Published Nov 11. 2010 - 13 years ago
Updated or edited Apr 28. 2021

How to act right

Looking and behaving right on the water matters. Act or look the wrong way, and fellow anglers will spot you as a helpless beginner right away. This is the second chapter of two, and it will teach you what to do in order to get some stream cred.

Rod on the ground - By resting the reel on a patch of grass you make it much easier ti "thread" the line
An imporant phase - Preparing in the right way is utterly important
Assembling a rod - Not a task that should be taken too light upon
The important preparation phase
Martin Joergensen

Looking and behaving right on the water matters. Act or look the wrong way, and fellow anglers will spot you as a helpless beginner right away. This is the second chapter of two, and it will teach you what to do in order to get some stream cred.

Read this article and learn the secret code of the brotherhood of fly fishers and gain immediate respect and envy from people, who would never before even turn their head in your direction.

Now, you have all the right gear as covered in the previous article. You purchased the proper clothing and all your gear has the right tags, logos and colors.
But using all this fancy equipment in the wrong way can lead to total disaster. Not only will you risk being judged as an amateur, but even worse: you might be judged as being a yuppie angler: one who can afford the fanciest gear, but who can neither talk the talk nor walk the walk. Oh, the embarrassment!
So before you venture off to the water to fish (or at least flash your gear), you need to learn the right way and sequence of preparing for the fishing.

There are two basic parts:

  • getting clothed
  • gearing up

The sequence of these matters, and vary. If it's cold or rainy, you get clothed first to keep warm and if it's sunny and comfortable, you prepare your rod first and don't get too warm in your fleece and waders. Everybody knows that, and so should you.

Reel mounted, guides aligned - Take aim, fire!
Cool factor: 100 - Small brushes keep the ferrules clean
Getting the rod ready
Martin Joergensen

The rod

I'll start with the rod, reel and line, because the little details in that pantomime will really separate the pros from the amateurs, and not only will fellow anglers immediately see that you have things under control, but most of the steps actually make good sense and are there for a reason.

You might think that something as trivial as getting the rod out of its tube and sock is something you just, do, but no. There are ways.
Unscrew the lid of your rod tube. Expensive rods come in aluminum tubes that have lids, which screw on and off, so of course yours is like that. Get out the rod in its bag and screw the lid back on and store the tube in the trunk.
Untie the strings that closes the bag and pull out all four pieces of the rod at once. Do not take out one piece at the time. Handling the tip part alone is risky whether it's in the bag or not. Handled together the parts support each other.
Grab the thick end of the tip and blow the female ferrule clean. You might have some nifty plugs or brushes to protect the ferrules in which case the blowing is called off. If you haven't waxed the ferrules for some time (you do wax, don't you?), bring out your fancy ferrule wax and give the ferrules a small treatment as you put them together.
Mount the tip on the next part, then these two assembled parts on the third part and at last the whole thing on the handle part.
For each step make sure that the guides are aligned before pushing the parts together tightly. Do this by looking down on the rod from the thick end with the guides facing down. It might seem counter-intuitive, but it's actually easier to see a misaligned part when you only see the outside of the guides behind the blank.
Trust me, it is!
And it looks cool and different, which is even more important.

A generic fly - Tie on a generic fly like a good caddis pattern already before entering the water
Where the fly lives - When not in use, the the fly rests very well in a stripping guide.
The price - Keep your tippet free on the reel or spend 10 minutes digging it out under the many turns of fly line that it magically gets buried under.
The reel, the fly
Martin Joergensen

The reel

Get the reel out of its pouch. When you packed it you did of course leave a bit of tippet unspooled, and now you grab that and pull a few feet of the tippet off the reel. That will keep it from tangling or getting locked under itself, which is a situation that causes agony and time wasted, and in many cases also costs you a leader. Not to mention the embarrassment of having to untangle your leader and line while your fellow anglers proceed to the water.
Mount the reel in the reel seat. Make sure you get the handle on the correct side in the first try. Pull a generous length of line off the reel - the whole leader if you have one mounted plus 1½ rod length of fly line. There's no reason to fight the drag while pulling the line through the guides.

