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How to Fly Fish – Tips for the beginner.

Have you ever thought about learning how to fly fish?

It may be you have watched a fly fishing angler casting a trout rod across a river or lake and wondered could you do that.

Well I can tell you that fly fishing is no harder to perform than lure fishing when you correctly buy well balanced equipment and take a few lessons.

You could get to grips with it without the lessons but if you are a complete novice I would advise you get some lessons as it will save you time and effort in the long run.

To begin with what is Fly Fishing?

Fly fishing is the sport where someone uses a fly rod to cast a fly line with flies across a river or lake and retrieves them in a number of manners to try and entice the target fish into taking.

Flies are hooks tied up with feathers and materials to either look like natural insects or colored in such a way to make an aggressive reaction from the fish.

These flies are tied to the fly line with a leader material usually mono-filament or fluorocarbon and are cast using the rod and line.

The basic fly cast is called the overhead cast and consists of the fly line being pulled through the air in front and behind the caster.

The line is kept in the air in that it doesn’t touch the water or bank during the cast.

The rod is loaded by the line to put energy into the cast so it can be accelerated and cast great distances in front on the fly fishing angler.

With a bit of practice casts of 30 yards and more can be reached and are usually enough to target most species of sport and game fish.

When optimum cast length is achieved the fly is allowed to land on the water and then retrieved in different manners to try and entice the trout or fish to grab the fly.

At this point, the hook is set and the fight begins.

There are a vast array of permutations for fly fishing including rod length, fly line density, fly line weight, casting technique, leader length and pattern of flies to name the most common.

How to Fly Fish

A little History on Fly Fishing

Fly fishing can be traced back to 200 AD Macedonia although at that point in history the rod and line were attached and the lure was lifted and cast into the water by simply moving it with the rod, similar to the Tenkara fishing technique of today.

The fly was made with materials very crudely tied to a hook but it worked and so fly fishing was born.

It wasn’t really until the 1620 that fly fishing was starting to be mentioned in different places up to that point it was very sketchy I suppose from the lack of books to begin with.

Later in the 18th century things start to be more familiar and fly fishing tackle dealers were more common.

The improvements in rods and reels were apparent and anglers could now buy flies from these dealers rather than making their own.

The Victorians were very active fishermen and eager to make improvements to the tackle being produced.

Hardy was opened in 1872 and the Hardy Perfect was released in 1891 after years of bringing in products from other suppliers.

The Perfect was the beginning of a tackle dealing empire that still remains at the front of the fly fishing tackle trade today.

Many changes have occurred along the way as new technology has produced new rods and reels for fly fishermen to try new tactics with.

From the split cane rods and silk lines came carbon fibers and polymer lines with light graphite reels.

Today’s angler can fish for hours with light fly fishing gear that is stronger and more flexible than its predecessors.

What is required to be able to fly fish?

Here is a list of items that one needs to be able to fly fish;

  • Fly rod
  • Fly reel
  • Fly line
  • Backing line
  • Leader material
  • Flies

These items will get you fly fishing but as mentioned we can add to this list with a lot of variations for instance fly lines come in floating, intermediate and sink with different sinking rates.

They come as forward taper, dual taper and shooting heads as well as in a whole selection of colors.

However, before we confuse you let’s just stick to the minimum required. A great way for the beginner to get into fly fishing is to select a fly fishing combo set.

The Single handed Fly Fishing rod!

Fly fishing rods for trout are usually single-handed and can be 2 pieces up to several pieces.

Depending on where you intend fishing will decide how many sections the rod will have.

As more pieces mean you can break it down into a small tube for traveling by airplane for instance as many fishing anglers do.

However many sections do come at a slight cost as the rod will be more expensive but also the joins do affect the action of the rod.

However, with today’s modern manufacturing techniques this effect on the action has been minimized somewhat that a novice angler may not even notice the difference.

I would advise however if not intending to fly a 2 or 3 piece rod be your target.  See my article here for more info.

