Tom Rosenbauer’s 8 Tips to Becoming a Better Fly Fisher

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He's Just That Cool

He’s Just That Cool

There are few guys out there squeezing cork with the angling chops of Tom Rosenbauer.

Tom is the author of nearly two dozen books on fly fishing and too many articles to count. Add to that his podcast and posts on Orvis News and it’s fair to call him one of the leading educators in the field. Tom’s been an angler his whole life and was tying flies commercially when he was just fourteen. He has fished all over the world, including the English chalk streams, Christmas Island, and Kamchatka. He invented stuff you use every time you fly fish, like the magnetic net keeper and tungsten beads for fly tying.

Tom is now the Marketing Director for Orvis and a driving force in the rejuvenation of that great brand. A few people know that he also makes his own chocolate from the beans, which is incredibly technical not to mention amazingly delicious. He’s a hell of a nice guy and a good friend.

Tom has a lot to share on the subject of fly fishing so we asked him for some broad strokes. Some basic tips that will help you be a better and more satisfied angler. Here’s what he got back to us with.

Tom Rosenbauer’s 8 Tips To Becoming a Better Fly Fisher:

1.      Observe everything.  Look around every time you catch a fish and figure out why it was there and why it ate at that particular time.  Look at the sun angle, the surrounding terrain, current threads in rivers, or highways on the flats.

2.      Tie flies.  I don’t think anyone can be truly on top of their game until they understand how a fly is constructed and what it’s supposed to do in the water.

3.      Tie your own leaders.  In fresh or salt, knowing how to modify a leader to make it behave better is best understood if you have tied a bunch of knotted leaders first.  Even if you are starting with a commercial knotless leader, you will eventually need to modify it.

4.      Improve your casting. No matter how good you think your casting is, it is not good enough.  Take a lesson from someone who is a better caster than you.  Don’t be too proud.

5.      Don’t be an asshole on the water.  In rivers, give people as much room as you possibly can, even if you end up in water you don’t really like.  In the salt, find your own school or your own flat.  Someone else got there first.  Get over it.

6.      Delight in every fish you catch- no matter how small.  If you can’t get excited about an 8-inch brook trout, you don’t really get it.

7.      Don’t sweat it. The fishing will never be as good as you anticipate.  The weather sucks?  You blew an eat? You didn’t catch a fish as big as you thought?  You are just setting yourself up for a deficit of confidence—and fun.

8.    Stop being so serious.  Never take your fishing or yourself too seriously.  You are just a tool with a silly pole playing with fish.  How stupid is that?

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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32 thoughts on “Tom Rosenbauer’s 8 Tips to Becoming a Better Fly Fisher

  1. Tom’s books (since the 1990’s) and podcasts have been an important part of my continuing fly fishing education and his wisdom on reading the water and prospecting for trout have served me well. He has generously responded to my individual questions, helping me and those I try teach and reach through fly fishing.Thanks for including him in your blog, Louis.

    Love the pic too!

  2. Those 8 “tips” could be applied to anyone’s everday life not just flyfishing. Can’t argue with any of them, especially number 8. Well done.

  3. Is it too late to get wrapping paper with this image on it?

    BTW very direct, no-nonsense points from The Man that could also be projected on everyday life:

    1. Observe everything around you, no matter what you are doing.
    2/3. Learn more about things you are passionate about and use your hands to do it, if possible.
    4. Don’t be too proud and if you enjoy something, strive to be the best you can be at it.
    5. Don’t be an asshole – period.
    6. Enjoy everything, everyday….no matter how big or small it is.
    7. Don’t sweat the small stuff….because getting upset about conditions or fish size doesn’t change the condition or fish size. See #6 & #1.
    8. Have more fun with the things you love and enjoy, it will become easier and more relaxing, naturally making you enjoy and love it even more.

    Thanks, Tom, for making me a better fisherman, and person.

  4. I will add one here:

    Give something back. All over the world there are people doing good things for wild fish and their habitats. It’s nice to send money for various groups and causes, and it does help. But what is most needed today is personal involvement. Find out who is doing habitat and fisheries work in your own region an volunteer to support it. From planting trees to pulling invasive species weeds, to research sampling in the field, testing and monitoring water quality, and surveying fish runs, there is plenty of work to be done. If you value your wild fish resources, and the health of your environment, you need to be involved.

