A Step-By-Step Guide On How To Fly Fish The Easy Way

by Thavius | Last Updated:   November 13th, 2021
A Step-By-Step Guide On How To Fly Fish The Easy Way


Fly fishing is a fun and enjoyable outdoor activity. It allows you to experience the calmness of nature firsthand while also offering the sporting challenge of catching your prey.

However, the process of learning about fly fishing can be challenging. You don’t have to worry though as this guide will teach you all the basics of fly fishing. I will be telling you about the equipment you will need, how to set it up, casting, and more.

So, why wait any longer? Let’s get started.

Fly Fishing For Beginners: The Right Mindset

In the beginning, learning about fly fishing may seem like a gigantic hurdle. This is because there are several new terms and fly fishing gear is more complicated than traditional gear. Also, mastering the casting techniques requires a lot of practice.

As a result, many beginners tend to give up on fly fishing before they even get started. What you need to understand is that you are not going to get so good at it on the first day or return home with lots of fish. You will need some time to become familiar with your tools, practice your casting, and learn how to locate the ideal spots.

If you want to make things much easier, you may decide to take an experienced fly fisher on your trip or hire a guide. However, the latter will require you to make a significant investment.

In the end, the goal of the activity should be having fun and spending time in nature. Slow down, be easy on yourself, and enjoy the process of learning. The experience you gain from the join will last a lifetime.

Basic Fly Fishing Equipment

To start your journey as a fly fisher, the first thing you have to do is to get the basic equipment for it. By basic, I am referring to the most necessary gear for a fly fisher. You will find several pieces of equipment in stores but despite how cool they appear, you only need a few of them.

So, what are the tools that you will be needing?

  • A fly rod
  • A fly reel
  • Some flies, it will be difficult to fly fish without them
  • A fly fishing line. This includes a fly line, backing, leader, and tippet. No need to if you are unfamiliar with these terms, I will break them down later on.

With these tools, you should have a great time when you finally head to fly fish.

Now, let’s a look at each gear and how to find something that suits your needs. As a learner, it is only natural that you aren’t too eager to splash loads of cash on your first gear. However, you need to understand that inferior quality gear tends to perform poorly and break easily. Investing in such gear can get you frustrated and even cause you to lose interest prematurely.

Fortunately, several good quality fly fishing tools are available at pocket-friendly prices:

Fly Rod and Fly Reel

These are the most essential tools for your fly fishing trip. They will serve as the foundation for all other gear. A fly rod may cost from as little as $50 to over $1000. The price of fly rods varies depending on the material that they are built from and how it is built.

You should also note that each fly rod has a specific length and weight. So, you will have to choose according to your fishing needs. You should consider getting a medium-priced graphite rod.

Just like fly rods, fly reels come at different prices. Plastic reels are the cheapest option but you will have to avoid them. They perform poorly and do not last long. What you need is a metal fly reel.

You should note that your rod and reel have to match. This means that they have to be of the same weight for them to deliver the expected performance. To make things easier, you should opt for a fly rod and reel combo. These products are matched by the manufacturers and they even come at discounted prices.

To save yourself time, I recommend that you get the Orvis Clearwater 5-weight, 8’6″ Fly Rod Outfit:

Fly Backing, Fly Line, Leader, and Tippet

Traditional setups usually include a single line that extends from the rod to the hook. However, things are quite different when it comes to fly fishing.

  • The end of the line doesn’t feature a weight. Instead, the line comes with a fly but it is very lightweight. How can a fly fisher cast over long distances? Well, the line that you will need to fly fish is much thicker than normal lines and this is where the weight comes from.
  • As a fly fisher, your goal is to present the fly (bait) in such a way that the fish doesn’t notice any attachment. This is why the leader and tippet are necessary.

Fly Backing

A backing is attached to the reel to fill up the reel. Its main purpose is to offer length for an extended fishing run. For visibility on the water, a backing is usually thick and colorful. It is the part of the line with the greatest length.

Watch this video to learn how to attach backing to a fly reel:

Fly Line

This is the part of the fly fishing equipment that provides weight. So, it is heavy, and most times, brightly colored.

The Leader

It connects the heavy fly line to the light tippet. The first part of the leader is thick so that it matches the line but it gets thinner from there. The function of the leader is to prevent the fly line from making a sound on the water and alerting the fish. It is also a transparent connection between the fly line and the tippet. This makes the entire fly line invisible to the fish. The length of leaders varies between 6 to 12 feet.

