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Fly Fishing Basics

Many people steer clear of fly fishing because they are unaware of what makes the hobby so easy: knowing the fly fishing basics. The weird, ‘spool of thread-looking’ reel, the thick, colorful line and the lures that are lighter than feathers, can all seem daunting to the newbie who’s never considered a fly fishing setup before.

But it’s true, you don’t have to start off fly fishing when you’re a kid like Paul or Norman in A River Runs Through It to learn and actually become skilled at catching fish on the fly. Keep reading to learn some of the fly fishing basics, and how fly fishing is an excellent choice as an outdoor activity to do both alone and with friends and family.

Fly fishing is not like regular spinning reel or bait-caster fishing, it’s more of an art, similar to the difference between painting a canvas with an airbrush or a paint brush—a greater amount of eloquence is required to properly do the latter. However – and this may come as a surprise to many – fly fishing can be effectively learned in a matter of days.

Fly Fishing History

Most historians credit fly fishing to the Romans around 200 A.D. The British have references to fly fishing in the late 1400’s. Around 1600, a reference guide for fly fishing was produced as the sport began to gather steam. As an island nation, fishing is a major economic supporter of Great Britain, thus fishing progressed there by leaps and bounds compared to other countries.

With the advent of technology in the past two hundred years, fly fishing benefited from access to silk, machinery to aid in the production of supplies, and plastic technology that helped to appeal to the public and provide easier access to leisure activities. With the more recent rise in the economy, people can access travel spots more easily and can increase the competitive nature of the sport.

Getting Started With Fly Fishing Basics

Fly Fishing BasicsMost local outdoor sports stores will provide inexpensive fly fishing sets starting at near $40 that include the rod, reel, line, flies, and an instruction booklet explaining how to tie varied knots, cast properly, and more. For anglers who start off with those cheaper setups, though, they may actually encounter greater difficulties to learn fly fishing. The reason is because a cheaper fly rod will be heavier, and consequently more difficult to cast. As with many things, the more expensive the setup, the more user-friendly it will be.

The first thing to do after purchasing a setup, is to decide which hand you prefer reeling with. By reading the reel’s instruction manual, switching from right-hand to left-hand reeling should be relatively easy. Then the next task at hand is getting line on the reel. Fly line “backing” goes on first, in case a big one grabs the fly and takes out all of the actual fly line.

The fly line is then connected to the backing; it provides the weight needed to sling a fly into that favorite fishing spot. Of course, that clunky fly line isn’t tied directly to the fly; that’s what ‘leader’ is for. The leader then connects the fly to the fly line, and, when casting, leads the fly down onto the water in a graceful swooping motion.

Steps For Fly Fishing Basics

Step One

Gather supplies. The setup of your fly fishing equipment is crucial to success. Gaiters, boots, flys, hats, and sunscreen are all important for having an enjoyable time while fly fishing. You will want to have an organization system in place as well. Tackle boxes are relatively inexpensive, and can even be found at many second hand stores for little more than a few dollars. Take the time to organize your supplies so that you can quickly find what you need once you begin your fly fishing basics.

Step Two

Pick a spot. Although it can be relaxing to do, fishing in a place without fish can be very frustrating. Consult your local game and fish department to see where recommended places to fish might be. If you will be fishing in a group, it is likely that if any of your friends have done this before, they have a favorite fishing hole that they will want to go to. If you will be going it alone, consider talking to someone who works at a local sporting goods store, as they may be able to give you some ideas on where to go.

Step Three

Gather, plan and double-check. Some states have different laws and regulations regarding fishing. Make sure you understand the conservatory laws and have any proper fishing licenses required. Make sure you have water, sunscreen and a map to set yourself up for a fun time with your fly fishing basics. If you need to get a license, you should be able to find one at your local sporting goods store. Be sure that your fishing location is cleared for that activity as well.

Step Four

Go fish! Start out and focus on the casting motion, similar to waving a magic wand back-and-forth in the air. It may not come easily at first. Just remember the fly fishing basics. Try to imagine an elongated figure eight on its side as the path the fly line should travel in the air. Fly fishing teachers will often times suggest their students begin casting with their rods angled to a side instead of straight over head. This allows the student to see his or her line from the side.

Tips And Tricks

The following tips and tricks can help you learn more about fly fishing basics…

  • Knowing an environment and what types of flies or even baitfish are on the water of choice is imperative to hooking up with the catch of the day.
  • Remember, knowing what a hungry fish is going to be chasing after in nature is knowing how to catch it.
  • If tiny baitfish are the primary sources of food for largemouth bass in a particular area, then a clouser minnow would be a wise choice to make a “fish on!” situation virtually inevitable.
  • Go with other people who know more about fishing. They’ll be able to help you catch fish and troubleshoot your casting technique.

Ways To Grow The Hobby

As with most hobbies, after the fly fishing basics are ingrained in one’s mind, the activity can become as large as life, and enjoyed literally anywhere the environment allows. Naturally, the more you head down to the water to flail a fly through the air, and then see results in fish-form, the more meaningful and fun fly fishing will actually become.

The following ideas are some ways you can expand your fly fishing hobby:

  • It doesn’t matter if your house is just down the road from a small pond you frequent, or the family is taking a trip to the Bahamas, bringing the fly gear along for the journey will add to the memories spent serenely connecting with nature while further honing your new fly fishing skills.
  • Learn the different setups required for different environments and fish. Taking a lightweight setup to Key West in search of a tarpon is foolish. You’ll just end up with a broken reel, an escaped fish, or tapered line. As you gain experience with the hobby, study different types of fly fishing environments and fish.
  • Take a fly fishing vacation to a remote area. You can see (and connect with) some of the most beautiful scenery in the world on one of the many popular fly fishing tours available.
  • Join a fly fishing club. In many areas there are ponds dedicated to helping fly fisherman perfect their skill and art. You’ll also develop friendships and learn about others’ successes and failures with fly fishing basics and advanced techniques.

Related Fly Fishing Resources

The following online resources can help you learn more about fly fishing basics and the fly fishing hobby…

The Fly Shop – this is a great website with tools, guides, and locations for fly fishing.

FlyAnglers Online – The fly fishing enthusiast’s weekly online magazine. Has a great section on fly fishing basics for beginners with lots of answers to frequently asked questions.

Big Sky Fishing – online source for Montana fishing information.

Related YouTube Videos

Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.