Is Fly Fishing Hard To Learn?


Fly fishing is great fun, and there have even been movies made about it, “A River Runs Through It” that made fly fishing popularity explode. Everyone went out to buy a fly rod to catch the biggest trout in the river, but something else happened. People were angry because they were not catching fish like they did in the movie. Fly fishing, while fun, is not as easy as it seems, and usually takes more patience and practice than people give it credit. Like learning anything, time and practice will make you better at it, but is it harder to learn than normal fishing?

Is fly fishing hard to learn? Fly fishing is one of the more difficult types of fishing to learn because of the casting. Since the rod is longer, you are trying to gently land the fly on top of the water. Most new fly fisherman have a hard time with the timing of their cast, and end up snapping their line which causes the small fly to snap off at the end. With a little time and patience, a beginner fly fisherman can learn to cast correctly and land fish in a few hours to a couple of trips to the river.

Casting Is The Key

Fly casting is more of an art than just getting your fly out on the water. You want to gently land the fly on the water, and not snap your line out, but roll it out so you do not scare the fish. Your cast should be very easy, and slow, not fast and jerky, or you will scare the fish and possibly lose your bait. There is a great beginner video on how to cast a fly rod that will help you get casting like a pro in no time, here it is:

Equipment Needed

If I didn’t scare you off, and you still want to go out there and land some huge fish on the river, you are going to need a few more things than a fly rod and reel. Here is a brief list of what you should expect to need if you are going to fly fish.

  • Fly Rod: Any fly rod will do, but make sure it is the right type of rod. Do not take a spinning rod out there.
  • Fly Reel: You will need a fly reel, with fly line and a leader line attached. Do not try to use a spinning reel on a fly rod.
  • Flies: A good assortment of flies will go a long way here. If you are from the area, try to get flies that are most like what you will be dealing with out there. Do not just use a big bug that is not from around that area.
  • Fish Basket: A fish basket normally goes around your body, and is made from whicker. This is where you can put the fish and can be submerged so water will keep the fish fresh and close to you. A normal stringer will only make you have to walk back to shore to often, and you wont be able to move around up and down the river as much.
  • Waders: Waders are MUST have item. They will keep you dry while you are standing in up to waist deep water. Even though it might be Summer, you can still get hypothermia from standing in that cold water all day. Having waders will ensure that you can keep warm and dry.
  • Fishing Vest/Hat: I highly recommend getting a fishing vest or hat to keep your flies on for easy access. Having access to your flies will make it much easier to swap out, and you will not have to lug around a tackle box. Walking from your fishing spot back to shore to change out a fly can be dangerous in swift moving water.
  • Sunglasses: Since you will normally be standing in the water while fly fishing, I highly suggest sunglasses to keep the glare away. Polarized glasses will actually help you see fish in the water too!

If you have these essentials, you will be able to go out and stand in the river, or stream for hours without any problems.

Reading The Current

The best advice we can give a new fly fisherman after having a great cast, is reading the water and current. Learning how to find those deep areas where big fish might be laying is going to be essential for landing fish. Remember, fish are lazy, and are not going to be constantly swimming up stream to stay where they are. They love to hide behind rocks and deeper parts where they can use very little energy to sit and wait for a meal. learn to find where the rocks are, and look for dark spots where it might be a little deeper than normal.

Should I Start In A Big River, Or Small Creek?

As a beginner, I would strongly suggest going to a bigger, more calm river to practice your cast. You could even go to a small pond, or lake to get the hang of getting your line and fly out to where you want it to go. While starting at a small creek will have a smaller current, your target will be much smaller, and harder for beginners to hit, and can frustrate you to no end. If you do go to a bigger river, do not walk out very far if you do not know how fast the current is moving. I suggest only standing in water up to your ankles, or calves in the beginning. Once you are good at reading the current, you can go out a little deeper.

Check Your Surroundings For Bugs

While you are walking the trail to get to the river, or walking up and down the bank of the river, or stream looking for a good spot, always look at your surroundings to see what kind of bugs are out. Fish in rivers and streams survive off of bugs that are landing in the water, so any flies that are out when you get there, is what you should be fishing with. Look around to see if there are tons of grasshoppers, or water bugs, or even mosquitos. The more you know about your surroundings, and what bugs are known for that area, the better chance you have of catching a fish because it thinks it is eating something from its normal diet.

Keep Practicing!

The old saying “practice makes perfect” really does apply to fly fishing. The more you practice your cast, the better you are going to get at it, and the less fish you will scare off, or flies that will snap. Practice, practice, practice even in your backyard if you have to, and you will be a great fly caster in no time. If you expect to go out on your first time and be able to cast like the people in the movie, you will be disappointed when you can’t. If you know that it is going to take you a couple of times before you can get your fly where you want it, you will be in much better shape, so don’t set yourself up for failure.

Learn Your Lines And Knots

It is a really great idea to learn the different types of fly lines, and knots there are before you go. Buy a cheap roll of fly line and mono line, and practice tying your line together before you go. Do not tie your line on one time and head out to the river because if you somehow snap your line, or if you have a bad knot, and a fish pulls your leader off, you will be out in a river trying to put new stuff on. Once you get the hang of the knots, then put the real line on your reel, and go out.

Do You Catch More Fish Fly Fishing?

To answer this question, you kind of have to break it up into two parts. Typically if you are stream or river fishing, especially for through, a fly rod is going to be better than a spinning rod for catching fish. While I have caught fish using a spinning reel and powerbait, the fly fisherman always do better. For lake fishing, where the water is deeper, a fly rod is not going to give you an advantage unless you can see the fish feeding on top water. While fly fishing can catch a lot of fish, it really depends on where you are and what you are fishing for.

Final Thoughts

Fly fishing is a ton of fun, and I think anyone that loves to fish, should try it out at least a few times. I love the sound of the stream or river moving, and I love to get out into it, and catch big trout. If you want to catch fish right away, work on your casting and practice it until you think you can get your fly where you want it.

Terry Minton

I am the owner of Fast Cast Rods. I live in the mountains of Northern California where I love to be outdoors hunting, fishing, camping and hiking with my wife and three awesome kids.

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