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Should I Teach My Wife to Fly Fish?

by Philip Monahan

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Question: After many years of displaying no interest in fly fishing, my wife suddenly wants to learn. Should I teach her?

Ryan N., Eau Claire, WI

Teaching Wife to Fly FishAnswer: Well, there are really two parts to that question. First, should a guy encourage his wife (or girlfriend or partner) to learn to fly fish? And, if so, should he be the one to teach her?

As far as the first question goes, I’ve heard two competing arguments over the years. Uxorious types believe that a wife who knows how to fly fish means the angler will now have a loving partner with whom he can share his passion. Aside from the joys of bonding over a shared love of fishing, this arrangement may also translate to more opportunities to fish, since now you don’t have to split your free time between doing what you want to do (fish) and what the wife wants to do (something else). The counter argument is that a man’s fishing expeditions are a time for him to be away from his partner, giving each some time to breath and recharge. (Of course, if the wife is left home alone with the kids, how much recharging is she doing?) Depending on the relationship, there are merits to each argument. I know husband-wife teams who really enjoy each other’s company on the water, and I’ve guided couples who should never have gotten in a boat together. I leave this decision to each individual angler, his conscience, and his partner.

On the second question, I have more definite opinions. As a fishing guide, I taught many couples how to cast and how to fish, and believe that a man should never try to teach his wife anything so potentially frustrating. Learning to cast and fish requires patience and a certain tolerance for failure. When a man tries to teach his wife to fish, there are actually added elements of frustration: the man desperately wants the woman to learn quickly because a.) he wants to go fishing or b.) he’s afraid if she doesn’t learn quickly, she’ll get frustrated and give up. The wife wants to learn quickly to a. please her husband and show him what a great sport she is or b.she’s afraid she’ll disappoint him or that he’ll start yelling at her.

Fact is, hardly anybody learns quickly, so the added frustration can spiral out of control. I’ve seen husbands grab rods out of their wives’ hands rudely to make a point. I’ve had women crying quietly in the back of the drift boat. I’ve seen loving couples finish a day yelling at each other and threatening to withhold marital favors (no kidding!). And on and on.

So here’s what you do, in three steps:

  1. Get her a casting lesson from a real instructor, whether it’s someone at a local shop or at a fly-fishing school. Do NOT stand there and watch her lesson. Go fiddle with some reels or rummage through the fly bins.
  2. Hire a guide for a day of fishing. Tell the guide you’d like him or her to work with your wife. (I took my wife out with a female guide because I thought she’d learn better from a woman, which turned out to be true.) Ignore them and fish as if they weren’t even there, except to occasionally offer words of encouragement, such as “Nice cast!” or “Boy, that drift deserved a fish.” If she does catch a fish, don’t treat her like a three-year-old. Show genuine adult pride.
  3. Take her fishing, as much as she wants to. And when she doesn’t want to, don’t make a fuss.

Even if your wife doesn’t end up as hard-core about the sport as you are, she will have a better understanding of why you need to be on the water.

Note: Before anyone starts drafting a nasty letter: the same rules apply when the genders are reversed. I know several couples in which it is the female who is the passionate angler. The power dynamics are somewhat different, but the same rules apply.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
Phil Monahan is a former Alaskan guide and was the long-time editor of American Angler magazine. He's now a columnist for MidCurrent and writes and edits the fly-fishing blog at You can email your fly fishing questions to us at
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  • Ssunnygifts

    And if you are both avid fisherman/woman than wether by fly rod or spinning rod – Give each other space from time to time.  Or make valid suggestions but don’t make out Your technique is better than the others……. from a “Not a beginner but definately not an Expert”

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  • Tim

    What timeliness for this post. I have been retired for two years and started fly fishing. My wife retires in June and has said she wants to fly fish. I had already determined to get someone else to teach her, I am not the most patient or a good instructor. I never thought about a women instructor or a guided trip. It might make a great retirement gift. Thanks.

  • My wife decided to give flyfishing a go a few years ago, I took her out and taught her to roll cast and showed her some basics, I wanted to really gauge her interest. After she caught her first fish she was hooked. (Sorry) I then enrolled her in the 2 day Orvis class, which made a huge difference. After just that weekend, she really learned a lot, she was able to tie her own knots and simple things like that, that can be daunting to a new flyfisher. And now she is a pretty darn good angler. I love fishing with my wife, we have a wonderful time out on the water together.

  • Jim bolton

    I two enrolled my wife in an Orvis school in Bend, OR. Best time I had with her watching her grow to catch her first 26″ cutthroat in Canada a year later. Best partner I’ve ever had and I only purchased the equipment. I knew she learns in a different way than I do, so I left it up to Orvis.

  • Sandy Moret

    We have saved about a gazillion relationships teaching significent others to fly fish… about a third of our classes for almost 25 years are couples or women.

  • Southern Alps

    Everybody learns best with a qualified instructor doing the teaching without a spouse or loved one present. As the learning curve is steep (don’t we all know that) getting the basics down first leads to so much more fun later. keep the lessons coming. Let your friend, partner, or spouse take ownership of their learning- they will enjoy those future experiences as a shared experience. Learn patience and how to keep quiet – everybody learns at their own pace and their own way. Feed their curiosity regardless of the question. Be serious about what your passionate about but remember it’s great fun to share, really. Best of all- get them their own gear to mess with- it’s makes all the difference.

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  • Gary B

    My wife and I were invited Atlantic salmon fishing about seven years ago. We had a guide who worked all day to help us with our casting. My wife caught her first fish and by the end of the day, our guide looked at me and said “we’ve created a monster”. For two years we fished a lot together and I made the mistake of making “casting suggestions” which often led to confrontations and silent trips home from the river. Then, I decided to just let her happily do her own thing, allowing “others” to make any suggestions they felt appropriate. What a difference, for us both. Now, we fish Florida salt almost every day in the winter and salmon/trout at home in the summer. She’s become a Rock Star in her own way – we all learn differently – and this morning, we were up at 6:15 hunting speckled trout and snook. It’s a win-win.

  • Bob

    Sent my wife to a women’s fly fishing clinic several years ago when she expressed interest.
    With annual clinics and hiring fishing guides, she has become an accomplished fly fisher and avid fishing partner. Best decision of our 37 years of marriage. Ryan is right about most spouses not being suitable fly fishing instructors.

  • Acethecat1

    Should I Teach My Wife to Fly Fish? No.