Home » Wading through Books: Study Habits for Fly Fishing

Wading through Books: Study Habits for Fly Fishing

There are plenty of off-season activities for fly fishers to engage in. Tying flies, cleaning gear, and attending various conservation banquets can all go a long way in helping spring come quickly. All those things are important and keep you busy, but there is another way to spend time that can really benefit you once the ice breaks.

Devoting hours to a passive activity, like studying, can payoff enormously.

Studying has a negative connotation. If the last exposure that you had to sitting down with a book and a highlighter was college or grad school, the association is probably something like a pragmatic exercise in grueling endurance. Yet there is so much more. So many other ways to study. Ultimately, I think you’ll find that engaging in a discipline like this, under circumstances where the payoff is more fish, leads to more than “means to an end” drudgery.

Here are three ways to think about studying fly fishing:


Obviously, you can sit down with a book or a how-to video and study. What is the stereotypical result? You learn something new. That is a good thing. Even if you don’t fish in the east, you can learn something from an eastern angler. And the classics? They are classics for a reason. Wade through the outdated references, and cast deep into the pools of knowledge that such books contain.

The mind is such a complex thing. On one hand, you’re actively thinking about fishing when you’re studying new materials. Also, you have no idea how some little nugget of information, from a technical manual or even from a narrative, might get synthesized into your “fishing brain.”


Do you hang on to books that you’ve read? Why?

Chances are you planned on reading them again. Why?

The content was good enough – beneficial enough to warrant a second look. Psychologists have said all sorts of things about how much repetition it takes for a person to grasp a theory. Memorization entails more than mentally cataloging leader formulas and seasonal hatches.

What chapter did you gloss over before? Give it extra attention. Is there a river you’ve read about in a guidebook that you’ve always wanted to fish? Become as well acquainted with it from literature as possible, even before you ever lay eyes on it.

Buckling down and “getting something” could be fun, but it also could be a chore. Once you actually get it, that functional level of academic proficiency makes it all worthwhile.


Lastly, and (depending on how much it works for you) most significantly, studying can really create a desire to get out and fish.

Why would I want to make myself even more anxious to go fishing?!?

It is true, you can probably work yourself into a froth by obsessing over angling tomes for hours on end. In the middle of January, this might drive one mad.

Or, it might get you out fishing. Even in places where the winter fly fishing isn’t great, you’ll be able to put your studies into practice. You can read water. You can cast. You can try new techniques. You can focus on minutiae; such as feeling a nymph tic the bottom of the creek, or putting an aerial mend in your cast to place a fly behind a rock.

It will be chilly. But who knows, you might even catch a fish or two.


Whether it be filling fly boxes or organizing vests and duffle bags of gear, we like to be active when we can’t fish. And, like the last point demonstrated, sometimes there can be some active results from a passive action. However, don’t scoff at the hard work of sitting down with a technical book.

Like any other subject, fly fishing is the assimilation and amalgamation of numerous facets. You might read and reread the same thing, only to finally get it after the third or fourth pass. And you’ll never know when some tidbit of information from a dark and stormy February night by the fire will strike you at the perfect moment on the stream in June.

Want a few suggestions on books for your winter reading? Here are some articles with a selection of my recommendations – Fly Fishing Books: Part I, Part II, Part III.

Help everyone out, and leave a comment below with your favorite!


Leave a Reply