly fishing.

1.  The first stage of fly fishing is the one when you first learn how to cast.  All you want to do is cast out further than 10 feet without throwing a knot that will take you 6 days to repair.  This is the stage when you forget the knot to tie on your fly over and over again, and this is also the stage when you just want to catch something (anything will do as long as it is not a stick or a rock).

2.  Stage two of fly fishing is what you move in to when you can cast pretty well and you have a few fish under your belt.  This is the stage where you want to catch as many fish as possible even if it means throwing a double san juan worm rig with a huge indicator and maybe even some split shot thrown on for good measure.  This is the addict stage when you fish as much as you possibly can because you can finally get your line out to that hard to reach spot you never had a chance at while you were still stuck in stage 1.

3.  Fly fishing stage 3 happens long after you have mastered your fly rod, and you can no longer remember your first trout because you have caught so many.  This is the stage when you will throw a streamer all day in the sun just because you have no desire to take off any fish less than 18”.  All  you want to do in this stage is catch monster trout in the most creative way possible.  This is when you will stay up all night throwing mouse patterns on the Beaverhead just to catch one giant brown trout.  This is also when most guys will embark on their first saltwater adventure because trout just aren’t really cutting it anymore.  It’s the stage where you just want to take down a bigger challenge every day that you string up a rod.

4.  This stage is simple.  It’s the one your mom, dad or grandfather was in when they taught you to fish.  This is the stage when you just don’t care about catching fish anymore.  The meaning of fishing changes in this stage.  You learn to appreciate the little things like how nice it is to just sit by the river and watch the water run by while your rod quietly keeps you company on the ground next to you.  This is the reflection stage.  You go to the river just to reflect on all of the good times that the sport of fly fishing has brought you.

So feel free to comment, and let us know which stage of fly fishing you’re in right now.

Enjoy this blog? Please leave comments in the Facebook commenting box below and be sure to click the +1 button.   Be sure to visit our Make it Missoula fishing page.  And Check out Matt and Bryce’s other blogs: The Great Tube HatchMissouri River Fishing–Trout Mecca of Montana and  Fly Fishing Season is When?

If you enjoy western Montana lakes and rivers, you might also enjoy our page on Missoula kayaking and rafting.


Photos of Missoula Fly Fishing Experts Matt Devlin and Bryce McLeanBryce McLean:  (Right) I was born and raised in Montana, and have been fly fishing here for almost 20 years.  I first learned to fish on the Missouri River, but when I was 10 my family moved to the Bitterroot Valley. I have been fishing the Bitterroot River ever since.  This will be my second season guiding the Missoula area rivers, which I consider to be some of the best trout fisheries on planet earth. Matt Devlin:  (Left) Matt is originally from Annapolis, Maryland and learned to fool trout on the technical waters of the Gunpowder River.  He has fished in Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Main,e, Michigan, Indiana, North and South Carolina, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, Idaho and Montana.  He thinks about flies and fishing a whole lot.