11 Basic Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners (how to start fly fishing)

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Every expert was once a beginner.

This quote is true in many aspects of life, and fly fishing is no different.

The best way to learn about the sport is to practice it. While you can read books and watch videos, nothing can substitute hands-on experience.

That’s why we have decided to share with you 12 essential tips on how to get started with fly fishing as a beginner so that you can practice your new hobby the right way.

Also, I recommend you check my best beginner fly rod list post, which explains in detail what you need to know to buy a fly rod.

What do I need to start to fly fishing?

Every beginning angler wants to learn more about the art of fishing. The first step is to learn how to cast and land a fish.

Once you master these two basic skills, you can go on to learn how to tie flies, how to read water conditions, and other fundamental aspects of fly fishing.

1. Start with the body of water Selection.

The first thing that you need to decide before you go fishing is which type of body of water to fish. If you are going to be fishing an inland lake, you will need to know the depth of the water, how many other fish are there, and whether the lake has any currents. These are all crucial factors to consider when selecting your fishing location.

You also need to know how far from shore you want to be. You may not want to cast very far from the shore if the water is shallow. You may want to cast as far as possible for a lake with no current. This is especially true for smaller ponds and streams.

Once you have selected the type of body of water you want to fish, you need to figure out what kind of fishing equipment you will use.

2. Choose essential fly fishing equipment for beginners.

The first thing you will need to buy is a rod and reel. 

What fly rod is best for beginners?

There are several different types of rods on the market. They can be made from other materials and vary in length, weight, and flexibility. 

Your fly fishing rod should be at least 5 feet long. A 6-foot rod is ideal. You will also need a reel to hold a 4 to the 6-pound test line.

The line you use is up to you, but most beginning anglers use graphite or fluorocarbon lines. Also, we recommend choosing the line that matches the weight of your rod.

You may also need a sinker but not necessarily, which is used to keep the hook from going too deep into the bottom of the body of water.

How much does fly fishing equipment cost?

Fly fishing equipment can range from $200 to $1000 depending on the type and quality. But most of the time, it’s not about the price but rather about the quality.

So, before buying a piece of fly fishing equipment, make sure that it meets your expectations. Also, the more expensive a piece of equipment is, the more likely it is to be made from high-quality materials.

3. Choose the Recommended Fishing Flies

What fly patterns are best for beginners?

The first thing to do is decide what kind of fish you want to catch. Many beginning anglers are taught to use a fly called a nymph because it imitates the natural life cycle of a fish.

Beginners also use dry flies. Dry flies are not tied to feathers and instead have weights or other materials attached to them. When a fish is feeding, it’s more likely to notice a weighted fly than a lighter one. Hence, this helps attract the fish towards the fly and gives you a chance to cast.

Streamers types are designed to attract fish by floating or streaming behind a lure. They can be either weighted or non-weighted.

Weighted streamers are heavier and sink quickly, while non-weighted streamers are lighter and float freely. The latter is best used during casting and can be used for casting, trolling, and drift fishing.

4. Start with the Basic Fly Cast

 After you have purchased your essential fly fishing equipment and set up a fly line, the next step is to learn how to cast a rod.

If you have never tried casting before, this may be the first time you have ever tried to cast anything. This may be a bit daunting at first, but it’s not as difficult as you think.

To cast a rod, you need to grasp the rod between your knees and swing it back and forth. This action will propel the rod forward. As you practice, you will develop your style.

Cast your bait into the wind from the beginning and let the line unwind as the wind blows it towards you. You can accelerate forward as you cast.

5. For Tight Spots, Opt for Roll Cast

If the space near fishing water is congested or too occupied, use a roll cast to lure the fish.

To “roll cast,” your hand should be facing the sky while your rod is pointing toward the ground. Let the line drop down as you make a big D arc-shaped motion with the rod. Then pull the rod back, letting the line follow along as it is lowered to the ground. Once you see what you’re looking for, reel it in.

