Orvis Fly Fishing 101

Mrs. RCS and I have been seriously intrigued with fly fishing for quite some time.  There is something about the solitude and the commune with nature that appeals to both of us, as well as the hunt.  The idea of landing a trout, and eventually a bonefish on a fly is one that we are planning future vacations around.

Both of us have meager fly fishing experience; essentially limited to casting for fun.  We don’t own any rods or reels (yet), so we thought it would be a good idea to start from the ground up.  Orvis offers free fly fishing classes out of their stores, so we signed up for the 101 class a couple Saturdays ago.

Orvis does a great job with instruction.  Each store has fly fishing experts on staff not only to help customers find the right gear, but to help with fishing questions, instruct these classes, and to shoot the preverbal breeze about fishing.  I’m serious – those guys can talk about fishing all.  day.  long.  And they know their stuff.

The class started at 9:00, and there were a dozen of us.  Ten guys and two ladies (Mrs. RCS was one of them).  We signed in, went over the agenda for the day, grabbed a rod and reel, and headed for the parking lot behind the store.

Our instructor gave us the ins and outs about an overhead cast.  …Let the rod do the work…don’t push the rod…pause at back…don’t whip the fly…etc.  Fundamentals.

Then he put us to work.  Pardon the photography, but there was plenty of room to cast.  I didn’t catch a 4Runner.  No one was throwing it 80 yards, most of us were concentrating on keeping the line in the air and getting comfortable with the motions.  This went on for about 15-20 minutes while our instructors walked around made sure everyone understood.  They took a very hands on approach, which seemed to work for this type of class.

After getting comfortable with the rod, we moved on to line work.  In lieu of an actual fly, our lines had a velcro tip that weighed about the same.  They gave us each a fish so we could practice casting.  This was another 15-20 minutes.  This turned out to be a lot of fun….the bonefish was very elusive…

During ‘fishing’, the instructors talked to each of us individually about why we were getting into fly fishing, and what we wanted to do.  Mrs. RCS and I love having hobbies like this, so for us it is about finding reasons to fish locally (here at the Hooch, up north in the southern Appalachians, and eventually in the Caribbean).  We spend a lot of time in the Bahamas, and have no problem scheduling our vacations around fishing.

This class taught us that we have a ways to go before we get there, but it is attainable.  I’m not saying we’ll be fishing the Seychelles any time soon, but one day…

After we finished the physical rod and reel work, we moved inside for some classroom work.  Being that this was a 101 class, we focused on the basics: how to put your rod together, how to attach a reel:

How not to break a tip, etc, and how to do ALL this while considering that you may be standing in a river while all this is happening.  We talked about line, leaders, nippers, tools of the trade, and the best fly out there: the Wooly Bugger.

We spent quite a bit of time on knots, and our instructors ensured that we knew exactly what we were doing.  Everyone left with the ability to tie a clinch knot and a surgeons knot.

The class portion lasted for about 45 minutes.  Considering I was starting from roughly zero, I feel like I learned a TON from the class.  It gave Mrs. RCS and I both a renewed sense of excitement about our new hobby.  So much so that we went ahead and signed up for the 201 class, where we meet at a local park and fish with actual flies.  Sunday morning can’t come soon enough.

Special thanks to Andy, Aaron, and Matt for being great instructors, and even better dudes.

Then we shopped…we both have our rigs picked out, and will pull the trigger much sooner than later.

If I’m to give the class a grade, I would give it an A.  The instructors were very friendly, and very knowledgeable.  They managed the flow of the class, but ensured everyone had a grasp of what we were doing before we moved on.  No one was rushed.  I would highly recommend the class to anyone with access to an Orvis.  Check out their website and you can see what’s available.  This would be a great date for any couple, a couple bros, or for anyone looking to do something different.  This is the kind of time investment that will pay dividends for the rest of your life.



  1. Jim
    08/24/2016 / 10:25 AM

    My wife and I took the 101 class at the Avalon store back at the end of June. They did a great job of making it fun and informative. Trying to make some time on the calendar for the 201 class.

  2. Randy
    08/24/2016 / 12:08 PM

    I started fly fishing in earnest when I moved to Colorado about 15 years ago and one of my first stops was the Orvis 101 class.

    I agree wholeheartedly that these classes are a great resource and are taught by people who come with a wealth of knowledge on local opportunities to catch fish and a real world background in what works.

    Just like any other hobby, fly fishing can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it and from my experience these classes offer a good demystification of the sport.

    Good luck RCS, hope to see some good trip reports on this blog in the near future.

  3. DH
    08/24/2016 / 12:23 PM

    Just started fly fishing around WNC this summer after an Orvis FF101 class at the Charlotte store in May. It didn’t take long to get completely hooked. I have to agree that the class is the perfect way to get to know the sport and begin your journey.

    RCS, make sure to do the 201 class, which should put you on some body of water, and the definitely the 301, which is essentially a discounted guided trip. Had a great time back in July on a 301 trip in Tennessee.

  4. Landy
    08/24/2016 / 12:52 PM

    Even with instruction it can be frustrating if the bite isn’t on when just starting out with a fly rod. Regardless if you’re bringing fish to hand on a given day use each opportunity on the water to develop your craft – casting, placement and presentation.

    North Georgia and WNC offer a much better variety of water and significantly less fishing pressure than the Hooch, which is one of my least favorite fisheries

  5. Matt
    08/24/2016 / 6:41 PM

    Great article and spot on. GF and I took the 101 class earlier this summer in preparation for a trip on the Snake River in the Tetons. Great refresher for myself who grew up fishing East Tennessee and excellent lesson for my GF who has never fished before. We were ready to fish immediately once we hit the river in Wyoming. While I caught 3 10 inchers, she took the day with a 16″ cutthroat. I’m hooked and she is looking forward to Montana next summer. Couldn’t have higher praise for Aaron, Bob, and Matt at Orvis, they’re fantastic.

    201 is usually at Murphy Candler Park on Ashford Dunwoody.

  6. Brad
    08/24/2016 / 9:27 PM

    Best fly out there is a Lighting Bud – tie a fly worm 18″ down and you have Chattahoochee Cocaine…none of those SNIT’s can say no to one of those two hooks.

  7. 03/15/2020 / 10:27 PM

    You’re practicing fly fishing in the parking lot.I remember I used to practice on the playground, and then my uncle took me to maxcatch fishing to buy flying gear, and then to the creek to practice and harvest.So happy!

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