Panoramic mountain views, the sun on your face, crystal clear waters, and a slight breeze to cool you down.
Now, add a fishing rod in one hand and the "Catch of the Day" in your other hand. Got you dreaming?
I was recently invited to try out fly fishing in the Swiss Alps. Even though fishing is my true passion, fly fishing was a whole other ball game until recently. I have always been curious about how fly fishing works. What is the extra touch Switzerland can offer? And most importantly, can you really catch a fish this way?
Meeting up with the Firebelly Fly Fishing School
In the middle of the Bernese mountains, I met up with Oliver Streuli. He and his friend Mark Kleimann run fly fishing courses in Switzerland under the name of Firebelly.
While chatting about their startup, Oliver tells me that he really loves to pass on his knowledge about fishing, and this passion is exactly what motivated Mark and him to give courses.
Oliver initially taught the mandatory Swiss fishing instruction courses in English (Sachkunde-Nachweis Fischerei, better known as the SaNa course). And soon, he noticed the demand for fly fishing courses: "During SaNa courses, people wanted to know more about the practical side of fishing - and from one came the other."
Upon arriving at today's fishing site, all everyday issues are gone. There, Oliver presents an absolutely stunning lake with a shade of blue I have never seen before. With the mountain peaks right next to it, it is easy to imagine getting lost amid its beauty…
I felt privileged to be allowed to fish in this serene spot in Switzerland. And even better, we get lucky this morning as the fish are already waiting for our bait to hit the water.
Enjoying the views (and hoping to catch something)
Oliver took me to this place to practice fly fishing while giving me a rundown of what Firebelly courses are all about.
I learned that fly fishing is very much different from conventional fishing. It starts with a completely different technique of throwing in the bait. Secondly, while casting the line, you have to think of so much more - like the strength of the current and the direction of the wind. Strenuous at first, but after one day, I can tell it is loads of fun!
Oliver proceeded to show me dozens of tips and tricks. What I noticed from the beginning was his undisputed enthusiasm and eagerness to explain all you want to know. Even though I kept messing up during the casting sessions, my instructor showed me more ways of improving and making fly fishing work. And indeed, bit by bit I got better at it! He was devoted to teach me what kinds of baits to use, which spots to fish at or which tackle to use.
I felt in good hands throughout the day, and catching a fish was almost becoming less relevant... Almost.
The day passed by and even we were even accompanied by two fellow fishermen. Yet, none of us caught a single fish! Of course, this was not too good for the motivation, but the surrounding view made up for it. Clearly, this is the value add that Switzerland offers. You easily forget the stresses of daily life while enjoying the good life.
Learning how to fly fish
There are various courses given by Oliver and Mark. Let me tell you: These teachers have the patience and motivation to teach even rookies like myself…
To give you a grasp of their program, there is the Firebelly Fly Fishing School. This course teaches its participants the basics of fly fishing and is accessible for pretty much everyone. During two days, including an overnight stay in a hotel, you are given the right gear and are shown the correct ways of successfully catching that dream fish. Meals included and fishing permits arranged, no need to wait any longer to enjoy the day. Needless to say, the scenery comes at no additional charge.
Now, you're up!
In many ways, the "experience" course is the same as the "school". However, it takes you up to the top of the mountain in order to follow the stream from the very source. Health (and stamina) is a prerequisite as it involves lots of walking and climbing. The one difference to the “school” is the overnight stay in a real Alpine hut. Now, if that does not do the trick...
Update 2019: Firebelly is no longer in business. Have a look at this list for other fly fishing schools in Switzerland.
(Disclaimer: For the purpose of this review, Firebelly has invited the author to their two-day Fly Fishing School program.)