The Essential Guide To Fly Fishing

The Essential Guide to Fly Fishing

When you think of fishing, some people might immediately assume it’s a fast action and intense outdoor sports that requires a lot of energy. Catching fish on fly can be exactly that, but it also has the power to be a tranquil activity that is the ideal way to spend a relaxing Sunday afternoon.

The sheer diversity of fly fishing is what makes it such a popular sport, and has led to its rise in popularity over recent years. Fly fishing is enjoyed by anglers of all backgrounds, whether you have no experience or years behind you, and can be loved by people of all ages.

There is a skill to learning this particular style of fishing, but as with any kind of angling, luck does play a huge part. For many, even if they don’t catch a fish they will still have enjoyed their time out on the water just as much.

Essential Guide To Fly Fishing

The world of fly fishing has continued to grow in recent years, with now more people than ever enjoying this pastime. Whether you do it as a means of recreation or take the activity a little more seriously, there’s no doubt that people from all walks of life will enjoy fly fishing and everything it has to offer.

As varied as this sport can be, there’s a lot to learn about fly fishing when you’re just starting out. There are many things to consider such as where you’ll fish, what you’ll fish for, and the gear you’ll need to do it.

However, once you get the hang of the basics you’ll find a number of techniques and methods that work for you, and will eventually be able to pass your own advice down to future anglers.

What Is Fly Fishing?

As one of the oldest methods of recreational angling, fly fishing has only gotten more popular as it goes on.

Although there are sometimes debates about the very first use of artificial flies in fishing, many believe it dates back to the 2nd century and the Roman Claudius Aelianus who detailed Macedonian fishermen using red wool around a hook to lure fish in and catch them.

Since then, there are have been many different incarnations which each country having their own personal style. Japan and Britain were documented as being followers of this style of angling, but around the early 1500s, there were rods and lines being made that more closely resemble the type of rods that we know today.

From the 1600s onward, there were many advancements in both the hooks and the use of artificial flies rather than live bait, and from there the sport only continued to pick up steam.

What Is Fly Fishing

Fly fishing today in this country has thousands of different flies, rods of varying shapes and sizes, and a number of methods and techniques adopted by beginner anglers to those more experienced.

In the United States, fly fishing began as a predominantly male sport, however, in recent years more and more women have begun to get involved.

According to Fly Life Magazine, women now account for 25% of fly fishers in America and this number only increases with each passing year. With an estimated 3.8 million fly anglers in this country alone, there’s no doubt that fly fishing is a well-loved favorite among people of all backgrounds and ages.

How Does Fly Fishing Work?

The technique of fly fishing refers to a style of fishing where an artificial fly is used to lure fish in and catch them, and from here there are many different variations of the sport.

This fly is cast into the water using a line and rod, so the line needs to be weighted enough to get it to the water, and there are various special techniques used to cast the line that aren’t seen in regular styles of fishing.

The flies used have a huge impact on the success of your fishing trip, and these have been expertly designed to resemble various insects and aquatic creatures that a fish might be drawn to.

Usually, the more accurate and lifelike these flies are, the more successful they will be in catching fish, however, this isn’t always the case. There are thousands of different styles available, and some anglers even choose to make their own, so it all depends on the fisherman.

Where Do You Fly Fish?

In America, there are a number of different places where one can fly fish, so you have no shortage of options available. Here are just a few popular locations for fly fishing, and what you can expect when you find them.


This refers to still bodies of water such as lakes and ponds and requires a unique method of fly fishing. The best approach with Stillwater fly fishing is to have a boat or canoe that can take you out to the water, or at least a pair of waders that allow you to get in deep to the water where the fish will be.


This type of fly fishing again has a different set of requirements, particularly with the equipment you use. Saltwater fly fishing is usually done in the ocean and can be on a jetty, the shore, the reef line, or a boat.

fishing in saltwater

Streams And Rivers

For the fisherman who wants to target fish that are moving, streams and rivers are ideal. However, there is a whole new set of challenges when you’re casting and trying to catch a fish on fly in moving water, but for many anglers, this is the variety that they are looking for.

There are a few ways to find a successful fishing spot so that you can virtually fish from anywhere where there is water nearby. Firstly, you must find somewhere with fish and that will be half of the battle.

