What Is Fly Fishing

Fly fishing has a unique appeal to many fishing enthusiasts who got introduced to this unique form of fishing because it’s got some art in it; it’s relaxing, fun, and gives you a chance to mingle in nature.

Have you ever gone on a fishing trip just to find some fellow anglers moving into waist-deep water to catch fish? That’s the moment when I realized that fly fishing exists.

I’ve crafted this guide to accommodate all the information you need to know about fly fishing. So, let me walk you through one of the buried secrets of angling to get you well-versed in what fly fishing is.

A Quick Peek: What is Fly Fishing

To get started, it’s essential that you get a sight of the basics of fly fishing. In short, fly fishing is a recreational angling technique that incorporates ultra-lightweight lures, namely “artificial flies,” to trick fish into biting. These flies are attached to hooks. You’ll know more about flies when we get there.

When fly fishing, anglers typically prefer to walk into the water, but you can also fish from shores, canoes, or other kinds of boats; you don’t necessarily have to get dressed in waders or stand on the water to start fly fishing. Moreover, fly fishing can be done in either fresh or saltwater.

A common misconception about fly fishing is that anglers usually tend to stay at one spot waiting for fish to make the first move. On the contrary, one of the main points of fly fishing is to move around and try to read the water.

I’ve always thought of fly fishing as a real game of tactics; you ply the waters, put your stealth into action, and cast the line to the spot where your instinct tells you the fish are taking cover!

Highlighting the Difference: How is Fly Fishing Different

Fly fishing is often regarded as a sport on its own. In this section, we’ll look at what makes fly fishing a unique way of fishing:

1. The Purpose of Fly Fishing

Unlike regular fishing, fly fishing isn’t meant to catch the most significant amount of fish in a typical fashion. Still, it’s rather a challenge that anglers choose to delve into to exert extra effort in catching fish.

This mindset leads us to why fly fishing is portrayed as a purer and a more fishing primal technique, as anglers opt for this method of fishing just for enjoyment and venturing.

2. Line Casting Technique

One of the key differences between regular fishing and fly fishing is how you cast the line. In fly fishing, the fly line’s weight propels the hook to which the artificial lure is tied. 

In regular fishing, like spin or bait fishing, the weight of the bait or sinker tied to the end of the line does the job of propelling itself forward, because the monofilament is too lightweight to give a casting distance.

In a nutshell, you won’t be able to cast a fly using a regular fishing line, and similarly, you can’t cast a lure or a bait with a fly line.

3. The Bait

Fly fishing is the art of deceiving fish with artificial bait replicas called “flies.”

They resemble the movements of actual insects like mayflies, caddisflies, sedges, and beetles on which fish may feed. When flies stay afloat on the water, they trigger their potential predators that come for a bite, and you secure your catch!

On the other hand, regular fishers use live baits, synthetic baits, dough balls, and lures to entice the fish they want to bring for dinner.

4. Water Type

Fly fishing is typically carried out in moving and reasonably shallow water. So, fly fishers head for rivers and streams. Honestly,  If I were a trout living in running water, I’d take shelter from the fast current and potential predators.

Now it makes sense that fly fishers gravitate to seams, undercut banks, and tributary mouths as destinations that fulfill their fishing endeavors. Benefiting from the slow current, fish mark these spots as a refuge that secures them the food delivered by the fast current.

On the other hand, spinning or bait fishing is the most preferred angling method if you’re heading for still and deep water bodies.

Gearing Up: Fly Fishing Setup

As opposed to regular fishing, fly fishing utilizes a whole different set of gear. The terminology won’t be intricate if you have a smattering of generic fishing gear since their names are basically identical to their counterparts in bait fishing, with the word “fly” added before each one.

Follow me as I break them down for you one by one:

1. Fly Rods

Fly rods are generally assessed by both their length and weight.

From the perspective of length, I’d say that a 9-foot fly rod grants the angler a fair long casting distance. A rule of thumb is that the longer the rod is, the easier it is for you to reach remote, and sometimes, inaccessible spots. For instance, trouts often take refuge in inaccessible waters like undercut banks.

The rod’s weight is denoted by “wt,” and it should comply with the weight of the fly line. The consensus here is that a fly rod can endure a fly line that’s one weight above or below the rod’s weight.

It’s advisable for beginners to buy a 5 or 6-weight rod for a more adaptable experience. These medium-weight rods allow for catching small fish, and they also do the job well for larger species as a start. Besides, they’re well-suited for catching the species you’ll stumble upon first, like general trouts, larger streams, bass, and light steelhead.

2. Fly Reels

Fly reels mark the most crucial part of fly fishing, as they give the angler the ability to drag and retrieve the fly line once a catch is secured. Anglers generally don’t bother using the reel when they catch small fish. But for big game fish, the function of reels shine.

Fly reels come in different drag systems. Opting for a reel with a click-and-pawl drag system is an excellent start for beginners. It’s also a head start if you’re on a tight budget and chasing smaller fish, which is the case for newcomers.

On the other hand, disc drag systems offer a seamless experience when you’re striving to retrieve the line after catching big game fish in saltwater like tuna, tarpon, and billfish.

3. Fly Lines

The fly line and its weight allow fly fishers to cast a weightless lure with their rods. This is the core point that separates fly fishing from spin fishing. 

Fly lines come in different taper types. When buying a fly line for the first time, you’ll find yourself in front of 3 basic tapers:

  • Weight Forward Tapers: They do a great job in most situations, and are the standard for versatile fly lines.
  • Long Belly Tapers: LB tapers are perfect for tiny streams where you cast for short distances.
  • Double Tapers: As the name suggests, they are tapered with equal proportions at each end. This implies that when one end is worn out, you just swap it with the squeaky clean one!

I’d recommend fly lines with weight forward tapers for beginners, as they offer beginner fly fishers the versatility they need for their first fly fishing adventure.

4. Flies 

As I’ve mentioned before, flies are lightweight replicas for fooling fish into taking a bite. Let’s take a glimpse of the 3 basic categories of flies:

  • Dry Flies: They resemble mature aquatic insects that remain afloat on the water. They can also mimic terrestrial insects like mayflies, grasshoppers, ants, and beetles.
  • Wet Flies (Nymphs): Wet flies imitate immature aquatic insects that live on the bottom of the stream where the fish is mostly present.
  • Streamers: They are used to mimic relatively larger fishing baits like minnows or leeches. Fish tend to maintain a firm grasp on streamer flies because anglers resort to moving streamer flies in short or long bursts. Streamers downright are for big game fish.

I’d advise beginners to opt for dry flies and nymphs for a promising start, especially dry flies. On the other hand, streamers are used for larger fish species that may be out of reach for beginners.

5. Leaders

So far, we’ve got a fly rod, reel, line, and some artificial lures. But how does a fly fisherman tie the trout-inducing flies to the fly line? That’s where leaders come in handy.

A leader is basically the clear material tied to the end of the fly line and acts as a transparent mediator between the line and the fly. My recommendation for beginners is to abide by commercial leaders, offering a wide range of lengths, commonly varying from 7.5 to 9 feet.

Final Thoughts

Since the dawn of time, fly fishing has been an ongoing challenge between avid anglers and rebellious bass fish and trouts. Without delving into redundant details, you should now have a solid understanding of fly fishing. Maybe you should step on the gas to confront your first challenge too!