The line

Now, pay attention, because this next step is important: grab the fly line and fold it back a foot or so. You will not attempt to thread the thin tippet, the leader or thin end of the fly line through the guides, but use a nicely doubled fly line, which is easy to grab and control.
Thread the line through the first few guides - as far as you can reach while still holding the handle - and then rest the reel on something soft in the back of the car or on a soft patch of grass. You can now continue threading through all guides and out the tip top. Pull the a couple of feet of the doubled fly line out of the tip, but don't pull the whole leader out. Grab the handle of the rod, keep the rod horizontal, strip some line off the reel and make a couple of rapid wiggling blind casts, and viola, the fly line will draw the leader out in a very controlled manner.

Don't be a dork and have too little fly line out the top section or raise your rod to vertical, because if you raise the rod, the heavier fly line will pull the leader back through all the guides with a revealing sequence of clicks, and leave you where you started, now with a dumb expression on your face and having to do it all over again.
In stead, when you lift the rod gently, the line and leader will swing towards you, and you can grab it.
You are ready to tie on a tippet and a fly.

The tippet

Before you do that you will of course have to replace your tippet. In reality it's most likely because your tippet is full of casting knots, but for appearance you say it's because old tippet is fragile tippet and should never be reused.
So cut off the old tippet and dig out some new. You have the tippet on fancy small reels, neatly marked up with the thickness. The one or two thicknesses you need for the current trip are ready in you vest or jacket, but you do of course have a whole bunch of spools with all imaginable breaking strengths in your bag.
If you fish salt water or deeply fished nymphs the tippet is floucarbon and of course no matter what, your tippet is never some no-brand, cheap supermarket stuff. And if you buy bulk, simply respool it on smaller and more practical spools.

The fly

Get out your fly. The fly is critical, and ought to be chosen once in or at least close to the water based on the conditions and what might be hatching or hidden under the rocks. But for practical sakes we want a fly on the rod before descending to the water, not least to avoid tangles.

So get out a generic and universal fly and tie it on. And don't fumble! Practice your knots from home, and make sure you can tie them in gale force winds and rain, blindfolded with your hands frozen stiff and tied behind your back.

When the fly is on, you need to "park" it on the rod. These are the ways NOT to do it:

  • Using the hook rest. Proper rods have no hook rest, and if they have, you don't use it!
  • Hooked on the outside of the reel.
  • Hooked into the lower shooting eye of the rod.
  • Stuck into the cork of the rod. God forbid!
    No, the way to properly rest your fly is this: you already have a bit of fly line out the top eye as described above, so there's no chance that the whole thing will slide back through the eyes and the fly will end up in the tip top. Never! That is the ultimate embarrassment!
    With a bit of fly line as a safeguard against this humiliation, you place the fly in the farthest rod guide you can reach while holding the handle. Set it with the hook eye and the tippet pointing towards the handle and reel. Now you simply pull the leader taught, hold the loop close to the reel and start reeling in. When it's suitably tight, you slip the loop around the reel and reel in the last bit.
    In other words: when the line is tight, it runs from the reel, through the guides and out the tip top, back down along the rod, around the reel and back up to the fly, securely hooked into a guide, far away from your fingers, and - as we shall see - in the perfect place for an easy and quick start of your fishing.

    Dressing to look good
    Martin Joergensen - Henning Eskol

    Into the clothes

    Of course there's a manuscript for getting clothed too, and that runs somewhat like this:
    Ideally you have donned your fancy breathable underwear and fleece pants from home. This will save you the always embarrassing scene of baring your legs in front of an audience.
    Get out your comfy chair, your thick socks, your waders and your wading boots. Make sure the boots are full open, and if you have been smart, also slightly damp from a short trip under the garden hose or a water tap. This will soften them and make them much easier to get on.
    Bring a small piece of rug or a foam pad to rest your feet on, and put it in front of the chair. Sit down, pull off your shoes and get on the thick socks. If you have fleece pants with straps under the heels, get the socks inside the fleece. Else you simply pull them outside your fleece pants to form a smooth even tube around your legs.


    Waders can be uncomfortably troublesome to get into. Stick in your feet and legs and pull each wader leg up to the knee. Rise and stand on your pad or rug and pull the waders up around your chest. Don't be a fool and call for assistance with the suspenders, demonstrating your helplessness, but make sure they are straight before you simply toss them over each shoulder with little effort. This takes some practice, but once mastered can be almost elegant. Grab each buckle and click it in place and make sure everything is in working order.
    Wear a vest or a jacket on the outside of the waders, put on your hat or cap. Put the last few items into the car and lock it. Grab the rod and you are now ready to approach the water.