Hold the rod at about chest height to repeat the cast, and then pull the line back until it’s in the water.

6. Get as much practice as you can.

Practice casting your rod more often. This is the time to perfect your roll cast and backcast. You may have to practice a few times before you feel comfortable. 

Learn to control your line well both under short and long distances. You can also practice on dry land and improve accuracy. 

Learning to mend on moving water will also benefit you. The fly moves away from the angler and is caught by the stream’s current. This is commonly used with nymphs and dry flies.

7. Learn about the different types of knots

There are several types of knots in fly fishing. The most common ones are:

1. The clinch knot 

2. The surgeon’s knot.

3. The Arbor knot.

4. Blood Knot

The more you know about knots, the easier it will be for you to tie them, untie them, and connect the leader, line, tippet, and flies. It is always better to be prepared than caught off guard when you need to tie or untie a knot

8. Always take Safety Measures while fishing.

If you’re fly fishing, then you should be very careful. It would help if you used a rod with sturdy construction and a reel that can hold up to strong winds and high speeds.

Your rod should also have a less likely tip to break off during a fish strike. You should also ensure that your line has a sufficient length to allow you to reel it in quickly.

When working with water, you should always wear proper protective gear. This includes Waders, another type of boots, a chest-length vest, and an anti-fog mask. Wear a hat to protect your head from the sun. 

Always make sure you pack a first aid kit and bring it along with you while fishing. If you get in trouble on the river, you can use it to treat yourself.

Another thing to look upon is the weather forecast. When you know that a storm is coming, you will have to take precautions. The wind and waves will be stronger when it comes.

9. Understand the fishing rules

Check your local rules and regulations for the number of fish taken from the water and in which locations. For example, it is illegal to take more than ten fish per person on any day in the state waters of Florida. 

Various fishing regulations may limit the number of different fly patterns, fly size, and hook. The rule regarding size limits may differ from place to place. Some areas have no size limits on bass, but most do.

10. Get your license issued.

When you purchase a fishing license or buy a new fishing license, ensure you get the proper permit for the area you plan to fish. You can obtain permits and other information about fishing laws at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website.

The license fees are contributed to the state’s fish and wildlife financial resources. 

11. Knowledge of Entomology is helpful for fly fishing.

An entomologist studies insects, arachnids, and other related organisms, so it’s no surprise that studying Entomology can help you in fly fishing. The more you know about the insect life cycle, behavior, and habitat, the more likely you are to be able to catch your next fish.

However, it is not necessary to be an Entomology enthusiast to use these concepts to catch a fish on a fly rod. You don’t need to be a naturalist or have a keen eye for detail. You need to know what to look for and interpret what you see.

General Commonly Known Fly-Fishing Terms

These are the commonly used fly-fishing terms that you will encounter at some point or other in your fishing career. All these terms have their special meaning and use in fly-fishing, so you should refer to the section each time for more information.

Arbor: the spindle, or axle, of a fly reel

Bucktail: animal hair used in fly tying

Cree: A mottled ginger color

Danglies: small gadgets that fly fishers like to hang from their vests

Salmon Fawning: a type of dry fly

Flymph: a soft-hackled fly

Fingerling: a baby fish, about the size of a finger

Flue: the soft fibers at the base of a feather

Gape: the bite of a hook

Haywire Twist: the most robust loop connection for tying wire to a fly

Herl: the individual barb of a feather, usually from a peacock’s tail or an ostrich plume

Hippers: hip boots are worn to wade into brooks and streams

Kype: a growth on the end of a trout or salmon’s jaw that makes it curve upward like a hook

Matching the Hatch: the dream scenario whereby an angler puts on the water an exact imitation of whatever aquatic insect is emerging

Parr: young salmon, usually 5 to 8 inches long

Popper: a type of surface fly that produces a gurgling noise when twitched through the water

Priest: a club used to deliver the “last rites” to a fish that won’t be released

Salter: the sea-run form of the brook trout

Square Tail: a nickname for brook trout

Skater: a type of high floating dry fly meant to “skate” across the water

Teaser: a hookless bait or lure used to draw a gamefish to within casting distance

Best Fly Fishing Spots for Beginners

The fly fishing experience is not always easy. But with the proper preparation and the right equipment, it can be rewarding and fun. Fly fishing is one of the most accessible forms of fishing in North America.

