What Is Fly Fishing? A Beginner’s Guide

What is fly fishing - a beginners guide

Are you looking to open the door to a new leisure activity? You should consider the sport of fly fishing. It is a unique form of fishing reserved for outdoors enthusiasts. So what is fly fishing, and how does fly fishing work? This article has fly fishing explained, including how fly fishing works, casting techniques, and gear recommendations.

Fly fishing is a technique for catching fish in which the weight of the line is used to cast a fly to lure a fish into biting. Why is it called fly fishing? It is because the artificial bait imitates a natural insect (fly). The tactic is intended to give the impression to the fish that an insect or other invertebrate has fallen to the water surface or slightly below.

There are three types of fly fishing: dry fly fishing, wet fly fishing, and streamer fly fishing. Anglers use dry fly fish, where the fly floats on top of the water and drifts in the current to mimic an insect. This is the best technique to start fly fishing.

When casting using a wet fly, the angler either employs a fly that lowers into the water somewhat more or applies a little weight like split shot or putty to pull the fly down. Fly fishing with a streamer involves the angler constantly moving and manipulating the fly over the water. This tactic is widespread for pursuing bass and other aggressive saltwater species.

The fly fish technique sharply contrasts traditional fishing methods, where the bait is cast out and presented to the fish below the water. Fly fishing requires the fly fishermen to navigate into the water, read water conditions, and focus on the presentation of flies.

Traditional fishing uses a hook, weights, and float, while fly fishing uses a lightweight fly. A combination of casting techniques and fly line set-up is used to compensate for the lack of weight.

The earliest written mention of fly fishing is attributed to Claudius Aelianus in the 2nd century. The most similar to today’s fly fishing is a traditional Japanese fishing technique char and trout in little alpine streams.

After the English Civil War, fly fishing appeared in published literature and life descriptions called Tenkara, which was developed to catch in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Fly fishing became popular among low-income and rural people during the Industrial Revolution.

Fish fly fishing became popular in the 19th century due to increased opportunities and industrialization. Fly fishing became a worldwide pastime in the 20th century due to the development of fiberglass and alternative materials.

Fly fishing tackle comprises light weight fishing tackle or equipment designed for fly anglers. Your local fly shop will sell these three main components of a fly tackle: a rod, a line, and a reel.

Ernest Grey

I love to test new fishing gadgets and share my opinion.

Table of Contents

fly casting method

Fly Fishing Line

The fly line is the part of the fishing rod onto where the weight required by the fly fisherman is obtained to cast light weight flies to any distance. Unlike the spin cast or bait fishing, which requires a heavy lure, fly fishing requires a weighted line. The weight in the line carries the remaining line from the reel and continues the trajectory of the fly along the path of the cast.

Fly lines are usually 80-100 feet long and manufactured from PVC or polyurethane that has been extruded onto a Dacron or monofilament core. The most common type of fly fishing line is a weight-forward, floating line. Double Tapers and lowering lines are also accessible in other fly line varieties as well as various other styles of weight forward lines.

fly rod and real are very different from others fishing kit

Fly Rod and Reel

Also very different from traditional fishing poles are both the rod and fly reel. Fly fish rods are very flexible and often made of graphite.  They are also typically much longer than regular fishing poles.  Fly rods are flexible enough to bend when cast for increased range and superior fly presentation.

Read more about the best fly rod for trout here.

Usually fly rods are 7 to 9 feet in length. The majority of fishing circumstances can be met by these lengths. When anglers talk about the weight of a fly rod, they are not referring to how heavy the fly rod is. They mean the size of the line the rod will cast. A five-weight rod will cast a five-weight fly line.

A significant difference is the fly reel.

 Traditional fishing poles often have a closed reel, while fly reels are open.  The main hand position on the rod is in front of the reel.  This contrasts traditional fishing poles where the main handhold is behind the reel. Read more about the best saltwater fly reels here.