    Walk the walk

    And by the way: if the trip to the water goes through a wood, brushes or similar obstacles, don't be tempted to carry the rod with the tip pointing backwards. While this will work fine in an open field and may save your rod from breaking if you fall, it will only have one result in connection with bushes and small trees: your line and rod will get caught, and in mysterious ways get tangled into twigs, thorns and leaves in a way and a height that will have you fumbling in the most shameful manner for several minutes while your buddies reach the water and occupy the best spots.
    Pointing the rod forwards will enable you to guide it safely between branches and bushes and have you come out on the other side quickly and safely.

    Before the first cast

    Once you are in the water, the way to get your fly out is greatly helped by the way it was set before you left for the water.
    Leave the fly in the guide. Keep the rod tip down. Lift the leader off the reel, so that a bit of fly line and the leader now hangs into the water. And here's the trick: firmly tap the rod with your hand over the first stripping guide. This will wiggle the rod, and very likely disengage the fly, neatly dropping it into the water. Strip a few feet of line off the reel, lift the rod and make a couple of sideways "casts", working out line. As soon as you have a few feet of fly line out, you leave that on the water, and strip off a suitable length of fly line. Do this rapidly and swiftly, letting the reel's ratchet tell everybody around you that you intend to cast most of the line out in your first cast. You won't of course, but the noise and brisk stripping will make other anglers think so.
    Make a roll cast to stretch the line if you are in the salt or in stillwater, and start casting.

    Now, fishing follows, but we won't cover that here. We may return to the art of looking like you know what you are doing when fishing, but unfortunately such appalling things as casting and catching fish have a great influence there. If you can't cast worth anything and never catch a fish, some people actually have the nerve to think that you don't know what you're doing!

    In cold weather - When it's cold you dress first and then gear up. Notice the trendy Arafat-scarf.
    Fancy rod holder - Rods mounted on the car look cool and will makes head turn
    Resting on the roof - When getting the last things done and locking the car, its roof is a good place to keep the rods.
    The rod
    Martin Joergensen

    Moving to a new spot

    So your next important point on the agenda is reversing the process: breaking down the gear, getting out of the garments and getting ready to leave.

    If you intend to fish on in another spot, you do NOT get out of your waders or take your rod apart. You mount your incredibly fancy (and expensive) magnetic rod holders on the outside of your car and secure the rod in that. Your waders are breathable and therefore nearly dry, and of course you avoided the worst mud and sand on the way, so your boots may be wet, but they aren't dirty.
    Your car seats have already been equipped with waterproof seat covers, the type they use to protect the customer's cars in garages, and in the bottom of the car you have waterproof liners, that will catch every drop of water escaping from the boots.
    You can in other words mount the rods, get out of the jacket or vest and enter the car and drive away in five minutes. Once you are in a new spot, just grab rod and jacket, put the rod holders in the car, lock the doors and you are ready.

    Breaking down

    If, on the other hand, your are finishing for the day, this is how you should go about packing up:
    Like when you were getting into the clothes, it's the weather that decides the sequence. Hot weather means getting out of waders and fleece ASAP, cold weather means breaking down rods first and then undressing.
    No matter what you do first there are ways to do both.
    Clip the fly off the tippet, but leave the tippet on the leader and the leader on the fly line. Both will help in getting a fast start the next time you fish, and even though the tippet will be replaced, the leader rarely needs to.
    Put the fly in your "used flies place". This can be a patch of wool, foam or a small fly box or plastic container. The discerned angler will not mix used flies with new ones. You might transfer them to your flybox once you get home, but not in public!
    Grab the rod, hold the line with a couple of fingers and reel it onto the spool. But not all the way! Leave a good foot or 30 centimeters outside the reel. Simply leave it there and store the reel in its pouch or in your reel bag. This snippet of leader will aide you greatly when unpacking and gearing up the next time.