It doesn’t require much equipment or a huge budget to get started. It can be as simple as tying on a fly and getting out on the water or as complex as building a custom fly rod and learning to cast.

These are the best fly fishing spots recommended for beginners:

StateBody of WaterWhat you might catch
AlaskaKvichak River   King salmon, Arctic char
Arkansas  Red River Brown trout
  California Sacramento RiverUpper: rainbow; Lower: rainbow, steelhead  
  Colorado Gunnison RiverRainbow or Brown trout  
  Florida  Buchanan Bank (off Islamadora)Tarpon
  Idaho  Snake RiverTrout
  Maine Upper DamRangeley LakesBrown trout, Salmon
MichiganPere Marquette River   Steelhead, King salmon, silver salmon, brown trout  
MontanaBig Hole River  Rainbow or Brown trout  
Montana/Wyoming  Yellowstone River Big Horn, Madison rainbow or brown trout
  New Jersey Raritan RiverBrook and Rainbow Trout  
New MexicoSan Juan River   Rainbow or brown trout  
  New YorkDelaware River, Ausable River rainbow or
brown trout  
North CarolinaDavidson River   Brook trout, rainbow trout  
OregonDeschutes River   rainbow trout  
PennsylvaniaSpring CreekYellow Breeches, brown trout
TexasSouth Padre IslandRedfish
Wyoming   Firehole RiverRainbow or Brown trout  
WyomingSnake River   Cutthroat Trout
Fly fishing spots across the United States

Tips for fly fishing Rivers

1. Look For Slow, Deep Pockets

These are where you’ll find fish in the summer, but they are also where the trout are in the winter. You want to look for slow, deep, and relatively still water. An excellent way to do this is by finding a boulder or rock in the river that will create a pocket. This will give you a place to fish without worrying about big waves that can wash out your line. 

2. Look for Runs With Lots Of Oxygen

You want to try to fish where the current meets up with the stream. It’s the oxygenated part of the run. This will be where the trout are hiding from the current. When you find this part of the run, fish where it meets up with the river’s main flow. If you have a floating fly line, try to use a sinking bar to get to the fish.

3. Trout Prefer Conveyor Belts Of Food

Look for areas where there is a lot of silt in the water. This is where the fish are holding on to something at the bottom. You’ll see the conveyor belt of food moving downstream, where you want to be. This is also where the trout will be holding onto the bank or other debris in the water. This is where the fish are hiding from the current.

4. Be wary of the conditions of the river before fishing.

Trouts or any other fish are likely to behave differently in physiological or philosophical conditions.

For instance, if the water is freezing, trout won’t be able to move around much. Trout will be more sluggish and will stay on the bottom and feed.

If the water temperature is high, trout will be able to move around a lot. Trout will be more active and will feed on the surface.

5. Take the River Flow into consideration.

Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS) ranges vary from river to river, and there is no exact range that will work for all rivers. Some rivers can be fished on a fly line with little or no drift, but even these have different cubic feet per second ranges. In addition, many of these rivers will have very high water levels and a lot of turbulence, so you will also need to consider that.

6. Consider using a specific time of day for fly fishing.

Morning and Evening for fly fishing are best for different reasons.

In the morning, you can cast further, which is essential when you are casting downstream of a bridge or other obstructions.

You can cast across the current with more distance to cover in the Evening. 

7. Assess the spot that you intend to fish in and determine its depth and bottom contours

If you are not using a GPS, you should assess the spot you intend to fish in before the day begins. By determining the spot, you will decide if you have any fish there already.