The Tippet

This is a line that joins the fly line to the leader. It is joint to the leader at one end and the fly line at the other. It is transparent in water to prevent the fish from noticing the entire line. Ensure that you select the most durable and transparent tippet.

Each of these items comes in various sizes. To know the right size for you, consider the dimensions of your rod and how you choose to fish. Once again, you can save yourself all the trouble by choosing the rod and reel combo that I recommended earlier.

Flies

After breaking down the entire fly line, we will now be moving on to the fly which is the bait. You will have three main categories of flies to choose from. They include:

Dry Flies

This is the most widely used type of fly. Dry flies appear like insects that float on water.

Nymphs

Nymphs are designed to look like aquatic creatures, especially larvae. They float on or just under the water surface.

Streamers

Like nymphs, streamers look like aquatic creatures but are bigger. They are also known as lures and are mostly designed to mimic leeches.

To know the right type of fly to use, you should get in touch with a fishing shop or experienced fly fisher near you. This is the easiest way to discover the most suitable for your area and the fish you have in mind. Also, a fly may either be equipped with barbed or barbless hooks.

Other Fly Fishing Accessories

There are some accessories that you have to consider adding to your fishing gear. With them, your fishing trips will be more convenient and fulfilling.

Fly Fishing Net

The fishing net has two functions. It will make it easier for you to get a hold of the fish and also protect the fish.

Polarizing Sun Glasses

This is another excellent item to have on your fishing trip. It will shield your eyes from the sun’s rays and also enable you to see the content of the water with more clarity. You can be assured that polarizing sunglasses will make a great difference.

Fishing Vest

A vest is a fishing accessory with which you can store and organize your gear. With it, you will be able to access your tools with ease. It isn’t an absolute necessity but it can make life much easier for you.

Waders

A wader is a fishing gear that will help you enjoy the best of nature. When you are wearing one, you can get in and out of the water as you please. Fishing without a wader means that you have to worry about getting wet.

How To Setup Fly Fishing Gear

We have taken a look at all the gear you will need on your fishing trip. After getting all the pieces, the next step is to think of how to put them together.

Fortunately, this is a quite simple task. All you need is some practice and simple knot-tying skills. Once again, you can save yourself all the trouble by choosing the rod and reel combo that I recommended earlier. The manufacturer has done all the work for you.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to set up your fly fishing gear:

  1. Using the owner’s manual, join the reel and rod together. Most times, you will be able to secure the reel by sliding it onto the rod.
  2. Get about 100 feet of your backing. Your spool size and reel weight will determine the exact quantity of backing that you are to use. So, you should check the owner’s manual. Note that the backing and line have to cover the arbor fully.
  3. Attach the fly line to the backing with an Albright knot. You will need around 2 to 3 feet of the fly line for this.
  4. Take an extra 90 feet of fly line and clip it.
  5. Spool the fly line onto the reel starting in the reverse direction. Repeat the process for the backing. Make use of around 90 feet of fly line if you are using the rod and reel combo that I mentioned earlier.
  6. Ensure that the line remains tight during spooling and spread it evenly. The spooling is done from the lower part of the reel.
  7. Continue spooling until the line is about to reach the outer rim. The line shouldn’t touch the rim. Cut off any excess backing. Take out the backing and the fly line.
  8. With an arbor knot, attach the backing to the arbor. Just like before, keep the line tight and ensure that it is evenly spread across the reel. The spooling should still be done from the bottom.
  9. With a braided knot, create a loop at the tip of the fly line. This would enable you to join the leader loop and the fly line together without fuss. By taking this step, you will be able to easily switch leaders.
  10. Tie the leader with a loop to loop knot.
  11. Join the leader and the tippet together with a surgeon’s knot.
  12. This is the final step. Tie a fly to the tippet with an improved clinch knot.

Now, you are ready to go. It may seem like a whole lot of work but fortunately, this isn’t something that you have to do every time. If you continue using the same line weights, only your leader will need to be altered to replace your flies.

Anglers that regularly go after various types of fish usually need different fly lines. So, you should consider investing in additional rods and reels if you fish that way.

Basic Tips For Casting Your Fly Fishing Rod

Since you have now gotten your fly fishing gear figured out, we can now proceed to casting. There are various types of casts for you to choose from with each of them having its unique advantages and disadvantages. However, the right type of cast for you will depend on the following factors:

  • Location
  • Target fish
  • Cast distance
  • Your preferences

To keep things simple, we will only be looking at the simplest fly fishing cast, the overhead cast. In addition to being the easiest cast to learn, the overhead cast also serves as a foundation for several other casts. So, learning it will make it much easier for you to learn other fly fishing techniques.