  5. Love it! As important as the first four are from a technical standpoint, the last four are just as or more important. If you’re not enjoying yourself while just being immersed and having a deep respect for all aspects of it, then why even bother?

  6. Mr. Rosenbauer:

    It seems that I stumbled upon a venue where I can express myself directly about my observations from ‘Pro Talk’ to your Orvis Podcasts to this article. And, my opinion is unwavering.

    I have fly fished, as well as fished by other means, all of my life. Yet, fairly recently, I have taken fly fishing more seriously, accumulating an arsenal to use for the second half of my life. (For I am middle aged, now.). I watch outdoors programming on the appropriate T.V. channels, use the Orvis website to answer other questions and for other guidance, and find information to devour on other forms of social media like this, to get better at the sport.

    I think you are by far not only one of the most knowledgeable fly anglers I have ever taken a lesson from, but you are also one of the nicest, most personable individuals providing fly angling information in front of the camera, today. That says alot, given that most outdoors people are pretty down-to-earth, good people. Orvis should be proud to use you as one of their front men, and the company should also consider itself lucky you are employed by them, for other industry-related work.

    I kid you not, I had no idea this all would come together, until now: I recently submitted a resume and application for Orvis’ Fly Reel Product Development Specialist position, now open with the company. I consider myself qualified for the position, and I hope I am interviewed by you and/or your colleagues at Orvis, in the near future.

    Yet regardless of how the position turns out, my previous thoughts were formed, way before the opportunity arose.

    Tight lines, and Happy Holidays!,

    James C. ‘Jim’ Murray

  7. I caught my first fish when I was 8 years old, with help from my Dad. Sometimes when I catch a trout I laugh out loud! I realize that though I’m now 71 Years old, I am still having as much fun as when I was a kid. O yeah life is good.
    Adios Philip

  8. Pingback: It’s all about the little things. |

  9. Wo wo woooo wo wait a second here……Tom is a DAM Gladiator among fly fishing legends. I’ve met him and videoed this elusive creature. I’ve went back and analyzed footage, calculated precise measurements and I’m perplexed on how the Unicorn and him look so proportionate.
    I think that photo has been in LightRoom for way to long…..we’ve all been duped.

  10. Haha, Actually a good article. But let’s be real Tom never was Michael Jordan excepting of mediocrity. Your article States mediocrity is exceptable in fly fishing which is true for 98 percent of fly fisherman but an 8 inch brook trout and excitement are ridiculous! Really if you are excited about catching small fish the you are a novice. It’s not about catching fish but catching the biggest fish in your area. Amateurs are happy about catching anything, the elite excited about catching trout over 26 inches.. Your article is flawed in mediocrity which no one else in the world is satisfied with. Who wants to satisfied with something small when there is Giants out there. Reevaluate your stance, small fish is for beginners, big fish is for winners…

  11. Pingback: Win a Signed Poster of Louis Cahill's Epic Vision of Tom Rosenbauer on a Unicorn! | Orvis News

  12. Derek, are you related to The Great Louis Coleman, Tom’s mentor, and featured in the top rated episode of the Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast? If not, check it out. You might find someone in common to fish with.

  13. This is a BIGGY for me – share your knowledge – I have so many visiting anglers at Rotorua in New Zealand that struggle because as we know ” local knowledge is king ” I am always happy to share what I know about the local area along with what fly patterns may work and when and I even part with some of ties – I have a local angler who puts his hand over his fly and tells people out right its because he doesn’t want you to see it ! I love catching wee bows at 4oz to double browns , in fact for me now ” its about the take ” after that its all over for me :0)

  14. Excellent points, I’ve found that over my 30 years of fishing that I’ve adopted these philosophies through trials and tribulations. The only thing I would add is ‘always be willing to help’. We were all beginners at one point in our life, some of us are able to afford casting lessons, fly tying vids, etc… some are not. If we want this sport to continue and evolve it’s crucial that we as a community of like minded people with a passion for fly fishing help those who are getting started.

  15. Pingback: 13 Secrets for Better Fly Fishing Success - Line & Sight

  16. As usual, Tom is spot on. As mentioned, he has a great background as an authority on fly fishing. He’s paid his dues, and he knows the business. He’s seen a lot, done a lot, and shares a lot. But, most of all, he speaks to us, not at us.
    He is always worth giving an ear to!

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