Informational Guide

How To Fly Fish

Learn and master the ancient art of fly fishing with these fly fishing tips.

by Andrew

Informational Guide

How To Fly Fish

Learn and master the ancient art of fly fishing with these fly fishing tips.

by Andrew

by Andrew

So, you have mastered the game of conventional gear fishing. Casting with a regular old rod and reel has become so easy and mundane that you need to challenge yourself with learning the ancient art of fly fishing.

I have good news, you have come to the right place. Let's break down what you need from the best fly fishing tips to a beginners guide on how to fly fish.

More of an art than a means of capturing dinner, fly fishing is a delicate balance of technique and finesse. The purpose of fly fishing is to present a bait in a less aggressive manner instead of spooking the fish. The advantage is that an angler can fish a much smaller and lighter bait, casting more accurately than with conventional spinning gear.

Fly fishing has earned the reputation for being more refined than conventional gear fishing. Because fly fishing is so challenging and the equipment is so specialized, it promotes a challenging environment for anglers to push their knowledge and skills to new boundaries.

Fly fishing is also synonymous with adventure; anglers travel off the beaten path and experience nature in its purest state.

What Do I Need For Fly Fishing?

Fly Rod

An eight-weight is a great weight. Fly rods are usually about 9 feet long or more, depending on the amount of room you have to cast. Smaller spaces require shorter rods, and the longer the rod, the more precise the cast.

Weights under 8 are fine for small panfish or bass, but the 8 is a perfect middle-of-the-road choice for trout and anything in saltwater. Choosing a heavier rod would be more for chasing tarpon or something exotic.

Fly Reel

Fly reels are not the most complicated version of a fishing reel, but there are thousands of different varieties. Using a traditional fly reel will be a great place to start. The key is to get one that gives the perfect balance to your rod.

The weight of the reel is more important than the size. Materials like aluminum or carbon fiber are the best, in my opinion.

Fly Line

Fly line is where your accuracy comes from. Like any other fishing line, the strength and gauge will depend on what you are fishing for. The fly line’s weight gives the angler the ability to cast great distances, as the fly itself has little weight.

Landing Net

Because the fly rods are so long and flimsy, hoisting a fish out of the water is almost always out of the question. Fly anglers often carry a landing net to delicately remove hooks from their fish before releasing them. Try to find a net with rubberized mesh; it is easier on the fish and tends to prevent tangles with your hooks.


Leaders are monofilaments of fluorocarbon lines tied directly to the fly line. This gives an invisible buffer zone between the thick backing and the tippet and fly. This leader material will vary in poundage based on target species and will normally be tied to the backing with a uni knot.


A small section of tapered leader, the tippet ties from leader to fly. Because the hook eyes of a fly are so tiny, the line and knot need to also be small. The taper gives the leader side a more robust end and the fly a more fine end. These are necessary for dry flies or nymphs.


For as many natural flies that exist in the real world, there are probably 3-5 imitations in the fly fishing world. People and lure companies tie all sorts of versions to imitate flies of every species in every stage of life. We will discuss this more in-depth later in the article.

Fly Fishing Waders

Waders for fly fishing are even unique to hunting waders. Because there is a lot more hiking involved in fly fishing, these waders are traditionally of the stocking foot variety.

This means that the boots you wear over the waders are a separate entity, and they can be swapped based on climate and terrain, from ones with ice pick cleats to sponge-style souls that are better for gripping slick rocks. Rather than the rubber boot, one-piece, insulated waders that duck hunters wear.

Fly Vest or pack

Standing in the water brings a few challenges to fly fishermen. One of them is being able to have your tackle at your fingertips. So that you are not walking in and out of the water, spooking fish, and potentially falling, wearing a tackle vest is the best option.

You keep all of the necessities right on your person at all times, and some even come with a little shelf that folds out and allows you to set baits or tools down while you tie on your next rig.


Almost all anglers have adopted the forceps, but I would say it started with fly fishing anglers. Because they are small, light, and strong, they are perfect for tying knots, removing hooks, or being used as a makeshift fly clamp while in the field.

The best part is that they are easily attached to your vest for easy deployment because they lock on to whatever you clamp them to.

License or Permit

Having a fishing license is not only the law, but the purchase of said license goes toward maintaining our nation’s natural resources and fisheries. The proceeds of the licenses directly fund fish stocking efforts across the country, so make sure you have one that is up to date.

Fly Fishing Tips

Different Types Of Flies For Fly Fishing

  • Dry Flies
    These are what most people think about when hearing the term "fly fishing." They are flies that float on top of the water and mimick an insect that has just been hatched and has made its way to the surface. This is the most delicate form of fly fishing, as the fly needs to be placed precisely in the strike zone and visually appealing to the fish.
  • Wet Flies
    Sometimes referred to as "nymphing," the wet fly is a submerged or suspended presentation that fish strike with the thought that it may be an emerging insect in the larva stage. These are generally hit more often than dry flies because they are more versatile. This is where "matching the hatch" is your best chance of getting bit throughout the day.
  • Streamers
    Streamers are large wet flies that are intended to imitate baitfish or leaches. A large black streamer fly can catch all sorts of fish in almost any fishery during the late spring and summer months. This is because the fish are constantly on the lookout for a leach that has washed into the current. Mimicking this scenario is a great all-around fly to keep in your vest.
  • Poppers
    As kids, we used to collect all of the wine corks we would find in the neighbor's recycling bin to make our poppers. These float on the surface and have wings or feathers ties to them to mimic a wounded insect or bird, even a frog that was caught in no-mans-land for the fish to take advantage of. We would take small, pea-sized chunks of cork, fish a hook through that, tie on a feather or deer hair pattern to the hook below the cork head and paint the cork portion to make it last longer. This is the most fun way to catch a bass in any pond, hands down.
  • Saltwater Flies
    Snook, redfish, bonefish, tarpon, you name it. Saltwater fish love flies in the shallows. These are large wet flies and sometimes large popper patterns that imitate crabs or baitfish. Fly fishing from the bow of a bay boat in the shallows of a saltwater marsh is one of the most iconic versions of the pastime.