What are the differences in Fly Fishing Reels?

Fly fishing reels are now very light and strong being made from alloys and graphite combinations.

The lighter the reel the more expensive and it is important to find the right balance for budget and weight as a light reel will help you fish for longer without becoming tired.

There are many options for example spare spools or cartridge setups.

The reel at the end of the day is a container for the fly line and only really comes into its own when playing a fish of considerable size.

With larger fish a reel that has a drag system for setting the strength of drag off the reel will help tire the fish during the fight.

When playing small trout this is less important but playing any species it is always better to have the fly line on the reel and not lying on the ground where it can become tangled and can lose you fish.

Check out this page for more information on reels.

What is Fly Fishing Line?

As mentioned earlier fly lines come in all shapes and sizes. Basically speaking you want to match the line to the size of the rod and type of fishing.

Typically a trout set up will be a 10 ft rod rated for a 7 line. So here we now have are size being the No 7.

From here we need to know the style of fishing we require as we have different lines to cover different depths of water, different flow rates and casting techniques.

For example if fishing for trout from a banking then I would opt for the weight forward line which will give you a decent cast out to the target fish.

From here you can choose different sink rates that allow the flies to be sunk down the water column to reach fish that maybe either near the top of on the bottom.

For more information of fly lines check out this page….

Do I need Fly Fishing Backing Line?

Backing line is basically a line to help bulk up the reel so the fly line is sitting near the top of the spool and to give extra length when trout decide to run further than the 30 yards or so of fly line.

Again this is more important when fishing larger species but a decent small trout with a fast water flow can take you downstream just as quickly as a large one.

Backing comes in different strengths and diameters and again the target species will determine which you should choose.

When fishing for larger species it is a good idea to put at least 200 yards of backing on the reel where as a trout would only need about 30 yards or so.

I would always try to fill the spool to the rim and so maximize the capacity in case you do get that fish of a lifetime and it decides to run downstream.

Joining you backing to the fly line is a process that needs to be mastered so there is not a weak connection and you can find how to do this here…

Fly Fishing Leader

The fly fishing leader is what connects your fly line to your fly.

As fly line is generally thick and comes in all sorts of colours it is not generally a good idea to tie you fly directly to the fly fishing line as this will cause splash on the cast and spook fish.

It has been proved that when salmon fishing a fly can be attached directly to the fly line but as salmon which are running are not leader shy then this doesn’t affect them.

However even salmon fishing a leader material is normally used.

Trout are as a rule more leader shy and so a finer material is used to attach the fly to enhance gentle landing and make the fly look and behave more natural to them.

Further reading on how to make up a leader can be read here.

Fly Fishing Trout Flies

Fishing flies can be categorized into two main areas light and dark.

Within these you have many types from nymphs, buzzers, daddies, sedges, micros, bumbles, damsels, lures, gold heads and many others which can both be dry flies and wet flies.

A dry fly is one that is fished on the surface of the water so trout come up from below to take them on the surface and can be a very exciting way to fish as it is visual.

Wet flies are sunk into the water column and retrieved at different speeds back to the angler to entice a take from a cruising trout.

These takes can be fast and hard or soft and gentle depending on water conditions.

A flat calm would generally have trout coming in very slowly and gently where a windy day with water turbulence would generally be more dramatic as the trout feels more secure taking the fly with the camouflage of the water surface.

When fishing for brown trout some of my favorite flies are the “Butcher” the “Black Pennell” the “Fiery Brown BumbleFiery Brown Trout Flythe “Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear” the “Greenwell’s Glory” the “Tups Indispensable” and “Coch-y-Bonddu”.

I would usually carry these with me whenever I go Brown trout fishing and I have had success with Sea trout and Rainbow trout on these patterns as well.

So there is the basics of equipment needed to go fly fishing,

I hope you got some information of value please feel free to share with your fishing buddies or leave comments below.


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