Fly fishing tends to get the stigma of being a complicated, difficult art to learn and it tends to deter a lot of fishermen from getting into the sport. Why yes, fly fishing can be considered an art form and there are several different aspects that can make fly fishing challenging. It is difficult to learn casting techniques, fly tying can be a tough plunge to take, there is an array of different lines, leaders, rods, and reels, and about a million different opinions on each of these topics. However, fly fishing can be very simple as well. Trout fishing is the bread and butter of fly fishing. I am amazed at how many people in Virginia I run into that say "I have always wanted to fly fish for brook trout, but it all seems confusing and expensive". One can make fly fishing both confusing and expensive, but there is really no need to.
I remember when I first got into brook trout fishing and I was always looking up new patterns and flies to try. It did not take long to learn that fly fishermen seem to over complicate fly fishing. Fact is, I have never seen a massive hatch on our Virginia brook trout waters where the fish get keyed on a specific hatch. Tailwater fly fishing and big river trout fly fishing can get a little more complicated then brook trout fishing as the brown trout can and do get keyed into certain hatch. However, the trout in the headwaters of these small streams cannot afford to be picky due to their high metabolism and need for constant eating to survive. It is more about fly placement and stealth then fly selection. I only tie two patterns for brook trout now days and they have served me well.
One day when I was in a fly shop a 15 to 17 year old teenager came into the fly shop and asked "can you show me what flies work good for catching natives?". To which the fly shop owner replied, "sure, but first what kind of fly rod are you using to catch those brook trout?". I shook my head and immediately knew where this conversation was going. The kid was using a $30 Eagle Claw fly rod and the owner immediately said, "this here is what you want to catch those trout with, let me string this rod up so you can test it out" as he grabbed a couple hundred dollar 3 wt from the rack. I understand that the fly shop needs to make a profit, but the irony amazes me. Sure, a 2.2 oz St. Croix Legend Elite 3 wt is a heck of a fly rod to throw for brook trout, but the Eagle Claw fiberglass 4 wt will do just as good throwing a dry 5 feet up a plunge pool (side note, those Eagle Claw Fiberglass rods are a steal and a heck of fly rod to abuse on a small stream if you can get past the bright yellow rod). Over complicating the sport is a common thing that is seen in the fly fishing industry. Just look at the latest gear and accessories at the fly shows.
When it comes down to it, fly fishing is a simple sport that the angler likes to over complicate and over engineer. The way I started fly fishing was on Georgia ponds for bluegill and bass. A hand me down 8 wt with a straight 10 lb mono line to a small woolly bugger or popper. Simplicity. While fly fishing for musky and striper tend to complicate things slightly more then pursuing brook trout, it is still the same principle. While I do like the challenge of these different fish species, I still enjoy getting out on a small stream, casting a stimulator into a slow moving pool, and watching a little brookie sip the fly. Fly fishing is only as difficult as one makes it.