Fly Fishing: Is It Elitist?

Fly Fishing: Is It Elitist?

You might have heard the opinion that fly fishing is an elitist sport. But that opinion couldn't be more wrong. Fly fishing is a sport that can be done by everyone, no matter what your age or what walk of life you are from.

Man Holding Brown Trout

You might have heard the opinion that fly fishing is an elitist sport. But that opinion couldn't be more wrong. Fly fishing is a sport that can be done by everyone, no matter what your age or what walk of life you are from.

In this article, we will dive into why people believe that fly fishing is elitist, along with a little information about how the opinion differs from that of spin fishing. In the end, you'll have discovered that it's a sport that anyone can take part in and that you don't need expensive equipment to enjoy it.

The factor of expensive equipment can easily be solved, the moment that you discover what’s available. You don’t need to break the bank, and you can become adept at fly fishing in no time at all – you just need the right attitude to start with.

Drifthook Fly Fishing Guide Nymphs Fly Box

How Much Are Fly Fishing Kits?

If you're first starting, the thought of elitism in the world of fly fishing might seem daunting and put you off the sport. But don't worry – it's only fiction. As a beginner, you'll be able to fly fish among more experienced anglers, without the worry that you'll be judged for your equipment.

Expensive equipment is not a necessity - it’s a luxury that few people can afford. Therefore, you’ll be able to find fly fishing kits that sit well within your ideal budget. With prices as little as $60, you’ll be able to access a selection of quality flies for a fraction of the cost.

Drifthook Fly Fishing Guide Nymphs on River

Of course, you'll have to consider the price of the other essential equipment – such as a rod and reel, but these can be as affordable as you want, and you can easily fit these within your budget.

An alternative to buying new rods and reels is purchasing them second hand, replacing them in the future if they have the money to do so. A popular choice for many, it's not something that you should be embarrassed or worried about – a lot of people start fly fishing this way.

Steelhead Trout caught on a green egg sucking leech

The Complexity of Fly Fishing 

Many fly fishers will take pride in learning the craft from the outset. From how they cast their line to how they tie and present their flies. And it's this pride in accomplishment and passion about the sport that showcases it as 'elitist' amongst its counterparts. But while it can be a learning curve, there's no reason why everyone can't harness it.

As long as you have the right determination, patience, and motivation, you'll be able to conquer the skills that are required within a time frame that suits you. Once you've learned the basic technique, you'll be able to master it over time.

This is the fun part of the sport – picking up new techniques and fly fishing as part of the wider community. With so many resources now available, you’ll be able to discover the best ways that you can improve your skills.

Matthew Bernhardt Fly Fishing on the Gunnison River

The Appeal of Fly Fishing

The community of people that are brought together by the love of fly fishing has a few important things in common - the reasons behind why they are so enthusiastic about the sport in the first place. These non-materialistic and straightforward reasons once again showcase why fly fishing shouldn't be deemed as elitist from the get-go.

First off, it's the perfect chance to get out and enjoy the fresh outdoors. Taking in the beautiful weather and getting back into nature, it's an activity that will reconnect you to your surroundings. A factor that keen fly fishers will often discuss this enthusiasm of being outside can also be linked to other activities, such as hiking. 

Man fly fishing on bank of frozen river

Secondly, the hunt. Once you've settled on a starting location (taking into account the current, the species habits, etc.), you can settle in for a few hours of good old-fashioned hunting. Taking notes from other fishermen online or in person, you'll be in the best position. 

Lastly, the anticipation that comes with fly fishing. When you have a good, basic idea of how to fly fish, you can let this feeling overcome you. Waiting to see what you can catch, every day is different. You never know what you will catch or how successful you’ll be – you’ll just have to be patient and see what the waters have to offer you – an exciting prospect that every fisherman loves!

Fly Fishing Reel

Essential equipment You'll Need To Fly Fish

When you're first entering the world of fly fishing, whether you're looking to get into trout fly fishing or you're hunting for another type of fish, you might feel as though you need tons of equipment when you head out into the water. And while it's nice to have every possible piece of gear that's available, you only really need the following, to begin with:

Fly Rod in Water

Fly Rod

An essential for fly fishing, when you’re first looking for a fly fishing rod, pay attention to the line weight. If you want to catch trout, look for a rod that’s between 0 to 2. However, if it's large trout or bass you want to catch, one with a weight between 6 and 7 is ideal.

