4 Benefits of Fly Fishing with a Buddy

I enjoy solitude when I fly fish. Yet I rarely fly fish alone. I like to fly fish with a buddy, if only because there’s someone to take pics of my big fish (or buffalo bone).

The truth is, it is better to fly fish with a buddy or a brother or a sister or a spouse. In the past year of fly fishing, I have been on the water eighteen days (I know, it doesn’t seem like enough). On every one of those days, I have fished with someone else — either my podcast partner Dave, my brother, my sons, or another close friend.

Why is a fishing partner such a big deal? Here are four benefits of fly fishing with a buddy or someone else.

Safety

This is at top of the list for a reason. Your life might depend on it.

Four years ago, my sons I and hiked into a high mountain lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail took us up the side of a waterfall. On our way back from fly fishing the lake, we came across a hiker who had broken her ankle. She was in a group, and one of them had hiked out to find a park ranger. By the time we made it down the waterfall, we heard and saw the helicopter that came to rescue her.

The buddy system results in a timely rescue.

A couple weeks ago, I slipped at the edge of a small stream I was fishing and fell forward in some shallow water. The only casualty was a cracked fly box. But I reflected later on how I could have hit my head on a nearby boulder and passed out. If I had been alone, that could have been disastrous even in shallow water. I was glad that my podcast partner, Dave, was only thirty yards away. It was a win-win situation.

Since I wasn’t hurt, he got a good laugh. But had I been hurt, he was there to help.

Dave and I regularly fish in grizzly bear country, so having two fly fishers — each armed with bear spray — is critical. Sometimes a bear can attack you so fast that there is no time to unleash the contents of your canister. But a friend can. One of my bow-hunting partners saved the life of his friend a few years when a grizzly attacked faster than his friend could get to his bear spray. Then, he was able to help his friend back to their SUV before the bear returned and before his friend bled to death. The recovery required a couple surgeries. But the attack might have led to death if my friend’s friend had been hunting alone.

Problem-Solving

Another benefit of fly fishing with a buddy is having another brain.

Recently, Dave and I were fishing for fall browns in the Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park. We took turns drifting our nymphs through the same run. We were catching fish, but Dave pointed out to me that I was missing some strikes. He suggested that the almost imperceptible hesitation of my strike indicator was a subtle strike. So I started setting the hook every time my strike indicator made a slight bump. Every time, taking Dave’s suggestion resulted in hooking a fish.

Later in the day, I returned the favor on another run that I had fished a couple days before. After watching Dave’s casts, I suggested that he cast about 10 feet further upstream so the nymphs he was using would be deeper when they reached the hot zone. It worked. Sometimes it takes a friend to spot the obvious or not-so-obvious solution to those times when the fish are not biting.

Sharing the Joy

There’s something satisfying about sharing the moment with someone else. When Dave and I catch fish, we whoop it up together. I can honestly say I enjoy watching Dave catch big trout (okay, as long as I’m catching them too!). Then there are the hilarious moments. I was glad Dave witnessed the 20-inch buffalo bone (the picture above) I landed when we fished the Gardner together!

Like any other joy in life, fly fishing is meant to be shared. This goes beyond catching trout, though. It extends to seeing the sun flood a beautiful meadow, watching a couple of wolves saunter along the bank of the Yellowstone River, or hearing the piercing bugle of a bull elk on a September morning.

Remembering

As much as I try to slow down in the moment and take in the experience, I find that I forget certain aspects of a day on the river. That’s why I force myself to share dinner at the end of the day with my fly fishing buddies. Well, okay, I really don’t have to force myself to do this! Dinner is the capstone of a great day. Often, the dinner conversation I have with Dave or my brother or one of my sons will remind me of moments or experiences I had forgotten.

Sometimes, even years later, I’ll be talking about a certain trip with one of them, and they will remind me of some moment or experience that had vanished from my memory.

As a wise writer once said, “Two is better than one. . . . if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. . . . Though they may be overpowered, two can defend themselves” (Eccl. 4:9-10, 12). While that applies to all of live, it certainly relates directly to your next fly fishing adventure.

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6 thoughts on “4 Benefits of Fly Fishing with a Buddy

  1. Great article! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    I have been fly fishing, as well as other types of fishing, for most of my near 70 years and can attest to the the benefits of having a fishing partner.

    My buddy and I are blessed to live in Western Mass. which has spectacular fishing and hunting, and we have always been partners. When we were young (60+ years ago) scrambling over the rocks and hiking the mountain streams was a joy. Now, that we are much older, he is 70 and I am very close behind, we cherish the fact that there is one of us there for the other, because at our age a slip can become a catastrophe….especially in those areas which don’t see much traffic.

    Just the other day we were fishing a fairly secluded part of The Deerfield River. There wasn’t a hatch gong on so we were fishing nymphs and wooly buggers. I caught the first one (12″ stocked rainbow) on a Wooly Bugger then my buddy stated to hang a number of the same size fish. A quick shout about 30 yards upsteam resulted in a reply he was using a pheasant tail nymph. The result was that we both had a great time catching and releasing some feisty trout, both rainbows and browns.

    Also, a bit later I almost took a header into the river when I slipped on a rock. What was worse is that I had left my waders home and opted for hip boots because the river was running low. Well, that header caused me to look like Fred Astaire doing a “soft shoe”, which caused me to slip into a bit deeper water and get a wet crotch and a boot full of water.

    When it was over and I was safely to the bank, we both laughed, but knew that it could have resulted in a lot worse, especially if either of us had been alone.

    And, as you mentioned, there is the comradery and the later sharing of the events, along with the tips and tricks we each learn and pass on to the other. To this day we reminisce about the times and events we have had.

    Enough of my rambling…just keep up the great posts.

    Jim 🙂

  2. My dad was telling me that he might want to go fly fishing with his friend, and I wanted to know what the benefits were. It’s interesting that fly fishing with a friend is good for problem solving. Since my dad has some pretty smart friends, this would be really nice for him.

    • Smart friends are great to take along on a fly fishing trip! Dave and I are constantly amazed at how much we learn from our fly fishing friends who are smarter than we are. We even learn alot from each other. I hope your dad has a great time with his friend.