    Rod disassembly

    Take the rod apart. From the bottom: thick parts first, thin and fragile parts last. If you want to dry them off, hold the thick end and wipe them clean with a soft, dry cloth. Store the thick handle section in its compartment in the rod sock, handle end upwards. The middle sections also go in thick end up, and the tip goes in tip top first. This lets the thicker parts support the thinner ones rather than let the thick ones try to break the thinner ones and stores the sections with the right orientation.
    Tie loose knots on the strings on your rod bag, and slip the whole thing into the tube, thin end first. Viola! Your rod is stored. If you have a large rod tube with many rods, slip out all rods, make a bundle with the new one, and push the whole bundle into the tube. For extra space you may want to turn one or two with the thick end downwards.


    Getting out of a pair of waders can be a disgraceful display of uncoordinated clumsiness, and is something, which should not be taken too lightly. It's not likely that it will ever look elegant, but you can do much to ease the process.
    Sit down! This is the one single best piece of advice. Get a folding chair out of the car (you do have folding chairs in the car, don't you?), and sit down. Don't stand unbalanced on gravel, asphalt or even grass and play the hero. It looks stupid, and it is.
    Get you normal shoes ready, and if you want to go through the embarrassing process of changing into "civilian" trousers and baring your pale, hairy legs, get the trousers out too. Have it all within reach once you sit down.
    Loosen the laces in the wading boots and open them wide, so that they slip off easily, and kick them off. The waders themselves are likely to stick to you like fly paper, but you can ease this part too. Don't force anything, but start by pushing the waders down your thighs and shins. Massage them towards the feet and pull lightly on the heels and toes of the neoprene socks once the waders start to loosen.

    No, no, NO! - Cheap white underwear, bare feet in sandals and that pose! Loser!
    Henning Eskol

    Now you should be able to easily and almost elegantly pull off the waders.
    Keep the wet neoprene feet out of sand and dirt, and stick your feet into your shoes, and you are ready to stand up and pack your clothes.
    Some people turn the waders inside out, which is a great way of getting the wet outside hidden away and also helps the waders dry on the inside. I personally roll up my waders feet first, and have a nice, dry bunch that can easily be stored.
    The boots are another matter. Ideally they are just wet, and can be packed in a large boot bag - not a plastic bag from the grocery! It might work equally well, but the coolness factor is soooo low.
    If the boots are muddy or sandy and you are near the water, simply rinse them before storing.
    I have a large plastic bin in the back of my car, and all my wet gear is transported in that. Boots in first, then rolled up waders, then jacket and then fleece and other dry stuff.

    If it's warm day your rods are still rigged, and breaking them down remains.

    So now you should have learned the ins and outs of looking right and behaving right when fly fishing.
    You might be under the misconception that this is about fishing.
    Looking right and acting right is very essential.
    After that comes fishing.


    Martin that's a love...

    Martin that's a lovely description of everything I do wrong. I promise to correct ALL these errors, before smoothly and professionally casting the fly straight into the back of my head. If you can find a remedy for that newbie embarrassment please write another nice article...God knows I can't find the solution.


    Newbie Mark

    Many thanks for some...

    Many thanks for some really top tips. A lot of thought and experience has gone into your article.

    Martin, I saw this ...

    I saw this article just now - a very precise look at the things that really matter. Thanks for that.
    But the 'This is for fun' extra headline bothers me.......I am sure that who doesn't understand it right without it, won't understand ever!




    Dear mr Joergensen, ...

    Dear mr Joergensen,
    I wrote this comment because I want to take your part ,even I am sure that you don't need it ! :)) But I am , to some extent ,heartstick about how many have criticized your articles. Thank you for both articles about how to look and act as an flyfisher. As a beginner I have experience almost all mistakes that you discribe in your article and I must say that irony or not ,so many things are very true,especially how to act. I am sure that I look very silly when my line have drop through the guides and my fly have stuck in the tip tops or worst, to the next one,and of course my line tangled between my foots. In my opinion if we don't have the capacity to make merry over us we never learn somethings. As for the rest ,to make a qoute : " if love (for flyfishing) doesn't exist ,nothing exist..." :))

    Mr .Joergensen Tha...

    Mr .Joergensen
    Thank you for the reply .
    Good to know that this article is, after you added a stamp "This is For Fun" not to take for serious!
    The reality is just as you described it ! That's why Flyfishing tackle is as expensive as it is,at least 500% overpriced!
    Well ,i hope that in the future articles like this one will be recognizable after the first letter so most people have not to to read the rest wasting time and can go straight to a serious one.
    Sorry for my english writing skills,in my live i never had the opportunity to study english .
    However greetings and tight lines to all the GFF staff.

