Pro Tips: The 7 Deadly Sins of Fly Fishing

Written by: Daniel Parson

Daniel Parson with a beautiful Wyoming rainbow trout.

It’s cold out, the river is mostly frozen, and my time on the water is limited. A wandering mind–unfocused by a regular dose of flinging feathers-is a dangerous thing. I recently listened to an Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast about the “7 Deadly Sins of Streamer Fishing.” It was great and got me thinking.

So here are my “7 Deadly Sins of Fly Fishing in General.” Don’t take this to seriously folks (see #3 below). By the way, I’m definitely a sinner, . . . but I’m working on it.

7. Thinking equipment will buy success

It won’t. Listen, I love great gear as much as anyone. A sweet rod with a low swing weight and just the right action adds to the experience. But I have been out-fished enough by dudes with big-box-store rods, cheap line, and crap bugs to have learned that it’s how you use your equipment that counts, not what you paid for it.

6. Failure to notice stuff

A day on the water is about the complete package: sunrise, a moose cow and calf, a stooping falcon (now that’s a cool sound!), the feel of current against your legs, the smell of sage. As the great philosopher Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

5. Counting fish

Why? For what purpose? If at the end of the day you hooked a few, landed a couple, and had a rewarding time, then wasn’t it a success? I admit I do silently count in my head while guiding in an effort to compile data on best times of the year, effectiveness of various techniques, and the like because… well I’m a nerd who loves data and graphs and analyzing stuff. (I am a science teacher, after all.) But to be honest, I feel funny about it. When it’s just me and a buddy, I don’t count. Usually. I still have growing up to do, I guess.

4. Bad manners

I get it. A guy drives three hours to hit a river he only fishes a couple times a season. He has two or three spots he feels confident in and is excited to rig up and get after it. He may only have a few hours to fish before he has to turn around and head home. But when he arrives at the river, some other dude is in his spot. That is disappointing, but it doesn’t excuse crowding. Go explore. Likewise, lipping-off at some novice oarsman who low-holes you or accidentally drifts over your run doesn’t make the situation any better. There are kinder ways to educate. If the choice is between being right or kind, choose kind.

3. Taking it all to seriously

If your value as a human being is determined, even in a small way, by your success as an angler, I suspect you need to reevaluate what makes human beings valuable in the first place. As John Voelker once penned, “And, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant — and not nearly so much fun.”

2. Elitism

Making fun of how other people fish or choose to spend their leisure time is silly. Except bowlers; they are not to be trusted. Just kidding. If you hate nymphing, then don’t nymph. If you love dry fly fishing, do it. I happen to hate eating broccoli. It’s a godless, evil vegetable, and I would rather consume asbestos than even smell broccoli. But that doesn’t mean I judge others who love it. Same logic.

1. Thinking the river owes you something

I hate when I hear someone say, “That river sucks,” as if this were high school and the water shot down your prom proposal. Some waters have more fish than others, some have bigger fish than others, and all of them have stories to tell, gifts to give, and lessons to deliver. Take what the water gives you with a grateful heart, and you are sure to enjoy the day more. After all, those who love fishing understand we don’t own the river; it owns us.

Daniel Parson is a veteran fly fishing guide in southwestern Wyoming for Solitary Angler guide service. He is also a proud member of the Green River High School staff, teaching science and coaching debate to the best students in the world.

30 thoughts on “Pro Tips: The 7 Deadly Sins of Fly Fishing”

  1. Im a newer to fly fishing but i had this guy low hole me and he was a lot more experienced then me and its a huge river he then caught 2 of the biggest rainbows ive ever seen up to that point i even netted them for him he left after that man i was pissed off but what can a fella do freak out and get no where anyway

    1. Done rightly, broccoli is the “fruit of the gods” – not godless. It’s like liver & onions. Most folks have no idea how to do it right, but if you get it done right you’re gonna think you’re in heaven.

  2. I appreciate the way you write, but even more your content! Well done Daniel, giving me plenty to think about, again!

  3. Excellent Read Dan. You nailed it. I still need to get on the water with you. We have been discussing it for years now. I hope 2019 I can finally check that trip off my my list.

  4. I would add #8: Ignoring trash, yours or someone else’s. Leave it better than you found it, pack it out.

  5. Truth, for sure. #7 my favorite. I hear guys recommend $200 to 300 rods to beginners. Like, you just can’t make it through the day with cheap/a used rod. You’ll have to amputate your arm they’re so hard to cast.

  6. Not sure if this rises to the level of a deadly sin, but one common mistake I see is camping out in the same spot for hours on end. Keep moving. You’ll increase your chances, get some exercise and be able to feel manly and virtuous when you trudge the extra distance back to the car.

  7. First time on here guys!! You are all wonderful! I am a Texas warm water guy. But no matter where you are. Cutting some one off I’d just wrong! But if you do it to me. I’ll bet your fish and tell you great job just the same

  8. If someone asks me how many fish I’ve caught or a fishing companion starts counting out loud, I always say “I stopped counting at one.”

  9. Broccoli is a vile weed and yes it is OK to look down upon those that try to get you to eat it

    Otherwise, good points!

  10. Always great things to keep in mind. It’s easy to get frustrated when nothings biting, but that’s a great time to sit down to enjoy the view (and maybe a sip from the flask)! It’s the complete package that makes fly fishing enjoyable. Fish on!

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