I know the feeling of being lost at the very first moment of starting any new hobby. I felt it, you felt it and every human being felt it. That’s why I tried to put together an article to make it easier for beginners to start Fly Fishing avoiding unnecessary complexities.
This article is meant for beginners, so if you’re an expert or an intermediate Fly Fisher and looking for some advice to boost your experience feel free to check our latest Fishing Tips & Tricks.
You know that I don’t like long introductions, so let’s head to the main bulk.
Fly Fishing For beginners
Fly Fishing isn’t the kind of sport that you just jump in one day and become a pro tomorrow! It takes time at least to know the gear and how to use it and takes practice to master it. Usually, you will spend a few trips to completely understand your gear and to learn how to cast properly besides, knowing how to find the right spot to fish.
I am not saying it’s difficult, in fact, it’s really enjoyable and a great investment of time but it’s a little bit different than standard fishing regarding the great and casting.
So it’s all about enjoying the journey , take your time and don’t stress yourself. You will master it by nature.
Common Fly Fishing Terms
First let’s take a look at the most common 20 Fly Fishing Terms :
- Arbor: it is the spindle, or an axle, of a fly reel
- Square Tail: a brook trout nickname
- Cree: A mottled ginger color
- Danglers: it is a small tool that fly anglers like to hang from their vests
- Flymph: a soft-hackled fly
- Skater: a high floating dry fly type which is meant to “skate” across the water
- Fingerling: a baby fish, almost the size of a finger
- Flue: the base of a feather contains soft fingers named flue
- Herl: a single barb of a feather, usually from a peacock’s tail or an ostrich plume
- Hippers: hip boots that are worn to wade into brooks and streams
- Priest: a club which fishermen use to deliver the “last rites” to a fish that won’t be released
- Gape: the bite of a hook
- Kype: an enlargement on the end of a trout or salmon’s jaw that makes it curve upward like a hook
- Matching the Hatch: When an angler puts on the water a bait that exactly mimics whatever aquatic insect is emerging
- Haywire Twist: A loop connection for tying wire to a fly. It’s the strongest one.
- Parr: 5 to 8 inches long salmon, young salmon.
- Popper: a category of surface fly which produces a gurgling noise when twitched through the water
- Salmon Fawning: a type of dry fly
- Salter: the brook trout sea-run form.
- Teaser: a bait that is not connected to a hook or lure used to draw a gamefish to within casting distance
- Bucktail: animal hair used in fly tying.
Note: These terms was taken from
Silvio Calabi, the author who wrote The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fly-Fishing, (Henry Holt & Co., 1993) :
What Gear Do You Need To Get Started? – Basic Guide to Fly Fishing Equipment
Let’s look at some details:
In addition to fly reels, These two fly fishing gear items are the most important. They are the basis for Fly Fishing.
Price Range :
50$ to more than 1200$, It depends upon the material of the rod and the quality of construction.
Fly Rods also come in various weights and lengths. This helps anglers be as effective as possible in different environments. It also serves the type of fishing you’ll be doing.
The length plays a major role in your casting abilities. The longer your rod, the easier it is to cast longer distances, the better it is. Longer rods also allow anglers to easily control how the line is floating on top of the water and easily reach their rod over golden holes to help land more fish. There is one downside to long rods, it is the hard maneuverability in small streams or tight areas where there is an overhanging brush. Shorter rods give anglers the capability to fit into smaller areas.
Want a recommendation? Personally recommend a 9 foot rod which happens to be the most versatile setup for most situations. This length (9 feet) not only gives anglers the ability to cast long distances, but also gives just enough maneuverability for most fishing situations. You will commonly notice rods from 10-14 feet for spey rods where casting long distances is essential.
It’s important to have a match between the weight of the fly rod and the fly line. Generally speaking, a fly rod can deal with a fly line that is 1 weight above or below the weight of the fly line, but if you want the best, you should get the same weight of the rod and the line to create the best balance.
Here is a table of the most common targeted species and weights to use:
- 1-4: sunfish and small trout, small streams
- 4-6: general trout, larger streams, and rivers
- 6-8: bass, carp, light steelhead, salmon. and saltwater
- 8-10: winter steelhead, salmon, and saltwater
- 10-14: for fish larger than steelhead, salmon, and smaller saltwater fish
Beginner Tip: You can use a 5 to 6 weight rod as it is probably the most versatile and allows you to have fun catching small fish, but still be versatile to go after some larger species.
Types of rods
1. Single Handed Rod
Designed specifically for single-handed anglers. Surprisingly, they are the most common rods.I think the reason for their popularity is that it’s characterized by the most accurate casting and the lightest presentations.
Length: 6 to 10 feet
Weight: Ranges in all types of weights.
2. Spey Rods
Spey casting means to load the rod with the line on the water, and not on a back cast. Spy rods are the ones to choose in long-distance casting and handling heavier lines, bigger flies, and fish. Anglers cast using their 2 hands on the rod. It allows fishermen to cast distance without a back cast, meaning they cast across a river even if they can have brush tightly behind them. It’s popular with steelhead fishing. They are very suitable for casting heavy rigs, sinking lines, split shots, and indicators.
