Fly Fishing: Be a Big Brother

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Louis pays back his big brother for all the times he helped him out fishing as a kid.

How many times have you stood by watching a rookie fly fisherman struggling to catch fish, and instead of helping them out, you turned your cheek, simply because you were in too much of a hurry to wet your own line?

I know I’ve been there many times. Heck, I’ve been the guy joking around with my buddy saying, “Look at that guy. He’s standing right where the fish are and casting his fly where he should be standing.” It’s easy to forget that we’ve all been that newcomer at some point in our fly fishing past. Make no mistake, even the anglers currently with mad fly fishing skills, the ones that often carry overly inflated egos both on and off the water, knew absolutely jack squat about fly fishing much more recently than they’d care to admit. Take a minute or two to reflect on your own past, and chances are, it probably hasn’t been all that long since you were that angler that you just finished making fun of for being clueless. I can clearly remember making long drives on the weekends to chase trout up in the mountains, only to drive home discouraged with the smell of skunk all over me. It was never a good feeling, and in most cases, it could have been avoided if someone would have stepped up as a big brother/sister and helped me out for a few minutes.

Taking the time to play the big brother or sister role is something that isn’t paid forward nearly enough in our sport. There’s way too much competition and selfishness on the water. We talk about how this kind of greedy angler behavior is the black foot of our industry, yet most of us have clearly been hypocrites more times than not. We’ve refused to step up to lend a hand to a fellow angler in need when the opportunity presented itself. Quite often, in only five minutes, an advanced angler can usually pass on enough helpful tidbits of information to a rookie fly fisherman to not only guarantee them a few fish for the day, but also give them the momentum and confidence to keep their skills growing moving forward well into the future. Making the decision to donate your time might put you on the water a little behind schedule, but I promise you that your help will be fully appreciated and never forgotten. If we all adopted this mentorship attitude on the water, I think it would help to drastically dissolve the stereotype that fly fisherman are all elite schmucks and I also think it would prove very helpful in growing our sport. Next time I hit the water, I promise to not turn my cheek. What about you?

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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28 thoughts on “Fly Fishing: Be a Big Brother

  1. In my opinion this may be the most important blog you have written. It’s going to be forwarded to my TU board. I can’t tell you how many tippets I’ve down sized, leaders I have lengthened, flies I’ve given away or on stream hydrology/habitat short courses I’ve given. They rarely take two minutes, they are selfish acts, and I’m still a long way from paying back all the encouragement I received in the field and on the stream over the years. These are selfish acts, because as Chuck Maltby use to remind us, our streams need friends. You can’t take care of your favorite stream without some help. and when I need some horsepower for a project or phone calls on an issue. it usually just takes a few phone calls. It’s payback because a long list of generous anglers helped me, and a lot of others, tie a new knot or fly pattern, fix my backcast, time a run, grab the other end of a log (and explain why we were moving it), or invited me to sit with them at a meeting. Some of these guys became lifelong friends, others were just the guy that drives the green F-250. It seems there use to be more of those guys around when I needed them. A lot less posturing and a more guys that knew their way around. They had already caught all the fish they”needed” to catch, so they weren’t concerned if I caught a few.

    • agree. well done. Thank you for the kind reminder. The Streams need Friends. The rivers saved my life, you never know when you reach out and help another how much it impacts them.
      Tight Lines,

    • Greg,

      That was such a nice comment you left and I’m in your boat when it comes to how much I have left to pay it forward on the water to get be square. So many people have helped me out along the way. Thank you to all of you for lending a hand. There’s far too many people for me to name.


  2. This is great! The spirit of the sport only lives on if we share in the experience with others on the water. These resources are not individually ours – it pays for us to share them in a meaningful way with our brothers (and sisters) and help to enhance the experience for one another.

  3. Nice, Kent.

    Living on the Tailwater, my cabin is next to a cabin that is mostly a rental because the owner lives in Idaho. I frequently take the time to help renters struggling to catch. I suggest and often give them flies. It is especially rewarding when they have kids fishing with them. I make sure they know about the dangers of the release and how to call for the release schedule. If it looks like it will help and they are capable enough waders, I offer to let them fish on my property in addition to my neighbor’s. It is an opportunity not only to pass on knowledge but to pass on a conservation ethic. (I do not force but I encourage catch and release). My neighbor is in town this week, and just yesterday he commented again about how many renters write or tell him about the “old guy” who helped them find and catch fish. I thought having a rental next door was going to be an annoyance, but it is not so bad when the renters become more like friends. Except for the “old guy” part.

    • Ralph,

      That’s great to hear that you’re helping out the renters whenever they need some advice and expertise on the tailwater. Your a good man, wonderful fly fisher, and I’m honored to have you in my home town and home waters.


  4. Exceptional post Kent,

    You’re touching on a fly fishing evolution theory I’ve thought about. The giving back part of the theory unfortunately seems to be at the end of the evolution though. We start as rookie raw wannabes, get some basics down and start catching, then we move into the numbers game, after it’s about the trophy, then we have some bragging rights (elite shumucks) and finally enjoying the moment and giving back. We travel this journey at different speeds. Our egos and pride seem to slow us. I’m not sure if anyone can skip to the end, though – wisdom and patience seem to be characteristics that come with time.
    Thanks for the post, I’ll share on my FB page.

