What You Need to Get Started Fly Fishing

While the reasons for learning to fly fish are as many and varied as fly fishermen themselves, the main reason that most people enter this sport is that fly fishing is an art form that requires an intimate knowledge of the fish species, their environment, and their preferred food sources and thus, it is a challenging and never ending learning experience that can keep an angler engaged for the entire course of his or her life. Also, the art of fly fishing differs drastically from any other form of fishing although, the various types of flies that fly fishermen use do tend to emulate other forms of fishing.

For instance, drifting a nymph through the current with a fly rod is very similar to drifting a worm with a spinning rod and, stripping a streamer fly through a deep pool is very similar to retrieving a minnow or crayfish lure. However, the art of fishing on the surface with one of the many different types of dry flies is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this sport since it is unlike any other type of fishing. In fact, there are fly anglers who have spent their entire lives perfecting their skills at this art and it’s no wonder that they do so since there is simply no other thrill on the face of the planet that rivals the adrenalin rush you get when you make the perfect presentation to a prime lie and then see a huge trout rise from the depths to gulp your helpless May Fly or Caddis Fly imitation before it escapes! In fact, the art of fly fishing is really all about matching wits with one of the wiliest and wariest of fish species in existence and then fooling them into believing that our your artificial imitation is actually the real thing.

But, it should also be noted that due to technological advances, fly fishing is a sport that is open to anglers of all incomes and all ages as well as all fish species. In fact, it has been proven that any fish species that will strike a lure will also strike a fly and thus, there are dedicated fly anglers who successfully pursue, Bass, Pike, Muskie, Sunfish, Carp, and even Catfish. Furthermore, fly fishing is not limited to freshwaters species and thus, fly anglers can choose to expand their horizons by perusing Stripers, Blues, Redfish, Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon, and even pelagic bluewater species such as Tuna, Sailfish, and Marlin. Therefore, no matter where you live, if there is water nearby that supports a fish population of any species, you too can become a fly fisherman. However, because fly fishing originated as a means of catching Trout, the following information will be focused on that species but, as you read through it, you should be aware all of the knowledge presented here can be applied to any fish species anywhere in the world.

What You Need to Get Started Fly Fishing

Like any other type of fishing, fly fishing requires the fly angler to have certain gear such as a fly rod, a fly reel, a fly line, a fly leader and a collection of flies along with some accessories such as silicone past, nippers, strike indicators, hemostats, ect. Also, because casting a fly requires the same amount of room behind you as the distance you are attempting to cast to in front of you, fly fishermen often

find it necessary stand in the middle of the stream and thus, if you intend to wade in cold water, both waders and wading boots are also necessities. However, you should also be aware that fly rods, fly reels, and fly lines are all purpose specific and thus, they are divided into those that are designed for freshwater use and those that are designed for saltwater use with some overlap depending on species. In addition, you should also be aware that casting a fly differs drastically from casting a lure or bait in that a fly has very little weight and a lot of wind resistance and thus, rather than depending on the weight of the fly to bend the rod (called loading) and thus store and then release the energy needed to propel the fly, fly fishermen instead use a weighted line. Therefore, all fly lines have a numerical designation that corresponds to the weight of the first thirty feet of the line weighed in grains (440 grains equals one ounce).

Thus, fly lines range from 1 weight to 14 weight with one being the lightest and 14 being the heaviest (this also relates to tensile strength). Consequently, the larger the fly, the heavier the fly line that is required to cast it due to its wind resistance and thus, fly rods are also designated according to both the weight of fly line that they are designed to cast as well as their length. For instance, freshwater fly rods range from 1 wt. to 6 wt. and saltwater rods range from 6 wt. to 14 wt. However, they also differ in length from as little as six feet to as much as 14 feet depending on their intended use. But, the most popular freshwater fly rod is the 9 ft. 5 wt. and the most popular saltwater fly rod is the 9 ft. 9 wt. with those shorter or longer or, those designed to cast lighter or heavier fly lines, being chosen for specific purposes such as fishing for Trout on small streams, fishing for Salmon or Steelhead on large rivers, or fishing for large saltwater species such as Tarpon. Therefore, use the following guidelines to choose an appropriate fly rod, fly reel, and fly line outfit for the particular type of fly fishing you intend to pursue:

1 – 2 weight lines       Ultralight                      Excellent for delicate dry fly presentation to skittish fish in crystal clear water.

