How do I learn how to fish... without actually knowing anyone who fishes?
July 5, 2007 4:03 PM   Subscribe

How do I learn how to fish... without actually knowing anyone who fishes?

Weird question. I used to fish when I was a kid (stopped by the time I was 10 due to a variety of circumstances not worth going into). In reflecting on things recently I remembered how much I enjoyed myself. I'd like to start up again. However, its been so long that I don't actually remember "how" to fish or really what equipment to get aside from a pole, line, hooks and some bait. I also don't have any friends (currently at least) who have experience fishing.

So, how do I pick back up on this hobby without feeling/looking like a total idiot? Oh, and for what its worth I live in NC.
posted by tundro to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Ask a fisherman. Any fisherman. They love to talk about fishing and I guarantee you they won't act like you're an idiot.

I was in a similar circumstance some years ago, but had the good fortune of having brothers-in-law and a father-in-law who were willing to show me the ropes. As I got to know more fishermen, however, I realized anyone of them would have shown me how to fish.

Bait and tackle shops are great sources of local information (knowing what to use and where to use it). Just ask.
posted by unclejeffy at 4:14 PM on July 5, 2007

A great way of learning to fish, and learning about various game species and conservation issues in your state is to hire a guide on one of your major lakes, or saltwater ports. You'll have a ton of fun, and you'll learn more in a day with a good guide than you'd learn in a month on your own. And you'll actually catch some fish! Particularly good if you're also looking for additional advice on boats, trailers, fish finders, etc.
posted by paulsc at 4:28 PM on July 5, 2007

Hire a guide once or twice. Most guides advertise in local tackle shops. Often they will rent you all the equipment you need, take you out in their boat, and show you a few good fishing places, and they'll give you advice on what kind of equipment to buy and so on.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:29 PM on July 5, 2007

what equipment to get aside from a pole, line, hooks and some bait

And some beer. You sound like you actually want to catch fish as opposed to having an excuse to spend the day outdoors near some water (you rebel, you).

If you insist on trying to catch something, try reading the back pages of your local paper's sports section. There's almost always a local fishing report listing of what kind of fish are biting where and which waterways have recently been stocked. Then armed with that knowledge, enter any tackle shop, say you'd like to catch some [insert fish name] and prepare to have your ear talked off for a few hours. You'll eventually leave the shop with the right gear (don't forget the beer).

I like this site for the knot-tying animations. The rest of it is largely getting the hook wet.
posted by jamaro at 4:53 PM on July 5, 2007

Buy a few books, find a *good* fishing store to ask questions (it might be worth it to pay a little more for your equipment in order to establish a relationship, they're obviously going to be more willing to help out people who are spending money).

I started flyfishing a few years ago and didn't know anyone else who knew how. A few good books went a long way.

Look for a few in the following categories:
- general books on the basics,
- more advanced books that are more specialized in what you are interested in (for me this was small stream & alpine flyfishing),
- guide books for your area
- books just about the fish you're looking to pursue (more on the fish, less on fishing)

if you have the money, getting a guide would be great... but that was out of my budget.
posted by nazca at 4:55 PM on July 5, 2007

Your choice of equipment will be dictated by what kind of fishing you want to do. For me, fishing is partially an excuse to hang out at mountain lakes and hike small canyon streams. So my gear is specific to that kind of fishing: lightweight 4-piece rods, compact reels, balsa-wood lures and fly and bubble. I don't use a fly-rod because there is too much foliage and no waders.

If you've a particular destination in mind, you might hang there a bit and talk to the guys working it. Have a look at the contents of the stomachs of their catch, in order to decide what you will want to be casting.
posted by Manjusri at 4:58 PM on July 5, 2007

If you are looking to flyfish, give this book a look. -
posted by Patrick Graham at 5:26 PM on July 5, 2007

I don't know about NC, but this book: Spinner Fishing for Steelhead, Salmon and Trout by Jed Davis has tips and instructions on making your own lures that really worked on the Snake River and its tributaries back in the 80's. When we moved to Texas I gave up fishing because there were too many snakes in the nearby river. I don't know if these spinners would work on bass and the other warm water fish you have, but non-hatchery trout love them.
posted by RussHy at 5:39 PM on July 5, 2007

Keep an eye out for classes, too. I doubt that they're common, but I know the Minneapolis parks system recently held a very affordable, hands-on, 3-session fishing class.
posted by vytae at 5:52 PM on July 5, 2007

Remember that it's okay to get skunked, thats why they call it fishing and not catching.
posted by pwally at 7:21 PM on July 5, 2007

Ah, you just missed the North Carolina "Free Fishing Day" on July 4. No problem though, you can learn to fish ANY time!