  5. Several years ago I was ‘cut-off’ by an angler back in Pennsylvania. I was a bit miffed by such action. My ‘cutter-offer’ said he would go about 1/2 mile above me and that ‘it would be ok’. Long story short, I caught up to him about 1/4 mile up form me and saw he was struggling – some with casting and some with fly selection. I made a suggestion and he switched flies. He caught a fish when I insisted he come back to the spot that he was fishing without success minutes before. He was elated. We struck up a friendship that now has me going back and sharing a cabin to fish there on an annual basis.
    Another time I was on the Upper Manistee I saw people fishing down to where I had gotten in – great I thought, the water has now been pretty disturbed and I’ll have difficulty getting anything to bite. As they passed me we had a pleasant exchange of words and I ended up giving them a few flies (after I saw what they were using) that I hoped would help improve their luck.
    Each time left me feeling better with trying to share the great feeling that the river can give us. There’s still many jerks on the water and we’ll never rid any sport of them. But there’s many that appreciate some guidance too. Those people and moments will ‘make my day’ – any day.

  6. I’m hopping up on the stump to preach a little lol! When Jesus was asked, what are the greatest commandments? He replied, you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it also. You should love your neighbor as you love yourself. There is a key word in these two commandment that ring out loud, love. Love is not all mushy gooshy crap, but it is also compassion and kindness toward others. In the same way you would help your kids tie there shoes, help your brother/sister tie a stronger knot, use a better technique, offer a better pattern that’s working! In fly fishing as well as life you continuously go trough the learning curve. This is a very important message today and I am so glad you brought it to light Kent. Love your neighbor as you love yourself! I think Kent would agree, this is how you Keep it Reel. God Bless

  7. I concur with all the other comments. Me and my crew sometimes take moments to note the guy hopelessly flogging the water, which is lame. And really I could still benefit from some advice from time to time. Great post, and a great reminder that we’re not the hot shit we sometimes think we are. Help a brother out.

    • JB,

      Word to that my friend. The problem usually starts when we think we’re “HOT SHIT”. Sounds like this hit home with you and I hope you help a brother out when it’s in need. Thanks for commenting today. Cheers


  8. Another great post and I think one that is greatly underapreciated by most veteran fly fishers. I was lucky enough to have a good friend that is a great guide and he more than anyone was paramount to the development of my skills. We always fished together whenever we could and more times than not he was more than eager to help me out – a fly, a mend, casting, etc…

    I am now in the same boat w/ my older brother. He caught the fly fishing fever a few years back and I am typically helping him when we are on the water. To me, seeing someone catch a fish is the ultimate prize. Dont get me wrong here – I LOVE to catch fish but it really pays to help out a beginner…

    More than not egos are part of the industry. I could care less if you land a trophy fish every time the leader hits the water. I rather fish and surround myself with passionate friends that are more than willing to share and educate w/ experience.

    Fish it forward!

    • RT,

      Glad you enjoyed the post. So true about surrounding yourself with passionate fly fishers that are all team players. It always makes for a great day on the water doesn’t it.


  9. I think it’s great to help people who want help. But there’s a fine line between offering help and being a know-it-all a-hole who offers unwanted advice when not asked for it.

    Many people prefer to learn through their own trial and error, so if you have advice to give, I think it’s always better to wait for a request for it.

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  11. I concur and I fall into the “clueless” category still when it comes to fly fishing most of the time, but I’m learning as I go. I’d like to thank Louis who spotted me struggling on the Hooch one day and extended me some casting tips and a business card that led me to the blog. Need a few more run-ins like that so I can haul in more trout! Thanks

  12. I’m a beginner (as in I’ve never wet a line). I’ve wanted to fly fish for years, but I’ve always been intimidated…thought I’d do something gauche and upset the veterans.

    I finally worked up the stones to buy a rod and reel and signed up for a guided lesson on March 1. Hopefully my fellow fisherman help me when I need it. And, when/if I become “hot shit,” I can repay the favor.

  13. Great post. Thank you. A needed reminder that when we share, the receiver takes a little of the giver with them. I guess it could be said that we have a part in their future experiences, which is so much better than keeping it to die within ourselves someday. I needed this. Thank you again.

  14. Thank you for this post! I recently experienced this type of kindness from a man who had been fly fishing for 60 years in Oregon. He jumped into the water next to me and at first I was thinking, “Hey, I was here first.” But then he started telling me that he’s been fishing this water for years and if I really want to catch fish, I should move down just a bit because there’s a drop-off where all the fish like to hang out. He spent the next couple of hours fishing next to me and giving me tips. I managed to catch a couple and netted a couple for him as well. It was a great experience and kindness I won’t forget. I hope to be able to pass it forward sometime in the future when I have more experience.

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