Price Range: $70 - $2000

Fly Reel
Fly Reel

Alongside the rod, you’ll need a fly reel. This will have to be balanced with the rod weight in order to have an efficient piece of equipment. To accompany this, you’ll require a Weight Forward (WF) line.

Price Range: $15 - $700

Backing for fly fishing

Known as a line reserve, a backing is ideal for catching large fish. This is followed by the line and then the leader.

Price Range: Prices vary but can start as little as $5 

Tippet Material
Leader & Tippet

A leader is a monofilament or fluorocarbon (often transparent), which prevents the fish from seeing the line. The tippet can adjust the length of the leader.

Price Range: Prices vary but can start as little as $5 

Streamer Surger Drifthook Fly Fishing Kit

It's worth getting a selection of nymphs, dries, and steamers. With a wide selection available, you'll be able to find flies or emergers that are perfect for your skill level.

Price Range: Fly kits from $60

Waders and boots on a bridge
Wading equipment

This is not an essential part of equipment when you’re starting out, but you will find that will be able to fish longer with them. They will help keep you dry and warm when in colder waters, and they are available at affordable prices.

Price Range: $10 up to $700 depending on what you’re looking for.

Man with fly fishing hat and sunglasses

Hats & Sunglasses

When you’re outside all day fly fishing, you’ll need a way to protect yourself from the sun. Budget-friendly, these essentials can be brought from many major stores. Sunglasses not only protect you from the sun but also protect your eyes from your fly if you have a false cast.

Price Range: Varies by brand, but can cost around $5 

Man Fly Fishing with a Large Trout on

Is Expensive Fly Fishing Equipment Worth the Money?

When looking at the equipment, you might wonder if it's truly worth the price tag. And while at times more expensive kits, such as fly rods, can give you more control and durability than others, the consensus is that the price tag isn't worth it for beginners. Even if you're very serious about the sport to start with, you simply don't need extravagant equipment right away (unless you have the budget to purchase it, of course).

Once you have the essential equipment, all you need is to go out and enjoy the free waters and the abundance of fish.

Man Catching Nice Trout on Drift BoatHow Many People Fly Fish?

This is another reason why fly fishing isn't elitist. Although it's sometimes thought to be a 'club' for those who are skilled, it's enjoyed by over 4.5 million people across the country of all levels. 

Yes, there are clubs that you can join, but they tend to be filled with beginners and experts. Therefore, they don’t align with the outdated opinion that it’s only the most elite that can take part.

Forums and clubs are a great way of learning new skills and discovering new equipment that's available on the market. Giving a community feel to the sport, novices will recognize how laid-back fly fishing truly is, and the myth of it being highbrow will unravel itself.

Man Catching Large Rainbow Trout

Fly Fishing Etiquette: 4 Key Steps You Should Follow

Not only do people believe that fly fishing is a highbrow sport because fly fishermen often fish out in the waters on their own but because of the etiquette and ‘unspoken’ rules that are associated with the sport.

As a beginner, you must be aware of the fishing etiquette, so if you run into other people, you'll react in the right way. Although these rules might seem patronizing, they aren't created to be this way. They are simply methods that you can use to ensure that everyone has the best experience possible when out in the water. 

1. Give Other Fly Fishermen Some Space

When you head out for the first time, if you’re heading to a popular fly fishing spot, make sure that you give them some space and spread out. If you’re the first one out there, other fishermen will follow this rule to make sure that they don’t overlap your line.

2. Keep it Quiet

We all love to party.  But if you want to actually catch a fish we recommend that you keep as quiet as possible.  Although this ‘silence’ is perhaps the key reason why some might deem fishermen to be elitist, it’s a method is the reason why you are able to catch MONSTER fish when out on the water. 

 3. Avoid Trespassing - If You Can

Although this one is obvious, it's still important to remember when you're first starting. As with all types of outdoor activities, you mustn't trespass on other people's property. No matter how nice that section of water looks across the fence, it's not only against the law but in some states physically dangerous to cross. Only fly fish in public waters. With so many locations to choose from across the US, you’ll easily be able to find one that’s safe to fish in.