If you have $100-300 bucks to spare, then I echo everyone who says hire a guide. It will be money well spent. A guide will set you up with a license, show you how to fish - heck, they'll even bait the hook for you - and put you in a good spot to catch enough to keep you hooked. Another good thing about hiring a guide is that they will let you use fishing gear that is much nicer than you could probably afford on your own. I just found what looks like a good list of guides here. No matter where you are - coast or mountains - you should have NO problem finding a guide who will be eager to take you out. Get a friend to go with you and split the cost, usually the rates are lower for a few people. (Also, feel free to tip your guide at the end of the day, especially if you have fun and catch a lot of fish).

If you don't have enough cash to hire a guide, no problem at all: just go to a local tackle shop and say exactly what you just said here. No angler worth his time on the water will look down on you for wanting to learn the sport! The opposite, most of us LOVE the chance to introduce someone to fishing. You can easily get a basic rod and reel setup and plenty of tackle for less than $50 -- and you can do even cheaper than that if you need to.

Also, if it is any comfort, even seasoned anglers sometimes need to learn the "basics." I am a reasonably experienced angler, but almost all of my experience is in coldwater fly fishing. After moving to the East Coast I decided to get into warm & saltwater, and I had NO idea what I was doing at first. I am sure I still look and feel like an idiot, but I am having a blast.

Have fun!
posted by wick47 at 7:45 PM on July 5, 2007

Try to find a local fish report. They usually tell you what baits/lures fish are hitting and the depths you should explore. If you offered more about your location, you would get much, much better advice. There are a bunch of fishing reports from NC, but you have to specify what kind of fishing you want to do. Saltwater vs. freshwater ought to give you a jumping off place. You may want to check out this guide if you want a happy medium.

The thing about fishing is that every location is pretty different. The bait and technique vary with what kind of fish that you want to catch and the area that you are fishing. Also, fishing is very seasonal... some fish bite in cold water, others in warmer water. The good news is that with google, you can find some pretty specific advice for whatever you want to catch.

Remember, it is called "fishing", not "catching", so you might be empty-handed quite often. It's not a failure as a fisherman so much as an opportunity for a relaxed day communing with nature.

Good luck!
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:57 PM on July 5, 2007

I did exactly this. I had done some fishing as a kid, but really it was nothing more than torturing sunfish, which are plentiful, aggressive, stupid, and hungry.

As an adult, at a point where I needed some vacation time, I found a fishing spot in the Sierras and read up on what was there to catch, then grabbed a few books from the local library. The most important thing, I think, is to learn how to tie a hook onto a line so it will stay.

The books had recommendations for lures/bait/technique for most types of fish.

I settled on an ultralight rig and bought mid-range. A week before I left, I practiced casting split shot in my (largish) living room. This was the first "real" rig I'd ever used (as a kid, it was always Zebco).

On the first trip, it took me about a half hour to get used to casting in the wild. And for the rest of the vacation I was catching my dinners.

Here's what you should carry in your tackle box at a minimum:
hooks, lures, sinkers, snap-swivels, leader, extra line, sun screen, DEET, a pair of long-nose pliers with a built-in cutter, and maybe some bobbers.

The most important tool will be the pliers. You'll use them to cut line, cut hooks, pull hooks, pull knots tight, etc. I have my tied onto a lanyard so it doesn't go overboard. They're way cheaper than, say, a Leatherman, and you won't feel so bad when you do lose them.

On you person, you'll want a hat, a pocket knife, and a smile.

With my rig, I have caught trout, catfish, bass, perch, and sunfish. I'm still a pretty horrible fisherman, but I've enjoyed it a lot.

That said, fishing is a hobby geared for collecting lots of little items, which makes it pretty much a perfect hobby. There is always more novelty. Have fun!
posted by plinth at 6:41 AM on July 6, 2007

I would definitely try to make a friend in real life. My fishing friend, God bless his soul, taught me how to tie the knots and what to make of managing the tackle box and what each thing is for. Patience, cleverness, and learning is all you though.
posted by iheartcanada at 3:14 PM on July 6, 2007

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