Fly fishing is an angling method which uses flies that are cast with a special fishing rod and line. It can be practiced in either fresh or salt water. Freshwater fishing can be coldwater (trout, salmon, steelhead), coolwater (pike, perch, walleye), or warmwater (bass, chub, catfish) fishing. The freshwater fly fishing also differs in lakes, streams and rivers.
Mastering the casting technique used in fly fishing is akin to an art form. Devoted fly anglers describe their sport as an art, an addiction or sometimes even a religion.
Beginners might find fly fishing difficult to master, but it is a rewarding hobby that inspires loyalty among anglers. Successful fly fishing requires knowing the feeding patterns of targeted fish species, understanding the life stages of the creatures consumed by the targeted fish, and learning to tie complicated knots. Fly anglers may also choose to learn how to create the complicated fishing lures rather than buying them.
Some veteran fly anglers claim the hobby creates a connection with nature which, when coupled with this new self-awareness, leads to spiritual awakening.
Learning the sport
Beginners might find fly fishing to be a difficult and daunting pursuit at first. They must perfect a casting technique if they hope to catch a fish. And the casts must successfully “hit” a target that is swimming fast. Beginners must learn about the flies and insects eaten by the fish they are pursuing. They must learn how to tie a wide variety of knots. But expert fly anglers agree that learning these basics is well worth the effort due to the high degree of enjoyment found in fly fishing.
To learn the sport, novices should read some of the many books written on fly fishing. Books on fly fishing are available at local libraries, and can be bought online or at local book stores. Instructional videos on fly fishing are another option for the beginner seeking more information.
Check to see if there is a local fly fishing club. Visit a fly shop in the area and ask assistance from the staff.
Tap the vast knowledge possessed by experienced fly anglers. Ask veteran fly fishermen for help. The fly fishing community is tight-knit, and members will likely be gratified to impart their wisdom to those new to the hobby.
Beginning fly anglers may also learn more about the sport by taking a class. Classes and workshops are offered by fishing clubs, fly shops and sporting goods stores, and by fishing guides. An online search can help both the beginning fly fisherman and the experienced angler find classes on the sport. The famed outfitter Orvis offers classes at 14 fly fishing schools in the United States.
Before buying fly fishing equipment, beginners should decide what fish they are targeting and what type of water they will be visiting. The answers to those questions determine what type of equipment is needed for the sport. Some expert fly fishermen suggest that beginners should initially buy a modestly priced fly fishing rod and reel to get used to the new hobby. Then they can supplement their fly fishing gear with new purchases after learning the basics in their new outdoor pursuit.
Fly fishing gear can be costly. An angler can pay more than $700 for a fly fishing rod, but there are decent models costing approximately $100. A fly angler might pay more than $400 for a reel, but less expensive models are available for around $50. Despite the costs of fly fishing equipment, a beginner can get properly outfitted at a reasonable price by focusing on the basics and shunning the many tempting gadgets offered for sale. Beginners should also check out the sales offered by outfitters.
Types of fish
Fly fishing is not just for pursuing trout, although that remains a dominant part of the sport. Fly anglers also pursue many species of both freshwater fish and saltwater fish.
Freshwater fish varieties caught by fly anglers include perch, chub, catfish, salmon, bass, pike, panfish, grayling, rainbow trout, steelhead trout and golden trout.
Saltwater varieties pursued by fly anglers include shark, surfperch, redfish, snook, tarpon, bonefish, halibut and marlin.
Fly anglers can buy lures, but some choose to tie their own. Tying artificial flies is considered an art form among anglers. It requires studying the feeding habits of whichever fish species the angler is targeting, and understanding the life cycles of the creatures which the lures are designed to resemble.
Anglers, either beginners or veterans, can learn to tie flies by reading books or watching videos. Numerous websites offer online instruction on tying flies.
Types of lures
Anglers may choose which fly to use during a fishing expedition by observing the insects in the water and in the air at their targeted fishing site.
The word flies is used to describe fly fishing bait for both freshwater and saltwater fishing, but the lures resemble many life forms on which fish feed. These include crustaceans, insects, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
Artificial flies are either sub-surface flies which go below the water’s surface, or artificial lures are surface flies which stay on top of the water.
Artificial flies are either imitators or attractors. Imitators mimic insects and fool the fish into striking. Attractors incite the fish into an aggressive response and strike.
Dry flies are artificial lures that float on the surface. They typically resemble adult insects.
Wet flies are artificial lures that sink under the water rather than floating on the surface. They resemble immature life forms which appear to be trying to swim to the water’s surface.
Nymphs are artificial flies made to look like the immature stage of insects and crustaceans. Streamers are artificial flies that look like minnows and other creatures that are found swimming below the water’s surface.
Other gear for fly fishing
The fly angler needs to buy a good-quality fly line that matches the rod and fishing conditions. Wading gear is traditionally used for protection from the water. Waders come in lengths that are hip high and chest high. Waders are manufactured in boot-foot style with the boots attached and in stocking-foot style with no boots.
Some fly anglers in warm climates have been known to brave the water by forgoing waders and walking into the water sporting a pair of sturdy athletic shoes.
A fishing vest with many large pockets is one of the most important pieces of gear worn by a fly angler. The vest holds everything needed for that particular fishing expedition. The vest must serve as a wearable tackle box because the fly angler is typically standing in water for prolonged periods and thus does not have easy access to these items.
Some fly anglers use a wading staff to help keep their footing and prevent falling. Wading staffs, some of which are collapsible and costly, can be purchased at stores or online. But some anglers save money by fashioning a wading staff out of a broom handle or mop handle.
Other accessories carried by fly anglers include sunscreen, insect repellant and first-aid kits.
Additional gear needed by a fly angler includes flotation devices for personal safety, fly boxes for holding bait and forceps for removing hooks. A pair of polarized sunglasses will make the fish easier to see. A hat will serve many functions, including protecting the angler’s head and face from the sun, improving the angler’s ability to see the fish, and protecting the face from accidental collision with the hook and fly line.
Mastering the sport of fly fishing takes effort, concentration and even a bit of money to obtain the necessary gear. But the rewards are great. Fly fishing aficionados describe the sport as an art, addiction and even a religion. Fly angling is gaining in popularity. The sport offers a rewarding experience in a beautiful, outdoor setting along with the camaraderie shared with other fly anglers.