Secondly, figure out what the fish eat, and finally get a fly that replicates this food. Fly fishing doesn’t need to be complicated, as long as you have the patience and skill to back it up.

Basic Fly Fishing Equipment

When you’re new to the world of fly fishing, you might feel a little hesitant when you see the gear that you need to invest in. however, fly fishing doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated provided you have the essentials. When you start to develop your skills and knowledge a little more, you can feel free to upgrade or add to your fishing kit essentials.


Your rod is the most important piece of equipment as it holds everything together. These are usually weighted in terms of the type of fish they can catch, and come in different lengths.


Your reel attaches to the rod and holds the line, so you must ensure it’s weighted the same as your rod.


This refers to the actual fishing line that you’ll use to land fish, and this comes in a wide variety of purposes and with many different features. The line needs to be heavy enough to land your fly in the water and strong enough to hold a fish, so it’s an important part of your fishing essentials.


These are the artificial flies you’ll use to lure fish in, and there are thousands of different varieties to choose from. Each species of fish and location will work more favorably with different types, shapes, and colors, so choose accordingly.

Leader And Tippet

This connects the artificial fly to the fly line and is responsible for shifting the energy you used to cast the fly so that it can successfully land in the water.

Most Common Fly Fishing Species

When you think about fly fishing in North America, there are some common species that come to mind. These are the most common thanks to their abundance, but also their ease of catching when using the right techniques and flies.

  • Bass – as one of the largest species of fish in the world, there are countless subspecies of bass to be found across North America.
  • Carp – although the flavor of carp isn’t as nice as other species, it’s still widely popular for fly anglers thanks to its abundance in this country.
  • Trout – the main basis of fly fishing was first designed to catch trout, and they continue to be one of the most popular species of fish to try and catch on fly.
  • Pike – these are one of the larger species of fish to catch on fly, so if you are targeting them you will usually need a weighted rod to suit.
  • Salmon – as a very popular fish known for its flavor, salmon are loved by both commercial and recreational fishermen.
  • Crappies – known as some of the easiest fish to catch on the fly and some of the tastiest, it’s no wonder this is one of the most common species.
  • Redfish – this species of fish is known for putting up more of a fight compared to others so it’s ideal for anglers looking for a challenge.
  • Brim – these fish are also known as bream and are considered some of the tastiest in the entire country, making them the perfect target for fly anglers.
  • Snook – another fish known for putting up a fight, the Snook species is generally recommended for those with a bit of experience under their belt.

One of the best things about fly fishing is that there’s no limit to the species of fish you can try and catch. Although there is a lot of information out there about the best methods and flies to catch these common species with, there’s nothing stopping you from experimenting with your own ways to land your fish.

Most Common Fly Fishing Flies

Although it’s hard to choose just a few flies that are most popular since every species of fish have some of their own favorites, here are some that you might hear if you’re new to the sport. Within each of these categories, there are individual types, so there truly are thousands to choose from.


These can be quite aggressive to use and a lot of fun, as the fish will try to eat them as quickly as possible. For this reason, your steamer flies should be tough and your line should be as well, and they are intended to resemble larger underwater foods that fish might eat.


The nymph fly is one that sits just under the water in order to attract the fish. The nymph is at the life cycle stage where it lives under the surface of the water and that’s what these are intended to imitate. Trout are especially drawn to these flies which makes them an ideal choice for this species.

Essential Guide To Fly Fishing

Dry Fly

These flies are particularly exciting to fish with and they float on the surface of the water. The aim here is that they should resemble an insect that’s commonly found floating atop, and your fish will surface in order to eat it.

Within these three categories, there are countless other varieties to consider. Over time and as you improve your skills as an angler, you’ll learn which of the most common fishing flies will best attract your desired species of fish. With practice on how to cast them in addition to a growing knowledge, your skills will grow rapidly as a fly angler.

How To Cast Your Line

Fly fishing is known as one of the hardest styles of fishing and there are many different ways to cast your line, however, with just a bit of practice, you’ll be able to master the basic cast. From here, you can adapt to suit the different casts, flies, rods, and locations where you might be fishing from.