Length : 12 to 15 feet.
3. Switch Rods
Two-handed rods, They have a little bit more fitness than spey rods and are more suitable for lighter weights of lines and rigs. You can use it with a single hand but it’s not that common.
Length : 10 to 12 feet.
Weight : usually 5 through 8 WT
It’s related to stiffness and flexibility of rods.
In terms of action, there are 4 kinds:
- fast action: related to stiffest rods
- moderate-fast action
- moderate action
- slow action rods, the least stiff rod.
The stiffer the rod, the more powerful it is and the more casting capabilities specifically in windy weather. The slower the action the easier the casting.That’s why I recommend moderate action rods for beginners until you get more advanced and ready for faster action ones.
The part that is responsible for creating the drag which helps fishermen land fish, besides grabbing and releasing the line.
You can get it from 40$ to almost 1500$ depending on the brand and the material. Most of the reels these days have well-made drag systems that are designed to keep dirt and debris away. Plastic reels are the cheapest and I highly recommend that you stay away from them. They break easily and don’t get you good results. Stay in the metal fly reel game.
- When purchasing a rod and reel, ensure that they are matched well, especially the weight, in order to get the best results.
- Buy combinations of fly rods and reels to get the best prices and matches. They cost more when they are separated.
Fly fishing line
Fly Fishing is a bit different, compared to standard fishing which needs only one line from the rod to the hook. Here is a couple of differences :
- Fly line is much thicker, because there’s no weight in the end of the line, just a fly.
Note that it is impossible to make a long distance cast without weight. The weight here is taken from the line itself.
- The fly line includes more equipment like the leader and the tippet. The goal here is to present the bait in the water, without being recognised by the fish, that it’s attached to a line.
Fly Line consists of :
- Fly line
- A leader
- A tipper
Don’t worry I will explain all of them now.
The first portion (the one in the reel) and the longest of the line. Usually thick and brightly coloured to be easily seen on the water.
Usage: Fishermen use it to provide extra length, so they can fight a fish in a runs longer than their fishing line.
Lengths: about 175-250 yds.
Consists of :
1. The head
The heaviest and thickest part of the line, helps to turn over your leader and flies.
2. The taper
The middle section which tapers from the head to the running line.
1. Double Taper
This type of taper puts the weight of the fly line in the center of the line letting the line tapers out equally in both directions. Anglers can easily reverse the line on a rod if one end gets damaged. Anglers can also easily present flies more than a weight-forward line. Double tapers casting difficulty is intermediate between Weight Forward and Level Lines.
2. Weight Forward
The most commonly used fly line taper. The closer to the casting end the more the weight, helping fishermen to cast a line out further. There can be levels of weight forward line that vary in aggressiveness. The more weight is closer to the fly, the more aggressive, the farther the casting abilities. Delicate presentations of flies are more difficult here BTW. Saltwater fishing includes some special tapers that are very weight forward.
3. Level Line
Less expensive and less common. They are Mainly used thanks to their low price.
4. The running line
The thinnest and obviously , the longest section of the line,
Usage: Provide the weight during fly fishing.
Weight: They are all designated by weight, Depending on 2 scales :
- A scale of 1-12 (1 lightest, 12 Heaviest)
- A scale based on grain-weight, the same scale used in gunpowder.
Length: between 80-90 feet.
Types of Fly Fishing Lines:
- Sink Tip.
- Full Sink.
- Saltwater Fly Line.
Usage: Provides the weight when fly fishing.
The transition material between the thick line and the thin tippet.
Usage: Keeping the line from slapping onto the water. It makes the overall fly line invisible to the fish.
Length: 9-10 feet length, It depends on the weather:
- Clear or/and shallow water: work with a leader that is suitable for you. No special requirements.
- Windy weather, very small streams, or brooks, you will be casting short, so go for a short leader (9 – 12ft) for better turnover.
- In large Stillwater’s: Use longer leaders of 9 – 24 ft.
There are pre-tied leaders sold in sizes on a scale of 0x (strongest) to 8x (Lightest). Most anglers prefer to use those because of ease of use and high performance. Some others prefer to tie their own leader connecting multiple pieces to control the taper.
Typically a short leader produces better fly turnovers, but in sacrifice of stealthiness.
The invisible part (for the fish) that connects the leader to the fly. You will want to choose the strongest, yet the hardest one to see.
Leaders and Tippets come with varied sizes via a system labelled in a specific chart
Hence the name Fly Fishing. There are 2 main types which includes some subtypes in them:
1. Dry Flies
Most commonly used ones. and are designed to land and float on top of the water mimicking flying insects and different bugs, encouraging fish to rise to the surface for a snack. They rely on the surface tension to stay up. There are also various patterns that fishermen use.
Dry flies are typically smaller in size and constructed from various materials like foam, hair or feathers.
2. Wet Flies
From its name, it’s logical to think that it’s meant to sink. You are right! the vast majority of fish feeding occurs subsurface, meaning there are higher chances for more catches when you’re using it.
Wet flies can be nymph patterns, streamers, egg patterns, worm patterns and more. Let’s talk about 2 of them:
Similar to aquatic creatures, mostly larvae or nymphs (small macro-invertebrates).
