Learn The Fly Fishing Basics and How to Fly Fish!

Taking Up Fly Fishing – 5 Basic Tips for Fly Fishing Beginners

Post Updated: January 13, 2020

Guest Post By Carl Richardsson

We’re ecstatic that you’re starting your journey into the world of fly fishing. It’s the type of sport that can become a lot of things in your life. A simple hobby, an addiction, or a life long pursuit. It can be simple, or it can become quirky and nuanced. It’s whatever you allow it to be, but regardless of what shape it takes in your life, it’s a beautiful sport, and we hope this short article and infographic designed by RecVets helps you get started.

Fly fishing infographic for beginners from RecVets

Picking your Equipment

The initial start up cost for fly fishing might seem steep, but it is necessary for a smooth start to the sport. Dysfunctional equipment can turn dissuade you faster than anything else, and that is not what we want to happen.

Quality gear will make it easier to learn and become proficient in all aspects of fly fishing and will last much longer than cheaper equipment.

It Takes Practice

Casting is all about practice and muscle memory. Take a few trips into the backyard before the river to practice your casting. Trying to learn to cast while trying to catch fish will be frustrating beyond belief.

Become proficient in the standard and roll cast before heading out to the river, and you’re going to have a more rewarding experience during your first few trips to the water.

Fly Fishing for Beginners - Clint Losee Fly Fishing Photography

Seek the Masters

Whether you are fishing for trout, bass, or tarpon be sure to spend as much time as possible in the local fly and bait shops near the water you are interested in fishing. These men and women know these waters better than anyone else in the world and are more than happy to share their knowledge with you including when you should fish, where you should fish, and what techniques and flies to use.

Be Safe

The landscape often surrounding you while fly fishing tends to be breathtaking, and while it demands your attention, you should always be aware of where you are and practice safe fishing techniques. Be aware of water levels, which can fluctuate quickly in freestone or tailwater rivers. River bottoms can also be treacherous when paired with a swift current so never try to maneuver and fish at the same time.

Land some Fish

You shouldn’t have an issue with this section if you have followed the previous four. Here are some very general tips for increasing your odds of catching fish.

  • Match your fly with the natural bugs or baitfish the fish are feeding on that day.
  • Drift or retrieve your fly through current seams or water type transitions where fish like to hang out.
  • Work upstream and start from the back of holes and work your way up to decrease the amount of fish you will spook.
  • Cast to structures that provide breaks in the current or general protection for the fish.

Enjoy Yourself

Most fly anglers have used multiple types of tackle for catching fish, and most will agree that nothing quite compares to landing a fish on a fly rod. It’s not that is better than other methods, but there is a unique feeling and sense of accomplishment when you catch fish on a fly rod. We hope this article and infographic puts you on the path to experiencing it for yourself.

Fly Fishing FAQ

How do I get started fly fishing?

There are a few main things to get you started fly fishing: Equipment, knowledge, practice.

1. You need the proper equipment to start fly fishing. That doesn’t mean spending thousands. All you need to find is a fly rod and reel (you can get these in a combo too to save money), flies, fly line and backing, leader and tippet, and a set of waders can be helpful.

Many times the fly fishing combos come packaged with fly line, backing, and sometimes more. For the flies, head to your local shop and ask someone to show you a few of the basic flies such as hare’s ear, pheasant tail, wooly bugger, adams, elk hair caddis, etc. You don’t need many to get you started. While you’re at it, have them show you the leader and tippets. I suggest picking up a pre-made tapered leader and some tippet material.

Lastly, a set of waders is very helpful to allow you to fish your local streams and rivers without getting soaked to the bone. You can get by without these, but they are very helpful.

2. Get you some knowledge. You can do this by hiring a guide or by just watching some videos and reading about how to fly fish. I’d even suggest this site ;). Learn the basics of setting up your gear and casting. Casting is the main part of fly fishing and is essential. You can then venture off into gear setup, entomology, reading the water, etc. A good guide would be able to get you up and running with all of the above, but that does cost a big more. Some local fly shops even offer classes to help you get started.

3. Practice. Fly fishing takes a lot of practice, especially the casting part. In order to get used to the dynamics of fly casting as well as presentation, you need to get out there and do it. Spend some time at a park or even in your backyard and just try casting your line with a simple piece of yarn attached to the end of the tippet. It doesn’t cost anything and you can do it anytime. Then head out to your local waters to just plain fish. Reading water and learning the proper flies to use takes some time and simply flipping over rocks to see the types of bugs and watching the water for fish can be hugely beneficial.

Is fly fishing hard to learn?

Fly fishing is not hard to learn, but there are some parts that just take practice. Fly casting is probably the most difficult part. You need to learn the proper timing to be the most efficient, but you can practice in your backyard to get that down. Aside from that there is a knowledge of the types of insects the fish eat and where they live. Research some basics of the types of flies and how to read water and you can head out and start catching fish.

How much does fly fishing equipment cost?

Fly fishing equipment can be purchased for a wide range of prices. You can find complete setups with rod, reel, line, leader, tippet, and flies for $100-$200. This won’t be the highest of quality sometimes, but for years I fished with just such a setup. You can catch fish no problem. If you want to spend more, fly rods alone can be $800-$1000 dollars with reels coming in around $300+. You don’t need to spend that much. Those higher prices many times give you lighter equipment and higher quality components…but it’s not necessary. Until you learn how to fly fish and what you like to use, you wouldn’t really notice the difference in a high cost piece of fly fishing equipment.

Do you need tippet for fly fishing?

Yes and no. The pre-made tapered leaders you see on the store shelves can be used right out of the package as they will taper down to the tippet diameter you need to attach your fly. After a few fly changes, that leader will shorten in length and the end diameter is going to be too large for what you need. At that point, attach a new section of tippet in the diameter you need and you’re good to go again. The tippet is going to get you the proper diameter of line for the flies you’re using. Check out my post on fly fishing leader and tippet to learn more.

About Clint Losee

Clint Losee is an avid fly angler of 30+ years, web developer, and Utah Landscape & Nature Photographer. You can connect with him on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Curious about some of the gear he uses? Check out the new Amazon store.