If there is a lot of activity in the area, the chances are that you will encounter other anglers who will be fishing in the same spot. If this is the case, get permission from the other anglers before you begin to feel.

Before wading in, a good fly fishing angler stands far enough away to prevent any unwanted disturbances to the fish and surrounding water and then assesses the water for potential hazards such as current and boat wakes.

This will help you know where the best spots are to cast your flies. In addition, this will also give you time to adjust your casting technique to avoid hitting the rocks or other obstacles on the bottom.

Mistakes Beginner Fly Anglers Make While Fishing & How to avoid it.

I have been a fly fishing addict for years now, and one thing that I have learned is that even the most experienced fly angler makes mistakes while fishing. This post will help you avoid making those mistakes as a beginner.

Mistake No. 1: You’re Casting all too often with False Casts

The first mistake they make is casting away a lot, where the need is to release a little as 30 ft; they aim for the 80 ft target, ignoring the accuracy of the throw.

While a few false casts may do the trick for many anglers, there are times when a more refined technique is necessary. The best example is when fishing for small fish like rainbow trout.

Mistake No. 2: You stay with the same fly pattern even

It’s not a bad idea, but if you stick with one pattern for too long, it can get stale, and you start to lose your edge. It would be best if you stayed flexible regarding fly patterns and what works on a particular day or river.

While specific patterns work on a given river, you’ll always have to be willing to change your game plan if things don’t work out the way you planned.

This is also why I love the use of nymphs. They allow you to change your fly pattern without taking a whole new setup. 

Mistake No. 3: You Don’t Know How to Read the Water

You don’t need a lot of experience to read a river, but you do need to be able to look at the current and decide where the fish are feeding.

You can’t just throw a fly in the water and expect to catch fish.

You need to know how to cast, where the fish are feeding, and when they’re eating. If you know all of these things, you should be able to find a pattern that works on any river.

Mistake No. 4: You’re Not Setting and using the Hookhook Properly with the fly line

This is a common mistake for new anglers. You see an opportunity to catch fish, and you want to throw your line and get a hook into that fish.

But instead of setting the Hookhook properly, you throw the line over your shoulder and into the air, or you use a spinner bait or other lure with a loop on it and drop the cable into the water. This is not a proper method of setting the Hookhook.

To set the Hookhook, you have to use a “slip sinker” — a weight in front of the Hookhook. This helps prevent the Hookhook from getting stuck in the fish’s mouth. 

Mistake No. 5: You are not using the Right Gear for fly fishing.

Gear is your friend. It makes life easier and saves time, and in some cases, it even helps you accomplish more. But if you’re not using the right gear for the job at hand, you can find yourself in a lot of trouble.

If you don’t know the correct gear for the task at hand, you might even find yourself in an accident.

To fish, you need waders, boots, rods, reels, leaders, tippets, flies, etc.

When it comes to your first rig, you’ll want to consider the weight and size of the rod, the size of the reel you’re going to use, and the line you’re going to use.

Mistake No. 6: You’re stuck at one fishing spot or place

If you’re fishing for a while and not catching anything, it might be time to move on to other fishing spots. Newbie anglers sometimes stand in one area for an hour and don’t catch anything.

It’s easy to think of fishing as a passive activity. Sure, you can sit and watch from the bank, but that doesn’t take much effort.

I have a dedicated post on how to fly with fishing rods if you like to travel a lot and want to try fishing at different locations. It will tell you how to manage your fishing gear while traveling by air.

Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners Summary

Fly fishing for beginners is not as hard as it may seem. It takes a lot of practice to get good at it.

But, once you have learned how to fly fish, you will find that the sport is more fun than you might expect.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this guide, you may want to check out my best beginner fly rod reviews page to get a sense of what rods are available and what might suit your needs. 

I hope you enjoyed this article on Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners and can learn something from it.

And if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them in the comments section below.

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