How to Fly Fish: A Beginner’s Guide to Fly Fishing on Lakes & Rivers

Due to its grace, beauty, and slower pace, many people find fly fishing to be a very calm, soothing, and relaxing, sport; even those who possess intense, type A, personalities.

On the other hand, it can also be very exciting when the fish are striking your fly on every cast and, it can be very frustrating when the fish are refusing your fly and yet, are taking others right beside it.

Also, it never, ever, fails that no matter how experienced a fly fisherman you are and, even when you know it is there, if there is a tree within casting distance, you will get caught in it!

Let’s look at the most important important areas of fly fishing.


Patience is a Virtue

All fly fishermen are required to posses the patience of Job along with a deep appreciation for the challenge the sport presents as opposed to the number of fish that can be caught in a day.

Beyond that, there is a certain amount of knowledge that is also necessary such as knowing how to choose an appropriate fly fishing outfit for your intended purpose, how to cast a fly, how to read the water, and how to choose an appropriate fly pattern.

But, as long as you have the patience for it, and adopt the right attitude towards it, fly fishing can be one of the most magical and rewarding outdoor experiences you will ever have!

Fly Fishing Gear

First you will require a certain amount of gear. For instance, you will need a fly rod, a fly reel, a fly line and a tapered leader along with an appropriate selection of flies.

Depending on your location, you may end up fishing from a single kayak or a tandem kayak.

But, when you look at fly rods, you will see that they are rated numerically according to their length and their line weight. So, how do you choose the correct one for you?

Well the first thing to be aware of is that because a fly has very little weight and a lot of wind resistance, it requires a weighted line to cast it and the more wind resistance a fly has, the heavier the line required to cast it.

Furthermore, line weights range from one weight to fourteen weight and, they feature numerous different types of specialty tapers such as Trout, Bass, Carp, Tarpon, etc.

1. A Discussion on Line Weights

Line weights one through six are generally thought of as freshwater line weights while line weights six through fourteen are generally thought of as saltwater line weights.

In addition, freshwater line weights two through six are generally thought of a being equal to saltwater fly line weights six through ten such that a 2 weight.

Freshwater fly line is roughly equal to a six weight saltwater fly line and a six weight freshwater fly line is roughly equal to a ten weight saltwater fly line.

On the other hand, some freshwater fish such as Steelhead, Salmon, Largemouth Bass, Pike, and Muskie do require seven to ten weight outfits as well.

However, the main concept to keep in mind is that more delicate presentations are required when casting to skittish fish in clear water such as Trout, Bonefish, or Snook.

It’s worth noting that when fishing in more turbid water or in water with a surface broken by rapids or wind, then heavier line weights can be used.

Furthermore, the larger the fish species is, the heavier the line weight you will need because the fly rods designed for them are stiffer.

Related: Here’s How To Put Fishing Line On A Baitcasting Reel Without Getting Tangled Up

2.  Choosing the right Rod

Of course, once you have chosen a line weight, you will need to choose an appropriate fly rod along with a fly reel that has enough capacity to hold the line.

In most cases, you will want to choose a fly rod with the same numerical rating as your fly line and then choose an appropriate rod length.

For instance, fly rods generally range in length from 6 1/2 feet to 14 feet with the 9ft. 5wt. being the single most popular freshwater fly rod and 9ft. 9wt. being the single most popular saltwater fly rod sold.

But, for fishing on small, brushy, streams or in tight quarters, a shorter rod is often a better choice whereas, when fishing large rivers or in the surf, a longer Switch or Spey rod is often the best choice.

In addition, you should be aware that fly rods are generally available in three different actions consisting of slow, medium, and fast and that slow action rods are best for casting at close ranges.

They require less fly line (and thus less weight) to be extended beyond the tip of the rod to load whereas, fast action rods require more fly line to be extended beyond the tip of the rod in order to load.

As a result, they are best for casting over long distances and, medium actions are meant to bridge the gap between the two.

3. Choosing the right Reel:

Like your fly rod, fly reels are designed to carry different ranges of fly line weights and thus, fly reels for lighter line weights will have smaller diameters and whereas, fly reels for heavier line weights will have larger diameters.

Fly reels are also classified by both the size of their arbors (the spool in the center of the reel that the line winds around) and the materials that they are made from.

For instance, a fly reel may have either a standard, mid, or large arbor size and it may be made from either a molded composite material, cast aluminum, or machined aluminum and it will have either a Spring-and-Pawl or a Disk drag system.

As a general rule, molded composite is the least expensive and the least aesthetically pleasing whereas, machined aluminum is the most expensive and is the most aesthetically pleasing.

Also, Spring-and-Pawl drag systems are lighter but weaker than Disk Drag systems and thus, Spring-and-Pawl drag systems are good for small fish whereas, Disk Drag systems are best for larger fish because they have more stopping power.

Related Read: Top 10 Best Fishing Reels in 2020

4. Fly Selection:

Then, in addition to an appropriate fly rod, reel, line, and tapered leader, you will also need an appropriate selection of flies.

However, the type of flies you choose will depend upon the particular species of fish you intend to pursue as well as the location you are going to be perusing them in.

For instance, Trout flies differ greatly from Smallmouth Bass flies and both differ greatly from Bonefish or Tarpon flies.

Also, patterns for a specific species tend to vary from location to location.

That means when it comes to choosing flies, it is often best to contact a fly shop in the area where you intend to fish to inquire what types of flies you should purchase.

Wrap Up:

Regardless of whether you choose to fish freshwater or saltwater, the sport of fly fishing has grown to encompass all species of fish that will take a lure both on the surface and deep beneath it and thus, the fly fisherman is no longer limited to mountain streams and wily Trout.

Learning the ancient art of fly fishing somehow seems to provide you with a closer connection to your quarry than fishing with other types of gear and thus, a greater reward when you finally land that trophy of a lifetime.

The Out sider

See Also

Related Reads

Recent Posts