How to prepare for post-pandemic fishing
mayfly on toyota truck
Photo: Todd Tanner

You love to fly fish. Which means that life is hard right now. And that’s especially true if you live someplace where you can’t get out on the water, or if you’re facing challenges you’ve never had to address in the past. So what can you do while you’re trying to stay safe and healthy? Here are a dozen suggestions that will help you get yourself ready for the all-clear signal, whether that happens in a week, a month or a year.

  1. First things first. Learn to tie flies.
  2. Or, if you already know how, then get to it. Fly tying is one of the most overlooked pathways to fly fishing excellence as it offers the practitioner a detailed view into both the alchemy and the engineering of fly design. Plus, it’s way, way more fun to catch fish on flies that you’ve tied yourself. If you don’t already tie, this is definitely the time to learn.

  3. Practice your casting.
  4. I know thousands of fly fishermen and almost all of them would benefit from more casting practice. Even John Juracek, who is one of the finest casters on the planet, practices his craft on a regular basis. So find a spot in your yard, or some other acceptable outdoor space that’s free from people and hazards, and then practice. Oh, and if you simply can’t go outside, then consider an ECHO Micro Practice Rod or a similar practice tool. Don’t skate on your casting practice just because you’re stuck indoors.

  5. Read books.
  6. Okay, I’m going to be frank. I know I just lost a bunch of you. But reading is one of the best ways to spend your free time when you can’t fish. And while there’s nothing wrong with the technical stuff — I’ve always been a huge fan of Gary LaFontaine’s amazing The Dry Fly: New Angles — this is the time to inspire your passion and nourish your soul. So dig out, or order, titles from some of the very best fly fishing authors: Gierach, Lyons, Maclean, Harrison, McGuane, Miller, Haig-Brown, Voelker … Then sit down and enjoy the words.

  7. Watch videos.
  8. Or don’t. It’s your call, and the truth is that reading is always going to be much, much cooler. But if you’re jonesing for big fish, or pretty scenery, or if you want to learn what English-speaking people all over the world are saying about the various aspects of fly fishing, then videos are a reasonable option. Just keep in mind that the majority of the stuff you see in fly fishing videos is of questionable value, while a significant percentage is flat-out wrong. As long as you don’t mind sorting through the chaff, videos can be a reasonable way to spend your fishless days and angling nights.

  9. Get your gear in order.
  10. I have a confession to make. I understand how easy it is to procrastinate. Hell, it’s human nature. But this is the ideal time to wax your ferrules, perform you once-a-millenia reel maintenance, patch the holes in your waders, clean your fly line, check the shoelaces on your wading boots, and pull that half-eaten tuna sandwich out of your sling pack. Once you’re done, you’ll be glad you took the time. I promise.

  11. Call Tom Rosenbauer.
  12. Well, don’t actually call Tom. But call Orvis and tell them that you have a message for Tom. Then share your appreciation for one of the hardest-working and most talented individuals in our sport. Tom is currently hosting 19 different fly fishing videos per day on Facebook, so he needs a little extra encouragement. And if it turns out that the whole “call Tom Rosenbauer” suggestion strikes you as a bit over-the-top, then go to the Orvis Fly Fishing Facebook page and leave positive comments for Tom and the other folks who are toiling away for our benefit.

  13. Book a guide trip.
  14. Or, if you can’t afford to book a guide trip, then fantasize about booking a guide trip. Or dream up an incredible fly fishing vacation. Maybe you’ve always wanted to spend eight days on the Dean. In July. Skating dries for steelhead so bright that they hurt your eyes. Or maybe you’re dying to join Bob White next winter on one of his fabled trips to Argentina. Or maybe you want to travel to South America and fish for peacock bass with Jeff Currier. Or maybe you want to float the Middle Fork with Hilary Hutcheson. Or maybe you just want to throw your tent in your rig and head for the Wind River Range. It’s up to you. But give yourself something to dream about, or look forward to, as these endless pandemic days grind on and on and on.

  15. Join Trout Unlimited.
  16. If you’re an essential worker, I believe it’s currently free to sign up with TU. But free or not, you should join. And while you’re at it, support as many other conservation nonprofits as you possibly can. This too shall pass, and when it does we’re going to want clean water, clean air and healthy landscapes. As my friend Kirk Deeter of Trout Unlimited likes to say, “The essential ingredient for fly fishing in the first place is clean water. As more people search out rivers, lakes and oceans to find solitude and recreation, the conservation mission will only grow in importance and urgency.”

  17. Vote.
  18. Oh, believe me, I know. It’s much too early to vote right now — unless, of course, you have a primary coming up — but still, make a promise to yourself. Make a vow. Confirm that you’re registered, and that no one has removed you from the voter rolls. And then, when the opportunity finally arises, cast a vote that will make your children and grandchildren proud, and that will guarantee clean waters and healthy landscapes for the generations that follow our own.

  19. Pull your flies out of your fly boxes.
  20. Look them over. Toss out the ones that are completely indistinguishable from belly-button lint. Paw through the rest. Relive the moments of glory. Completely ignore the memories of abject shame and failure. Dream big dreams of the days yet to come. Then sort through all your flies and put them back where they belong, always keeping in mind that our flies echo the effervescent words of the poet Emily Dickinson: “I dwell in possibility.”

  21. Expand your fly fishing horizons.
  22. Maybe that means learning to cast left-handed. Or reading Marinaro’s classic In the Ring of the Rise. Or brushing up on the Latin names of every single caddis species east of the Mississippi. Or perusing every story ever published by your favorite fly fishing magazine. Whatever you decide, push your envelope. Spread your wings. Take your passion for fly fishing and point it in a slightly new direction. The worst thing that happens is you realize that you’ve already discovered what you love most. And maybe, just maybe, you find that new star shining bright in the night sky.

  23. Life is difficult.
  24. You already know that. We all do right now. Only it’s not as bad for some of us as it for others. If you’ve got a roof over your head, and food on the table, and you’re reasonably healthy, then you have things going for you that, honestly, some other people don’t right now. So be appreciative. Give thanks. And if you’re able, give something back to those who are less fortunate.


One summer many years ago, I worked with Phil Monahan, who sits next to Tom at Orvis. I drove 3 hours to meet him once, but he had taken the day off. Someday...

I don’t know, if I were to tell non-fishing friends that I was going to ‘wax my ferrule’ I think I would draw quizzical looks...

things aren't going to be different in Wisconsin. we have enough water for everyone to fish in. I see no real changes on the horizon. once we return to normal, game on.

Great article for these challenging times. I have done most of these suggestions (except fly tying-just don't have the room!) I'm currently reading one of Tom's books (Prospecting for Trout) and have watched so many Orvis videos (repeatedly) I feel like I know Tom. I will call and leave a message thanking him for sharing his vast knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport. And yes, I am luckier than most right now and thankful. (ferrules waxed!)

Lessons aplenty learned from our experience with lack of planning and misdirections lately. The coming election can repair that dammit! I have a place in Minnesota picked out
to open my season. .