They were designed to float or to be just subsurfaced. It’s an important requirement for every fly fisherman as trout chance feed just below surface is higher than deep from the surface.
Same as the above but larger than nymphs, typically leeches. Streamers are also named as lures.
Its appearance will remind you of conventional lures that look exactly like a baitfish (a prey fish) in the water to trigger a predatory response from a fish.
Don’t forget to ask a local fishing expert or a fishing shop about the best type of fly to use in your area.
Other Fly Fishing Accessories
- The previous gear are the necessary ones, but there are a few other accessories I highly recommend, that will take you fly fishing adventures beyond the limits:
- Fly Fishing Net – it makes it easier to grab the fish, in addition to protecting it.
- Fly Fishing Vest – Not that important but it makes things easier like keeping your gear close. It comes in different styles and designs , so I recommend testing a few out at your local fly shop to find the perfect match before purchasing any.
- Polarizing sunglasses – Protect your eyes from UV rays, enabling you to see clearly the fish below the sea line by cutting off the glare.
- Wading Gear
A set of breathable chest waders and wading boots is beneficial. Getting out in the water is a good step to get more catches instead of getting wet or having to fish from the bank.
Wading boots are made of thick stiff soles to assist you when wading on current or longer hikes.
Fly Fishing Setup – How to put them all together?
After setting up your gear, it’s time to learn the casting basics. There are different types of casts, with each of them having its own pros and cons. When you choose your cast you’ve to consider four things:
- Type of targeted fish
- How much distance your looking to achieve
- Personal preference
If you’re reading this you’re probably a beginner, So I’ll take only 2 types of them and list some details about The Overhead cast.
The Overhead Cast
The most basic cast and the foundation for many other fly fishing casts. Master the overhead cast and it will sound naturally easy to learn additional casting techniques.
I believe the best way to learn to cast is by seeing it done by a pro. Here is a video that shows how to do it perfectly. Just be aware that there are different variations of the basic overhead cast, but they all have the same concept.
I highly recommend getting some good practice on a cut field of grass before trying it in real fishing.
The Most Common Mistakes:
- Mistakes with timing – You need to wait until the line comes behind you. Many beginners don’t wait long enough to try to be quick.
- Not giving enough quick start.
- Not stopping fast enough
- Excessive wrist moving – While you can use your wrist some, too much wrist motion will act as an obstacle when keeping the line horizontal and prevent the tight loops that are responsible for the power into the cast.
The second most used fly cast. This one will save you during any situation. It works by utilizing the action and flexibility of your rod to push the line forward. If you’re in a tight place with no space behind you, a Roll cast may be a good option for you.
Styles of Fly Fishing
There are a lot of styles developed by different people over the ages, I will talk about the 4 most commonly used and you will probably hear about them a lot :
1. 2-Handed Casting
Anglers use heavier, longer rods & lines to fish large rivers.
Targeted Fish – Salmon and Steelhead
Fishermen use lightweight, long +10 feet rods, long leader, and nymphs as a fly in pocket water and fast-flowing streams.
Targeted Fish – Trout
3. Saltwater & Tenkara
A new development in Americas and tropic areas. Commonly used in streamer fishing.
4. Dry Fly Fishing
A style that uses dry flies.
Targeted Fish – Trout
It’s mostly during warmer seasons.
Is Wading Better Or Floating?
both have their pros-and-cons.
- allows you to move quieter and you’re free to control the entire approach.
- You are limited by how far you can go or have the will to wade.
Fishing from a boat
- You’re able to easily cover a large amount of water (be it in a river or lake) that may be inaccessible on foot
- No need to get in a car to move fishing spots.
- You will worry about boating logistics.
- Finding one isn’t an easy job.
Note: if you don’t have access to a boat, consider looking for a guide for a float to expand your fly fishing horizons!
How to choose your perfect spot ?
A perfect spot depends mainly on your experience and personal preference.Honestly, Most fishermen won’t share their favourite spot with you, they don’t want someone to take a share from their catches. I think that you’ll have to find your own over time.
Here are some advices to find your own perfect spot:
- Consider asking fishermen in your local area or visiting a local fishing shop, surely they will show you the way to start, even if they didn’t share their spots.
- Pick a spot that is close to your home.
- Ensure that it’s in a wide open area, so you can cast with no worries.
- Try different fishing areas and find multiple spots, so you don’t have to compete with others.
Some Safety Tips
I will end the article with some good tips for safety purposes:
- Fly Rods are excellent conductors of electricity because they’re made from metal. If you noticed a hint of lightning, it’s probably time to get out of the water.
- Don’t underestimate the power of moving water. Take the right safety precautions while wading.
- I highly recommend using barbless hooks, It will save your ears from getting hurt as well as saving the fish some unnecessary pain.
The Bottom Line
Fly Fishing isn’t hard to learn, but it takes time and knowledge to get better at it. Don’t be frustrated at the first few trips, just don’t stop and you will notice improvements. Also, check our Fishing Tips & Tricks to help you in your Fly Fishing Journey.