The Overhead Cast

The idea behind the overhead cast is simple. You have to take the fly line overhead and behind you. After that, cast it in forward to the spot you have in mind. Here is a guide on how to execute the overhead cast:

Grip the Rod

Grip the rod exactly how you would shake someone’s hand. Your thumb should be on top and facing the rod tip. Place your hand at the center of the rod’s grip. To ensure that no extra line comes out, the fly line should be secured between your index finger and rod.

Splitting Lines

Position the rod in a way that it’s slightly facing the ground at waist level. After that, take around 30 feet of line and then, shake the rod up and down. This will help you feed the line down your rod and towards the water/ground.

Back Cast

Take a step back so that the line extends forward. Without moving your wrist, lift the rod tip by raising your forearm and continue until the line becomes taut. Turn your arm backward sharply so that the line comes behind you. You will see the rod bend in a process referred to as loading.

You have to bring the rod to a halt close to the edge of the back cast to release the line which should create a loop and unfold at your back. After that, hold on to allow the line to get fully behind you. Taking this pause is crucial. Several amateurs tend to begin the forward cast before the line unfolds at their back completely. Pay attention to the line to ensure that it has unfolded completely.

Foreward Cast

Once you have the line fully behind you, start loading the rod again by motioning your arm to the front. Take the rod tip forward and bring the rod to a halt. The line will follow. Proceed by carefully lowering the rod tip so that the taut line can settle in front of you.

False Casting

This procedure is done to increase the line or to keep your line dry. Rather than leaving the line to fall into the water, begin a back cast once the line gets in front of you completely. All you have to do is to soften your grip on the line close to the end of your next forward cast to increase the line. The line would flow through your fingers.

However, the best way to learn how to execute the overhead cast is to watch how it gets done:

https://youtu.be/BUaDsQpA9Vg

For practice, you should head to open water or a cut grass field. You should take your time to hone your skills before going on your first fly fishing adventure.

Choosing The Right Location For Fly Fishing

We have now gone through all the basics, including your fishing equipment, the setup, and how to cast. The next line of action will be to find a good spot for your fishing adventure.

The perfect spot for you will depend on your unique needs and wants. Many fly anglers are not usually eager to share information on their favorite spots to avoid overcrowding. So, there is a good chance that you will have to do all the work yourself.

That said, a convenient way of finding a fly fishing spot is to visit a nearby fishing store. You may also find other fly fishers who would be willing to share their knowledge. Another good idea is to become a member of your local fishing club or search for fly fishing groups on Facebook.

These are the things that you need to look out for in a good fishing spot:

  • Proximity: A good fishing spot should be close to your home. This will enable you to visit it early in the morning, in the evening, and on weekends.
  • Space: The right fishing spot should offer a lot of space. That way, you will be able to fish conveniently even if there is a crowd.
  • Open Area: When there is an adequate open area, you will be able to fish with more freedom. You won’t have to worry about your line getting entangled with trees and bushes.
  • Scenery: Good scenery is always a great addition. It will help you enjoy being at the spot more.

All anglers have a spot that they love the most for personal reasons. Finding yours will be a vital step in a memorable fly fishing journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is fly fishing hard to learn?

Yes, fly fishing can be complicated for beginners. However, you will surely get better at it with practice. From the setup to casting, you will see your skills improve in no time as long as you are dedicated.

Is fly fishing expensive?

Fly fishing isn’t different from other hobbies as the cost will depend on the equipment you choose. As a beginner, you should be investing about $200 on your rod, reel, and lines.
Your expenses could rise to about $500 if you add extra accessories such as waders, nets, polarizing sunglasses, etc.

Is there any difference between fly fishing and regular fishing?

The main difference between these two categories of fishing is that the former involves the use of a weighted line (fly line) to present a lightweight bait (lure). On the other hand, regular fishing utilizes a lightweight line for presenting a weighted bait.

Do fly fishers catch more fish?

There are several reasons why people think fly fishers catch more fish. But perhaps, the major reason is that the activity allows anglers to target all kinds of fish. This includes bass, trout, tuna, bonefish, bluegill, etc.

Can I combine a fly reel and a spinning rod?

If you are wondering if you can fly fish using a spinning rod, the answer is yes. All you need to do is to have lead weights or a casting bubble. The same goes for a baitcasting rod.

I've been a fisherman for over 35 years. From catching small bullheads with my grandfather at his pond to catching strippers on the backwaters of the Chattahoochee, I love to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water.