Exploring 101

A Fisherwoman’s First Time Guide to Freshwater Fishing

guide to freshwater fishing
Written by Chelsea Champion

There’s nothing like lying back out on the water, basking in the sun, and casting out a line. Let’s show everyone that women can fish too! Guide to Freshwater Ffishing

Here’s the rough and tumble crash course on how to get started:

Know the Rules

Each state regulates the sport of fishing and in most cases a permit or license is needed to fish as an adult. These licenses can range from daily or weekly passes, to annual or lifetime passes. You pay a fee when you register for the license, which will cover you for the time allotted. There can also be size and catch limits for certain species of fish.

The laws in each state differ, so check your state’s Department of Conservation website to make sure you have the most up to date info before heading out to the nearest stream. Local sporting goods stores are also helpful places to get tips, and fishing licenses can often be bought here too! Just beware – if you brush off the rules and dare fish without the proper credentials, you could be fined and your catch seized! You wouldn’t want all your hard work to go to waste!

Gear Up!

Of course you can’t fish if you don’t have the right gear. For a beginner, you don’t need anything fancy. A simple rod and reel with a small, adequately stocked tackle box will do. The hardest part can be picking the right gear for you. With a huge (and seemingly complicated) selection in the stores, you might not even know where to start!

Reel and RodFor beginners, I recommend a simple reel and rod combo. They are easy to use and inexpensive. Practice up a little before spending the big bucks on separate high quality reels and rods. Some reels even come with line already on them – which is a super time saver and bides you some time before having to learn how to string a line yourself – great for a beginner who is already cramming so much information in her head! So what kind of reel will you need?

Some people learn using a spincast or button cast reel. Many children’s poles are fitted with these since they are the easiest to use. They operate using a button that you press as you cast forward – that’s it! For all that simplicity though, you sacrifice a great deal of accuracy and distance. With an enclosed reel like this it can also be difficult to untangle any knotted line. Despite these shortcomings, a spincast reel can at least help you master the basics before moving on to more sophisticated equipment.

I prefer to use a spinning reel. It has an open face (you can see the reel), fits a lot of line, and has better accuracy than a spincast. It’s slightly more complicated to use but you will learn quickly once you cast a few times and get the feel for it. When casting, you flip the bail (the wire in the half-circle shape), hold the line with your finger, letting go while you cast forward, allowing the line to be let out. Once you’ve cast, you flip the bail back and you’re ready to go until you get a bite!

Tackle Box Goodies – As I said, the beginner’s tackle box is simple. You should have extra line (4, 6, 8, or 10 lb test monofilament is fine – ask your sporting goods store clerk), hooks, sinkers of varying weight (to determine the depth of your hook), swivels and leaders (to attach lures to the line and prevent tangling/encourage movement), and bobbers/floats (to suspend your bait from the water’s bottom – also helpful for seeing where you cast). For tools you should also always carry a pair of needle-nose pliers (which has many uses, but is great for getting stubborn hooks dislodged from fish) as well as a jack knife or multitool. Gloves can be a lifesaver too, for handling any spiny fish you may encounter! And don’t forget to bring along a stringer and cooler if you plan to keep and eat your catch!

Bait and LuresSo you have all the right tools, but you’re still missing the one essential item needed to catch a fish: BAIT! You have a few options here – live bait or artificial lures. What you use all depends on what kind of fish you are trying to catch and what is allowed where you are fishing.

For most freshwater fishing, I prefer using live bait – my go-to is the regular everyday worm. I’ve used worms to catch trout, panfish, catfish, and bass. They’re inexpensive and easy to get, too! Dig them up out of your yard or pick some up at the local bait shop or gas station. Other live bait you can use include minnows, frogs, or mealworms. As I said, different fish prefer different bait, so do your research before stocking up!

As for artificial lures, there is an endless array to choose from – again specific by type of fish you’re after. As someone who primarily enjoys trout fishing, I prefer spinning lures, which mimic the motion of a smaller fish swimming through the water as you reel in the line. Just doing a Google search for types of artificial lures can help you find the right one for you.

Get out there!

So now that you have all the gear, get out there on that water! Lakeshore, boat, creek – whatever appeals to you, as long as there are fish! The last step remaining is to bait your hook. Attaching a hook or a lure to the line can be tricky to master at first, especially without anyone to help you. Honestly, I learned myself from Youtube! A quick search about tying fishing knots and attaching a hook will do wonders! Give it a try and then put on your bait.

Once you have your hook on and baited, pick a good spot to cast. Casting can be a bit tricky at first too – as a beginner make sure you’re clear of any hanging branches or innocent bystanders that could catch a stray hook! Reread the section above on reels to know how to work yours. Once you’ve cast, then you wait! No bites? Reel it in and recast. Or try a different location. Sometimes they bite, sometimes they don’t. Fishing is a waiting game, which is what makes it so relaxing (or frustrating, some would argue).

So there is your most basic of introductions to the sport of fishing. Websites, knowledgeable friends and family, and your local sporting goods store or tackle shop can provide a wealth of additional resources to help improve your angling game.

I’m hoping now you’re hooked! So slip your waders on and go get em’ girl!

The size of the catch does not determine the skill of the fisherwoman :)

The size of the catch does not determine the skill of the fisherwoman 🙂

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About the author

Chelsea Champion

Chelsea Champion is a contributing writer and self-proclaimed adventurer living in Nashville, Tennessee. Born and raised in Upstate New York, the mountains (and a loathing for winter) are in her blood. She is always looking for new places to hike and explore - bonus points if they include swimming holes! When she’s not taking to the trails, you can find her cuddling with other people’s dogs or cheering obnoxiously for the Buffalo Bills. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @chelseathachamp.

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