9 Fly Fishing New Year’s Resolutions

Every year, people make New Year’s Resolutions to go to the gym, eat better, read more, and save money. And, every year, those same people give up on their resolutions after a few months because most resolutions aren’t fun.

What if New Year’s Resolutions were for things we liked doing, though? This year, I thought it’d be fun to come up with a few fly fishing resolutions and goals. They’re meant to be enjoyable, not a chore. This means that they may actually be achievable, and will lead to happy, healthy, and successful anglers.

Here are some ideas for fly fishing resolutions and goals to aim for this coming year.

1. Switch presentations before flies

After a few casts in a run with no fish, it’s easy to get frustrated and blame the fly. While switching flies in this scenario could change your odds for the better, the more likely culprit for a lack of fish is presentation. Many times, fish won’t be that picky about the actual bug. They may, however, want that bug essentially served to them on a silver platter.

A fly fisherman wades in a stream with a forest in the background.

Changing techniques is frequently more effective than changing flies, and can also be quicker and easier. Instead of retying every fly on a nymph rig, it may be as simple as moving an indicator or adding some split shot. Even easier, try getting a more drag-free drift. If you’ve exhausted presentation styles and still aren’t getting anything, a fly change might be the answer.

This year, make a resolution to try a new presentation before switching flies. As tempting as new flies always are, you may be rewarded with half the effort.

2. Have good etiquette

Nothing ruins a day of fishing faster than a stranger walking through your run, fishing right on top of you, or generally being obnoxious. While we like to think we’re never the bad guy, it’s easy to fall prey to showing bad etiquette at times.

Maybe you show up to “your run” and there’s already someone there. Even though the right thing to do is fish somewhere else, it can be tempting to try and squeeze in. Alternatively, you may be in a drift boat on course to cross a wading angler’s path, and need to decide between just following the current and rowing to give him space.

It’s easy to be an asshole when you’re not avoiding being one, so this year, consider making a conscious effort to have good etiquette on the water.  Your fellow fly fishermen will be grateful.

3. Treat fish well

You just caught the biggest fish of the day and want a photo. Even if you already made a resolution to have better angler etiquette, try to have good etiquette toward fish, too! No fish in its right mind wants a hook jammed through its lips, so the least we can do as anglers is treat them well once we’ve landed them.

Though the natural reaction may be to hoist the fish up and take a hundred photos of all its good angles, taking care of the fish once in the net will give it the best chance of survival (if you plan to release it). Making a New Year’s Resolution to use barbless hooks, keep fish in the water, and spend time reviving them is a great way to keep the fishery healthy.

Check out How to Handle Fish the Right Way for more ideas for this resolution.

4. Be a better fish photographer

One of the most frustrating qualities I notice in fishing partners is an inability to take appealing photos of fish. I’m by no means a photography expert, but I know a bad fish photo when I see one.

It doesn’t take an expensive camera, technical knowledge, or a photography class to get good-looking photos, so making a New Year’s resolution to try being a better photographer for your pals is definitely achievable.

The things I notice most often (which all happen to be very easy to fix) are focusing on a person’s face instead of the fish, having the sun at a bad angle, and taking the picture down over a crouching angler.

If you’re using a smartphone, which is likely, the camera may automatically sense a face and focus on it. This leaves the outstretched fish blurry. Tapping on the screen to make sure the fish is in focus will greatly improve the photo.

Angles are also very easy to fix. There isn’t necessarily a single correct angle to have the sun, since different angles will produce different effects, but not paying attention to the sun at all is definitely a mistake. If you aren’t sure what angle is best for the effect you’re after, or aren’t sure what’s best for that time of day, the easy fix is to take the photo from several different angles. Then, you can pick your favorite afterward.

An angler crouches in the water holding a brook trout.
Getting down in line with the fish is a good way to up your photo game.

Probably my biggest camera pet peeve is when the photographer stands upright and takes a photo down on a crouching fisherman. Not that this can never work, but I find that the photo almost always looks better when the photographer gets down to the same level as the angler. Once again, this is a super easy fix that can make a big difference.

For the new year, try resolving to be a better photographer for your buddies. With a couple quick tips, they can return the favor.

5. Start a fishing tradition

Something about having a tradition to look forward to makes nearly any activity more enjoyable. Fishing is no exception.

Some crews listen to the same type of music on their way to the river every time. Others take a shot of whiskey together while they put on waders. Meeting up for a beer afterward is probably one of the most common.

The beauty of these rituals, though, is that they can be whatever you want. If you don’t already have a fishing tradition, consider making that a goal for the coming year. Not only will it give you something to look forward to every time you hit the water, it’ll provide lasting memories that you and your friends can look back on and laugh about.

6. Try a new technique

It’s easy to fall into the trap of continuing to use the same techniques that have always worked. This is a great way to catch fish if you have it dialed in, but part of the fun of fishing is being surprised by the unexpected.

There are constantly new flies, rods, and techniques being developed. Fishing styles that have been around for ages are gaining popularity, and even tactics that have been common for years are still new to someone who’s never tried.

Spey casting, tenkara, and Euro nymphing are a few examples of methods you can try if you’re getting bored with the same old dry-dropper rig. Even something as simple as tightlining is fun for someone who’s used to only using an indicator.

Consider a New Year’s resolution to try a method outside your comfort zone. Not only will it give you something to practice, but it may be the only thing that works at times!

7. Catch a new species

Along the same lines as trying a new technique is catching a new species. This is a fun and often easy goal to achieve, and you’ll probably become a more well-rounded angler along the way.

Catching a new species doesn’t necessarily mean going to an exotic destination in search of taimen, dorado, marble trout, and the like. There are most likely new species to be caught within a few hours of home if you’re willing to look.

If you feel like you’re running out of new species to catch, you can edit this resolution in other ways. Maybe you’ve caught a brook trout, but never a brook trout in its native region. Maybe you’ve caught a catfish, but never a catfish on a fly rod. These resolutions are meant to be fun, so don’t feel bad about altering them to fit what you’re looking for.

The bonus to this one is that in targeting new species, you’ll almost certainly learn a technique or two you didn’t know before, and these may be applicable to species you catch all the time.

8. Show someone else how to fly fish

Once you have a lot of fish under your belt, it’s fun to see the joy on someone else’s face when they land their first fish.

There are a ton of people out there who would love to learn to fish (bring up fly fishing in nearly any group setting, and someone will likely mention that they’ve always wanted to try). Taking up fly fishing is an intimidating ordeal, though, and most people won’t really give it a try unless someone shows them. Offering to give them a hand may be all they need to start down the path to a new lifelong passion.

This resolution is both satisfying for you and really helpful for someone else. Plus, you’ll probably get a new fishing buddy!

9. Give to a good cause

Ideally, every time you bring a new angler into the world of fly fishing, you also bring one more person into the world of conservation. On that note, don’t forget to make a resolution every year to put some time or money toward a good cause in the outdoor world.

Although this sounds like one of the loftier goals on the list (it doesn’t necessarily involve actual fishing, which is the fun part), it doesn’t take much to make a difference and is arguably the most important resolution you can make if you want to have clean and healthy waters to fish for years to come.

There are also a ton of options to fulfill this resolution. Joining or donating money to organizations like Trout Unlimited or Backcountry Hunters and Anglers helps protect what we love, and is also a great way to connect with likeminded individuals. Alternatively, go to a creek cleanup, participate in a fundraising event, or contact your representatives to encourage them to fight for conservation. These are just a few ways to help out even if you don’t have the money to give.

What are your resolutions this year? Let me know in the comments.

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