  • Grab the rod with your thumb on top and fingers wrapped around the bottom, so that your hand will be able to perform a fluid motion when casting.
  • Start with the rod in front and then move it behind you to cast, and you can either go 45 degrees, directly behind or to the side when casting.
  • When your fly line leaves the surface you should pause and allow the movement to travel all the way down the line.
  • Move your rod in a straight line back towards the water in front of you in a relaxed but swift movement. Stop your hand abruptly when the tip of the rod is still pointing upward and you will feel it unload.
  • Let some length out of your rod so that you have enough to spare when it comes time to cast the line out. 

The torque of your cast should work with the flex in your rod to help carry the fly and line out, so you’ll need enough for this.

The Top Fly Fishing Rod Manufacturers

In the world of fly fishing equipment, there are some brands that are synonymous with the sport. Here are just a few of the best fly fishing rod manufacturers and what they offer to this unique and tranquil activity.


Known as leaders in the world of fishing, the Orvis fly fishing rods are considered some of the best. Although they might be a little more expensive than others, you can be guaranteed of absolute quality in everything they make and design features that have the angler’s best interest in mind.

Wild Water Fly Fishing

For over 10 years, Wild Water Fly Fishing rods have been leaders in the market, and this American based company is known for making rods that can withstand just about anything. The Wild Water Fly Fishing range features everything from rods to flies, so you can get your entire starter kit from the one trusted name if you have the budget to spare.


This brand has a focus on making affordable rods that suit all types of angler from beginner to expert. The Maxcatch fly fishing rods are made from quality materials but at just a fraction of the price, and they suit the keen fisherman who doesn’t want to settle on craftsmanship just because they have a smaller budget.

Tailwater Outfitters

Although a relatively new company, Tailwater Outfitters have already made one of the most beloved fly fishing rods of recent times. The Tailwater Outfitters fly fishing rod is budget friendly, full of features, and made with the strength that you’d expect from a far more expensive piece of gear.


Plusinno is known for making some of the most lightweight fishing rods available, which makes them perfect for the fly angler. Plusinno fly fishing rods are extremely affordable without giving anything away on quality, and they’re ideal for the beginner fisherman who wants something sturdy and reliable to build their skills with.

Basic Fly Fishing Terminology

Even the most skilled fly angler will still not have a grasp of all of the terms, but having a basic understanding of common phrases used will be a great help. Here are some things you might hear in regards to fly fishing and the equipment used, and what each of them means:


This is an impressionistic fly pattern and is used to try and get a strike out of a fish rather than look entirely like another insect.

Back Cast

This is any part of the fly cast that extends beyond the caster, commonly found in false casting styles.


The long and slender part of the rod, usually made from fiberglass or graphite, where all other parts are connected.

rod blanks


This refers to the motion of the fly that is caused by the current or air affecting it.

False Cast

Ths is a style of casting that is used to lengthen or shorten the line, dry the fly, or change the direction.


The part of a fly rod that is where your hand grips, commonly made from cork or something lightweight and easy to grip.

Multiple_rod grips


These are used to show if the fly has been taken by a fish, and are usually found floating on the water’s surface.

Line Weight

The weight of the first 30 feet of a line, usually measured in grains. This measurement helps to match lines to rods and reels of the same weight.


The act of fly fishing with a nymph fly or referring to fish that feed on these types of insects.

yellow stone nymph


This is what a fish does when it comes to the water to feed.

Sink Rate

The rate in which your fly sinks, as determined by the many different rates from slow to extremely fast.


The part of the rod where the fly is tied to the end of a line.



These are waterproof pants/boots that worn over the top of regular clothes to keep you from getting wet.

Wet Fly

This refers to any type of fly that is used to fish over the surface of the water.

As you continue on with the sport, you’ll no doubt hear a number of new phrases and concepts that you can take with you. There are countless different terms for flies, techniques, equipment, and methods used in fly fishing that will make the sport more enjoyable once you get an understanding of them all.

America’s Most Beloved Sport

There’s no doubt that we love to fly fish in America, and this beloved hobby is enjoyed by millions of anglers of all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds. No matter where you live in this country, there’s bound to be somewhere close by where you can improve your fly fishing skills or take the day off to enjoy your favorite hobby.

To ensure you are having the best day out and giving yourself the greatest chance of success, you need to be equipped with the right gear. The most important place to start is with your rod, and thankfully there are some amazing brands that offer rods for beginner and experienced anglers who have a passion for fly fishing.

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