How To Fly Fish: Tips For Beginners To Catch More Fish

Learning to fly fish is difficult and frustrating. That makes it all the more rewarding when you do get the hang of it. Because there is so much specificity in the technique, from the way you cast from your wrist to the way to tie the flies themselves, it is not something that an angler can pick up without a tutorial or teacher.

Fly fishing for beginners could be a 5000-word article on its own. There is so much to learn, from how to tie fly fishing knots to how to set up a fly fishing line. For me to give some step-by-step instructions on how to start fly fishing within an article, I will give the 10,000 ft view.

First, go to a reputable fly shop to get some insight on gear. It is okay if you take the advice from the shop clerk and maybe just pick up some flies to use from them, but the advice on what and how to choose gear will be priceless. From there, find the best deals online and purchase your rod and reel, along with leaders, tippets, and an assortment of flies, and everything else in our “What you need” section.

Watch a few YouTube videos on how to get your gear dialed in and start the practice phase. You will want to go to your backyard or a park where you have tons of open space and no trees to get caught up in. Practice until your arm feels like it is going to fall off. Once you get the hang of how to cast, set out some targets the size of plates. I like to use pie tins or frisbees. Cast all sorts of different flies until you can land them in the target on a high percentage of casts. 

Once you believe you are ready, do some research and scouting to find where the fish are and what they will be eating. Bring the flies that are currently being eaten, along with the next flies scheduled to hatch on the calendar. Most times, by the time you make it to where the fish have been feeding, they have moved on to the next flies, so it is always wise to think ahead.

When you are in the right place, with the right fish around and your flies all tied, take a deep breath and relax. Fly fishing is a quiet and sneaky form of fishing, where stealth is your best friend. You need to tread lightly as you enter the stream, not spooking any fish.

When you locate the hole you see fish in, cast upstream of the fish, and let the current present your bait to the fish as naturally as possible. A technique called "mending your line" should always be used to keep your fly line upstream of the fly so that the fish only see the fly and not your line as it passes.

Once the fish strikes, keep tension on them and use your fingers to strip line as you get the fish closer. Always let them run until they are tired enough to be landed so that you do not break your light line.

Net the fish using your body as a backboard if possible. Fish are lost in the netting process, so if they do spit the hook, you should be able to scoop them up against your body.

Fly Fishing Casting Techniques (Tips For A Better Cast)

Roll Casting Technique

An easy cast to be used is tight quarters. This is not a technique that will get you to the opposite bank but is perfect for rolling your line and fly from the end of one drift to the beginning of the next without getting tangled in the trees.

Two-Stroke Casting Technique

This is what you were practicing at the park. Whip the rod back until the line is up and behind you. As the line is just about to straighten out behind your shoulder, pull that arm down straight. This will make the rod an extension of your arm, and you will be flicking the line and fly forward with maximum momentum.

Haul Casting Technique

A bit more complicated, the haul is the tugging of your loop line as you flick the rod forward and back without using your wrist, just your shoulder. I will attach a video for this one.

Tight and open-loop

The loop is the excess line between your fly reel and the first eyelet on your fly rod. For short, precise casts, you want a tight loop so that no extra line is getting in the way of tangles or being caught in the wind. When you are looking to make a long cast, you will want to have a large amount of line ready to be cast out, thus giving you a more open loop.

Best Places For Fly Fishing: Where To Fly Fish?

Warm-Water Lakes and Ponds

Warm water is great for catching bass and sunfish on the fly. Poppers will be your best bet. Have a bunch of them, though, because bites will slowly start to deteriorate the cork, and you will have to re-tie.

Coldwater Rivers

When the steelhead or brown trout are in the streams as snow is melting, you have better been practicing your fly fishing skills. These fish will be hungry and the rivers will be flowing quickly. Hunting waders that are insulated may help these days.

LilyPads, Weed Beds, and Other Structures

Fishing from the bank is a great way to practice fly fishing. Target fish just off of structure, and be sure not to get caught up in it. This may take a few casts to get fish excited, so don’t give up too quickly.

In-shore saltwater

This is where those large saltwater streamers come into play. Sneak into the reeds and flats as stealthily as possible and use your polarized glasses to sight fish for fish hunting in the shallows.

Best Places For Fly Fishing

People also Ask (FAQs)

Why do fly fishermen stand in the water?

Standing in the water gives anglers a better view of the fish and current. It also gives the angler more room for casting so that they do not get tangled in trees.

What type of fish can you catch fly fishing?

Any type of fish can be caught on the fly, as long as it is not a saltwater giant that lives in the deep blue. Usually, fly fishing is done in streams, rivers, lakes, or flats that are less than 6 feet deep.

Is fly fishing an expensive hobby?

Fly fishing is not expensive if you just want to get out and try it for yourself. There is plenty of discount fishing gear online to be had. You will find that as you get more involved and start to buy all of the associated gear, like tying rigs and fancy vests, that it may start adding up.


Catching fish on the fly is one of the most, if not the most fun way to fish. Because of the challenge it poses to anglers, there is a tight-knit fraternity of anglers who enjoy it. Get yourself some gear and try your luck. If you get past the frustration, you will be sure to become a lifetime advocate for catching them "on the fly."