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A Beginner’s Guide to Fly Fishing

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

Looking for a new hobby? How about a hobby that’s fun, yet relaxing; where you can connect with nature, challenge yourself, and possibly even end up leaving with a big prize? Well, you’re in luck. Because one of America’s favorite pastimes checks off all the criteria: Fly Fishing.

While this sport may seem daunting to beginners, any seasoned fly fisherman will tell you that overcoming a minor learning curve is a small price to pay for the enjoyment you’ll receive every time you cast that fly line. Plus, we're here to help. So, without further adieu, let’s go over Big Daddy's fly fishing guide for beginners.

A fly fishermen waiting for a bite by a creek.

What is Fly Fishing?

Fly fishing is a form of angling wherein a lightweight lure, called a fly, is used to catch fish. Unlike traditional fishing, which uses lures or bait designed to mimic larger, underwater prey, lures used in fly fishing are designed to look like insects or other small prey that typically dwell just around the water's surface.

An array of fly fishing gear, including a fly fishing rod, reel, fly lures, and fly line.

What Gear Do You Need?

To get started with fly fishing you’ll need a few essential pieces of gear:

  • Fly Rod: This is what you will use to cast your fishing line.

  • Reel: This device holds your line, and allows you to pull it back in once you’ve hooked a fish.

  • Fly Line: In comparison to traditional fishing line, fly line is much thinner. This is because, since you are fishing at the water’s surface, the line needs to be light enough to float, as well as remain undetected by a potential catch.

  • Flies: These are the lures used in fly fishing. There’s a huge variety of flies to choose from, each designed to mimic a different insect or prey item. For this reason, it’s important to be aware of the diets of your local fish to select an appropriate fly.

  • Waders: Fly fishing normally requires you to submerge a portion of the lower half of your body underwater. Waders are waterproof pants that will keep you dry while you do so.

  • Boots: Boots specially designed for fly fishing are equipped with extra-grip soles that make it easier to maneuver across slippery rocks and river bottoms.

An aerial view of two fly fishermen fishing in a lake.

Where Can You Fly Fish?

Fly fishing is almost exclusively done in freshwater since there are typically minimal waves or surface disturbances, which allows the inhabiting fish to hunt for surface prey to begin with. This includes rivers, lakes, streams, and creeks. You may be especially successful fly fishing in areas with an abundance of underwater structures and vegetation since fish tend to gather in such areas.

A fly fisherman casting a line.

How Do You Cast a Fly Rod?

This is probably the trickiest part for novice fly fishers to learn. But, with practice, you’re sure to get the hang of it.

  1. Hold your rod in your dominant hand with the reel facing down.

  2. Using your opposite hand, hold the line down about a foot or two away from the end of the rod.

  3. Bring the tip of the rod back in a smooth, fluid motion, and then forward, releasing the line and allowing your fly to land in the water.

Two fly fisherman netting a fish they juts caught.

What Are Some Basic Fly Fishing Techniques?

Knowing a few different fly fishing techniques can come in handy. Depending on the location, conditions, and type of fish you’re hoping to hook, you’ll want to switch up your M.O. Some common techniques include:

  • Dry Fly Fishing: This is when you use a lure that floats on the surface of the water to imitate an insect.

  • Nymph Fishing: This involves a slightly heavier lure that sinks just under the surface, mimicking a larval insect.

  • Streamer fishing: This requires the largest and heaviest type of fly, which will sink about a foot under the surface to appear as a small fish or other prey.

With a little bit of practice, practically anyone can enjoy the sport of fly fishing. It truly is a pastime worth taking up for seasoned anglers and newbies alike. While it does take some time to get the hang of, everyone has to start somewhere. And once you’ve got it down pat, you’ll be glad you decided to master this rewarding hobby.


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