How To Get Started Fly Fishing

How To Get Started Fly Fishing

How it all Started

The modern art of fly fishing actually originated with English anglers who’s local chalk streams were, at one time, teeming with large populations of Brown Trout.

After observing their local trout, feeding on Mayflies and other aquatic insects, English anglers developed some of the first artificial flies in order to catch them.

In fact, one of the first historical records we have of this practice is a treatise called:

The Treatyse on Fysshynge with an Angle which was written by an English Prioress named Dame Julia Berners which was published in the The Boke of Saint Albens in 1492.

Types of Fly Fishing

From there, the practice has evolved into our modern version of the sport and fly fishing equipment had evolved right along with it. However, it should be noted that because of the type of lure that fly fishermen employ to catch their prey, fly fishing techniques are very different from conventional fishing methods.

If you'd like to read an equipment guide you should read our essential gear for fly fishing, this will give you list of what we consider to be must have tools for the sport.

So, the first aspect of fly fishing that new anglers need to be aware of is that fly fishing is first categorized by freshwater and saltwater environments because each environment requires that anglers use different types of equipment as well as different types of flies.

Fly fishing is further categorized by moving water and still water which is further categorized by fish species such as:

  • Trout
  • Bass
  • Muskie
  • Bonefish
  • Permit
  • Tarpon.

Most fly fishermen actually refer to themselves as:

  • Trout fishermen
  • Bass fishermen
  • Muskie fishermen
  • Tarpon fishermen

rather than salt water or fresh water fishermen or, still water or stream fishermen.

Fly Fishing Gear Explained

The single most important aspect of fly fishing that new fly fishermen need to be aware of is that artificial flies have very little weight compared to a conventional fishing lure. This is because they are commonly made from various types of fur and feathers as well as various types of synthetic materials tied on relatively thin wire hooks.

They also have a significant amount of wind resistance. Consequently, artificial flies cannot be cast in the same manner as conventional fishing lures and, fly anglers must use a weighted fly line instead of a weighted lure.​

Furthermore, the larger a given fly pattern is, the more wind resistance it will have and thus, the heavier the fly line that will be required to cast it.

You should be aware that fly lines are commonly available in weights ranging from 1 to 14 with a 1 weight being the lightest and a 14 weight being the heaviest.

It should be noted that the weight of each fly line is determined by weighing the first 30 feet of the line in Grains (440 Grains = 1 Ounce).

In addition, you also need to be aware that the lighter a fly line is, the more delicate its presentation will be, and, the heavier a fly line is, the less delicately it will land on the water’s surface.

Most fly fishermen prefer to use the lightest weight fly line that they can in order to cast the size fly they are fishing with over a given distance with a given amount of wind in order to achieve the greatest possible degree of delicacy in their presentation.

Fly lines are available in various weights, all fly rods are also designed to cast a specific weight line and thus, fly rods are commonly designated by both their length and the weight of the fly line that they are designed to cast in addition to their action.

Such as, 8 ½ ft. 5 wt. Mid Flex or, 9 ft. 8 wt. Tip Flex.

Fly rods are commonly divided into two general categories consisting of those designed for freshwater fish species and those designed for saltwater fish species.​

Fly rods designed for freshwater fly fishing range in length from as short a five feet to as long as fourteen feet and are generally designed to cast line weights 1 through 6.

Saltwater fly rods generally range from eight feet to nine feet in length and are designed to cast fly line weights 6 through 14.

But, it should be noted that these designations are merely a general rule since Steelhead fly fishermen commonly use a 10 ft. 7 wt. fly rod while many Bass fishermen prefer a 9 ft. 8 wt. and, Muskie fly fishermen often choose a 9 ft. 10 wt.

Furthermore, it should be noted that although fly fishing was originally developed as a means of catching trout in freshwater streams, the modern art of fly fishing has evolved to encompass not only freshwater and saltwater environments but, still water environments such as ponds and lakes as well.

In fact, literally any fish species that will strike a conventional fishing lure will also strike a fly and thus, fly fishing equipment manufacturers have developed many different types of fly lines to enable fly anglers to reach their chosen fish species in their preferred environments at their favored depths.

Artificial Flies

There are also many different types of artificial flies.

For instance, because fly fishing was originally developed for a means of catching trout in freshwater streams, most modern fly patterns are designed to imitate one of several different families of aquatic insects such as:

  • May Flies
  • Caddis Flies,
  • Stone Flies
  • Damsel Flies
  • Dobson Flies.

But, both trout and other fish species also feed on bait fish, crustaceans, and even mollusks and so there are also fly patterns that are specifically designed to imitate baitfish and crustaceans. There are some saltwater patterns that are designed to imitate shrimp, crabs, worms, and other favored saltwater forage species.

Modern, freshwater fly patterns are commonly divided into four different categories consisting of:

  • Dry Flies
  • Wet Flies
  • Nymphs
  • Streamers​

Each type of fly is designed to imitate a different stage of an aquatic insect’s life cycle or, one of the various types of bait fish or crustaceans that inhabit streams.

Dry Flies

As the name implies, Dry Flies are fly patterns that are designed to float on the water’s surface whereas, Wet Flies, Nymphs, and Streamers are designed to sink beneath the water’s surface.

Both dry flies and wet flies are designed to imitate either the Dunn or adult stages of various types of aquatic insects. Nymph fly patterns are designed to imitate their immature stage while, streamers are designed to imitate various species of forage fish and crustaceans.

Therefore, like fly lines and fly rods, artificial flies are also available in a wide range of sizes which commonly range from size 6/0 to size 28 with 6/0 being the largest and 28 being the smallest.

Fly Lines

You need to be aware that fly lines are not only designated by weight, they are also designated by type and taper.

Therefore, just like fly rods, fly lines are commonly divided into one of three different categories consisting of freshwater, saltwater, and spey lines. They are further categorized as floating, sinking, sink-tip, and shooting lines.

As the name implies, floating fly lines are designed to float on the water’s surface, whereas sinking fly lines (aka Intermediate) are designed to sink beneath the water’s surface.

Sink-tip fly lines are a hybrid in that the majority of the line is designed to float while the tip is designed to sink and, shooting lines are specifically designed for casting extra long distances.

Floating fly lines are commonly used in conjunction with dry flies but, they can be used with wet flies, nymphs and, streamers as well.

On the other hand, both sink-tip and intermediate lines are only used when fishing with wet flies, nymphs, or streamers.

Sinking fly lines are commonly available in several different sink rates which are measured by the number of inches per second that they sink.

In addition to floating and sinking lines, floating fly lines are also available with different types of tapers consisting of Double Tapers and Weight Forward Tapers. However, the Weight Forward taper is by far the most popular design today.

There are many different types of specialty weight forward tapers ranging from those designed for extra delicate presentations to ultra wary fish, to extra heavy tapers designed specifically to work with today’s crop of fast action fly rods and for casting large, wind resistant, flies.

So, as you can see, fly fishing is a very dynamic sport that requires an angler to have a firm understanding of the various types of equipment used for different environments and different fish species.

You also need to know the different types of fly patterns available in addition to an intimate knowledge of the habits and preferences of the particular fish species you're interested in.

But, due to the evolution of modern fly fishing equipment, anyone who chooses to become a fly fisherman can easily do so because fly fishing is no longer a sport that is strictly limited to trout. ​

This makes it accessible to everyone wherever there is water and fish.

So, if you are one of those anglers who has an interest in fly fishing, then there is a fly rod, fly line, and selection of fly patterns out there that will enable you to pursue this fascinating fishing method regardless of where you live.