3-4 weight lines           Light                                  Best for general purpose presentation to trout with small flies at short to medium ranges.

5-6 weight lines        Medium                    Best weights for general purpose, freshwater use and Light especially for long distances or casting large flies.

7-8 weight lines          Medium                        Excellent for small to medium saltwater species. Heavy

9-10 weight lines     Heavy                              Excellent for strong wind or casting large flies over long distances and for large saltwater species.

11-14 weight lines    Big Game                         Designed for big-game saltwater species such as Tarpon, Sail Fish, Sword Fish, ect.

Of course, in addition to an appropriate fly rod, you will also need an appropriate fly line and thus, you should also be aware that modern fly lines are available in a myriad of different specialty tapers in addition the many different weights. For instance, freshwater fly lines are available in either Double Taper or Weight Forward designs and each has its advantages and disadvantages.


For instance, Double Tapers are often easier to cast than Weight Forward tapers but, they will not cast as far. Also, if one end of a Double Taper becomes damaged, you can simply remove it from the fly reel and turn it around which you cannot do with a Weight Forward taper. On the other hand, all of the specialty tapers available today are Weight Forward tapers such those designed for extra delicate presentation or those designed specifically for casting large flies or those designed for casting long distances. Furthermore, you should also be aware that some fly lines are designed to float on the surface of the water while other are designed to sink beneath the surface at different rates of speed to enable fly anglers to reach fish species that do not normally feed on the surface. Plus, there are hybrid lines that have a body that floats on the surface with a tip that is designed to sink that are especially useful for fishing with streamer flies. Therefore, the weight of the fly line that you choose will depend on range fly sizes of the fly you intend to cast and the taper that you choose will depend on the particular fish species you intend to pursue.



Then, once you have chosen an appropriate fly rod and fly line, you will need an appropriate fly reel to mate with your fly rod to store and contain your fly line. Therefore, just like fly rods, fly reels are also divided into those intended for freshwater use and those intended for saltwater use although this distinction is far less clear than with fly rods. However, the main differences are size, weight, and the size of the arbor (the post in the center of the fly reel). For instance, fly reels are available in small, medium, and large sizes and with standard, mid, and large arbors. Also, as a general rule, all small fly reels have standard arbors and are intended for freshwater use whereas medium sized fly reels can have either standard or mid-arbors and are designed for either freshwater or saltwater use whereas, large fly reels almost always have large arbors and are almost always designed for saltwater use.

Plus, in addition to the fly line, all fly reels are designed to carry a certain length of thin, Dacron, line called “backing” which greatly extends the amount of distance that an fly angler can allow the fish to run since most fly lines are only 90 feet in length. Thus, the smaller the reel, the less backing it can hold and the large the fly reel, the more backing it can hold. In addition, it should be noted that fly reels with standard arbors have the slowest rate of retrieve whereas a large arbor fly reels have the highest rate of retrieve with mid-arbors falling in between. Thus, most trout fishermen prefer small, lightweight, fly reels with either standard or mid-arbors and most saltwater fly fishermen favor large fly reels with large arbors. Furthermore, fly reels are available with either spring-and-pawl drag systems or disc drag systems and the particular fish species that you choose to pursue will also determine which drag system you need since large fish species require more stopping power than small fish species.

Thus, while small stream Trout fishermen can get by with a spring-and-pawl drag, larger Trout and lager fish species will require a disc drag. However, because fly lines are necessarily large in diameter due to their weighted coating, it is physically impossible to tie a fly onto the end of your fly line and, even if you could, you would not want to because the fly line is highly visible to the fish. Therefore, a tapered fly leader is instead attached to the end of the fly line via a loop connector or nail knot and then the fly is attached to the end of the small end of the leader. Also, it should be noted that fly leaders come in three different types consisting of extruded leaders (the most common type), knotted leaders (older technology) and braided leaders (the oldest technology) as well as different lengths and different tippet diameters and each leader is designated by its length and tippet diameter (the small end of the leader). Furthermore, it should be noted that the larger the fly, the stiffer the leader required to cast it and thus, small flies can be cast with small diameter tippets but, large flies must be cast with large diameter tippets.


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