    Martin Joergensen's picture

    Dan from Luxembourg,...

    Dan from Luxembourg,

    For you and other people's sake I have now added a stamp and a declaration on these articles that they are irony!

    Take off the serious steel rimmed glasses and put on the funny blue ones with a mustache underneath them, look in the mirror, laugh and read the article again, and then tell me that you still seriously mean that anybody would have written this and meant it!?



    Martin Joergensen's picture

    Dan from Luxembour, ...

    Dan from Luxembour,

    Have you ever heard the term "irony"?

    So you really, seriously think that I'd write articles like these in dead seriousness?
    It must be my lousy writing skills that aren't up to the task.


    Read it again, this time with your "funny-glasses" on...


    Hi guys In my life ...

    Hi guys
    In my life i have rarely read bloody chitt like Mr. Joergensen article.
    Wy not just goeing to the water and catch a fish if you can.
    Nobody cares about your old rod or even older flyline when you catch this very elusive four pounder in front of you.
    Well ,this article fit the flyfishing retailers and manufact...
    I fished seven times Tasmanian waters on my oversea trips and believe me you will never met a guy in this part of the world who will spend a single word about your fishing gear.
    The only thing who is relevant for this guys is getting the right fly on the right place at the right moment ,because you will get only one try or you will never seen this fish again.
    Do you think these trouts have any admiration for your 700 dollar waders , or if you fish with a 700 dollar rod or if you wear a tie?
    Dont think so!
    Tight lines.

    "T" either your tryi...

    "T" either your trying to be funny, or you are the most arrogant A-hole there is! If you treat your fishing gear like crap, then you treat everything you own like crap, which means you don't respect the gear, or even the fish, or the people you fish around. Which explains your second comment. You were not born a "professianal' fly fisherman, I'm sure the skills you have you learned from an experienced fly fisherman, which you owe it to the fly fishing "brotherhood" to pass along to us beginners. Guys like you just don't get it!!

    Cheap Gear Beginner

    Dear Martin, what...

    Dear Martin,

    what a great and funny article about flyfishing. There are just two important things i'd like to add:

    1. Being a professional flyfisher means to always fish expensive over the top gear. But, spending hundrets of euros for every part of your equipment isn't enough. The real prfessional will never ever show anyone that he cares about the value of his rods, reels, clothing, etc. Treat your equipment like shit. Even if it hurts, never let anyone see, that your rinsing your reel, rod or clothes. The cool guys just use their stuff and if fell apart, they just buy new ones.

    2. You're a professional and you know about your place in the fishing society. You're top of the food chain, so don't ever say hello to beginners or other fisherman who don't belong to the "creme de la creme". If you walk by, just look at them, estimating the worth of their gear and pass by without saying a word.



    David, you might ski...

    David, you might skipped it, Martin says: "Bring a small piece of rug or a foam pad to rest your feet on... etc".
    Anyway I found the first part more funny, this one was more practical than amusing.

    Good, but incomplete...

    Good, but incomplete advice. Expert anglers by their own admission commonly carry six to eight fully rigged fly rods along when they fish. The majority of your steps will have to be repeated six or eight times.
    Time on the water is precious, so to assemble and rig all these rods before lunch the angler will have to arrive at his embarkation point well before dawn. A propane lantern is a necessity, as is a rod rack to prevent stepping on or tangling rods an lines.

    Guilty as charged - ...

    Guilty as charged - thats a nice description of most the anglers I know....lovely...I wont change a thing...reminds me once going nightfishing with a good buddy, doing "the walk" to the water in darkness I notice that my friends flyline is "selfilluminated" and I naturally ask why? His appauling answer was this: It is? i didnt know that! Then I asked him where he got i from and his even worse answer was: At the local fleemarket for 50 dKr.....I was in shock.... :-) (By the way he got the bigger fish.....)

    Funny stuff,good wri...

    Funny stuff,good writing skills,you only forgot 1 thing when I go I take a folding chair & a small rug to put my feet on,if you ever get gravel unknowingly in a boot you'll be miserable all day,tight line.

    Proper dressing for flyfishing...

    In the putting on of the waders - I didn’t see where you mentioned putting on the all important wading belt.


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