 4. Move Destination Across The Day

As a keen fisherman, you’ll know that it’s a good idea not to stay in one spot all day. This is carried across to fly fishing. Not only is this done as a way of taking into account the other anglers, but it’s also a more effective way of covering more water. This gives the opportunity to catch more fish throughout the day.

Emerger FLy Pattern

Fly Fishing Vs. Spin Fishing – How The Opinion About Them Differs

When compared to spin fishing, fly fishing has long been stereotyped as a sport that's only for those with a six-figure income and a university degree. And while many will still have this opinion, the flexibility and accessibility that fly fishing now offers, turns this assumption on its head.

You don't need to learn the Latin names of fish, read lots of fly fishing books, and understand sophisticated tackle techniques. Similarly to spin fishing, you only need the recommended equipment and a love for fishing.

With people of all ages now taking up the sport, it’s more accessible than ever. Whether you’ve tried spin fishing before or want to start with fly fishing, you’re able to do so in no time at all.

Large Brown Trout

Is Fly Fishing an Art?

Created in 200 AD, throughout the years, fly fishing has become one of the most beloved sports globally. And while many people can take it very seriously, the majority of people’s end goal is to have fun. That’s not to say, however, that it’s not an art in itself.

From fly selection to fly tying, studying the water and casting, there is a particular composition that needs to be undertaken. And with the variety of styles and approaches, it's a form of art that has a broad spectrum. However, everyone will fly fish differently – and while there are plenty of styles to study, you will eventually settle on one that you're comfortable with and grow to love the sport. 

Once you know how to catch the fish's attention and lure them in, the rest will come naturally. Similarly to any sport, no one is an expert at first – just keep that in mind, and the pressure of becoming a fly fishing connoisseur will come off your shoulders.

Woman out Fly FishingOther Fly Fishing Myths

There are other myths alongside those above that directly contribute to the opinion of fly fishing being elite. When you're a beginner, you might stumble upon these that sway your opinion about it. So let's debunk these so that you have a better understanding of what the sport is like:

Myth 1: It’s A Sport That’s For Men and Men Only

This is a myth that's usually supported by posters or adverts. But this is simply a stereotype that's not true! Fly fishing can be enjoyed by women, too – no matter what their age or ability. The fastest-growing demographic within the world of fly fishing, women, make up a significant portion.

As it can be enjoyed by both sexes and ages, it’s not a limiting sport and one in which there is no set demographic. You don’t have to be a managing director or a large company either – you can have any occupation or none at all.

Myth 2: It’s For Older People

This is another misconception that’s often believed due to the media. But fly fishing is an excellent sport for everyone – whether they are children who are enthusiastic about fishing or those of the older generation. Everyone can go out and have an unforgettable time in the water fishing for their latest catch.

Myth 3: You Require Big Flies to Catch Bigger Fish

Although this might make sense initially, it's proven that this simply isn't always the case. No matter what time of water you're fishing in, whether it's salt or freshwater, the size of the fly does come into play.  But what matters above this is matching the proper meal and presentation. Making sure that you are matching the meal for the species you are going after and the types of aquatic life that reside in that fishery.

Large Steelhead

Final Thoughts

So, there you go! Hopefully, the article has helped you to uncover the reasons behind why people believe fly fishing to be elitist and why this is simply a myth. Of course, with all sports and activities, it’s clear that this opinion might continue to exist.

But with the number of people now taking an interest in the sport, of all ages and walks of life, it’s clear that many people are starting to change their opinions about it. It might have begun as a sport that was only thought to be for the highbrow citizens. But now, once you’ve got the hang of it and the key equipment, you’ll realize that everyone can take part.

Matthew Bernhardt - Founder Drifthook Fly Fishing

About the Author
Matthew Bernhardt, a third-generation Coloradan, grew up at the forefront of the state’s fly-fishing revolution, enjoying time on the water, side by side with experienced guides and lifelong anglers.

By combining his passion for fly-fishing with input from other experienced fly-fishers and guides and his fine arts degree from Colorado State University, Matthew spent five years carefully developing the Drifthook Fly Fishing System, built to help every angler catch more trout.

When he’s not spending time with his wonderful family, you’ll find him out on the water catching MONSTER trout, and he anxiously looks forward to the day when his kids are old enough to join him there.

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