Although your fly line and backing should be securely held by your fly reel, your fly reel should match with your fly rod. Fly reels come in classic click-pawl versions you might be familiar with. Most modern fly reels have disc drags designed to stop hard-fighting fish.

man casting fishing rod


Casting technique is another huge difference between traditional fishing and fly fishing. Fly casting methods depend on the weight of the fly lines to transport the fly to the target.

To catch fish, the angler casts the line forward at a precise angle for the energy to transfer.

There are many different casting strategies. However, they all involve letting out a fly line, whipping the fly rod back behind you, and then back out. The fly fish line is usually the same size as the rod but can also exceed by half. How you do this determines the fly cast type, and many variations and techniques exist.  

Fly fishing is a method of casting the line rather than the weight of the lure. Usually, this weight is used to pull line from the reel when the forward motion of a cast is executed. Most of the casting in fly fishing is called single-hand casting since only one hand is used to perform the cast. The overhead cast is the most commonly used fly technique.

On larger rivers, double hand or spey casting is also practiced. Here, Fly fishing is done with both hands in this manner. Spey casting requires longer and heavier rods. You can find the best steelhead fly rods here.

What to Choose: Flies vs. Lures vs. Live Bait

Artificial flies are the bait of choice for a fly angler and come in a wide range of colors, sizes, and patterns. Designed to imitate insects during various stages of their growth cycle, flies may be made to sit under or on top of the water.

As a general rule, cast artificial The two main categories of flies are imitative and appealing. The imitation flies closely resemble a natural insect. Attractive flies, conversely, trigger the instincts of predatory fish and cause them to grab a fly. 

Flies can be fished on the water, partially submerged or under the water’s surface. Dry flies are meant to resemble sleeping insects and are ideal for use in deep waters.

Choose wet flies, streamers, or nymphs to fish below the water’s surface. They are made to resemble aquatic insect larvae or insects that have drowned. Streamers are long, slender flies resembling small baitfish, such as minnows.

Saltwater fly fishing also utilizes wet flies such as baitfish, shrimp, and crabs. Even though poppers and other surface lures are far larger than those used in freshwater bass fishing, they are also ideal for catching saltwater fish.

Artificial flies are created with techniques for creating artificial insects and bait fish at different phases of development using feathers, yarn, beads, metal, thread, and hair. Choosing a fly is influenced by a few circumstances. What type of fish are you trying to catch? Are you practicing saltwater fly fishing, or freshwater fly fishing? What fly fishing techniques are you using?

Fishing for different species requires a variety of tactics to attract them to a particular fly. The artificial fly you use for smallmouth bass, brook trout, brown trout, and striped bass differs from that used for trout fishing. When selecting your flies, it is best to use a system that will make it easy to match what the fish eat on any given day.

Lures are artificial bait, sometimes made to resemble small fish and sometimes designed to catch the light and move appealingly. Common Jigs, the spinners, teaspoons, crankbaits, and plastic worms are examples of lures. Lures are frequently used in spin fishing and other fishing methods. Lures are not recommended for fly fishing.

Live bait such as large nightcrawlers and small fish, is a popular choice when flying fishing for larger varieties and game fish. Live bait is usually effective but can be difficult to prepare. It is appealing to more active and carnivorous fish species. live lure is not ideal for fly fishing.

Choosing the right fly also depends on your rod and line combo. Lighter flies will go with lighter gear, and heavier flies with heavier gear.

Experience is a Must

Finally, fly fishing is also about the experience.  With traditional fishing, you often sit on a bank or in a boat and wait for the fish to bite.

When fly fishing, you often stand casting repeatedly while trying to locate the fish’s hiding place in the midst of a swiftly flowing creek or stream.  Attempting valiantly to cast that ideal case that puts the fly in precisely the proper stop, in the exact right way so the fish come up and take it.

Fly fishing is a more active style, often involving some of the most beautiful scenic locations on Earth.  Fly fishing puts you in the middle of it all, challenging you against the fish.

Wading Boots Like in hiking, wading boots are essential to your fly fishing experience. If you slip and slide when wading a day out on the water can turn into a frustrating experience.