How To Get Started with Fly Fishing: A Short Guide

 Fly fishing is an immensely rewarding, relaxing, fun activity that anybody can enjoy. Few things are as rewarding as reeling in your first trout – and then devouring it at the dinner table. In this guide, we provide a brief introduction to fly fishing. We’ll identify what gear you need, give an overview of fishing methods, and provide valuable tips for fly fishing beginners.

What gear do you need for fly fishing?

Fly rod

Fly rods are usually between 7 and 10 feet in lengthmaking them longer than the average spinning or casting rod. They are available in a wide range of line sizes, which allows you to fish for different species that require a specific type of rod.

As a beginner, finding the best fly rods for the money can be a difficult task.

A good starting weight is a four-weight or five-weight rod. This will allow you to catch a variety of fish, including trout, sunfish, and bass.

Fly reel

The fly reel is the housing for the line and backing, which is a braided line that goes on your reel before the fly line. Just like rods, reels come in a variety of sizes. Look for a reel that has an adjustable drag to help you land larger fish. The drag makes it harder for the fish to pull offline from the reel.

Fly line

The fly line is braided on the inside and has a plastic coating. Some fly lines are made to float while others are designed to sink. A fly line is different from a regular fishing line because it is bigger around and is also weighted. The weight of the line is what loads the rod when you are casting. Fly lines vary in color, ranging from dark green to black or blue.  Brightly colored lines are best for beginners as they are easier to see. Be sure to match the weight of the line with that of the rod. 

Read more in our guide to the four types of fishing line.

Tapered lead

The tapered lead is tied to the end of the fly line and is made out of monofilament. It helps you to cast by turning over the line and allowing it to lay straight on the water. The end part of the leader is called the tippet. This part is not tapered and is replaceable. The leader is clear so that the fish cannot see it.


There are 3 key types of fishing flies. The first is dry flies, which float on top of the water. The second type is nymphs which sink and imitate insects that live in the water. Finally, there are  streamers that are designed to resemble larger fish food that lives in the water, such as minnows or crayfish. There are thousands of varieties within these three broad categories. The specific type of fly that you will choose will depend upon the species of fish, the season, and the part of the world in which you live.

Fishing methods

You will face many different situations on the water, which will require a variety of techniques. Yet the most basic skill is knowing how to present the fly on the water. This requires knowing how to cast. The most basic cast type is the overhead cast.

Overhead cast

  • Begin with the rod tip down low so that it is close to the water. Slowly start lifting the rod tip up. Start slow then build speed.
  • Keep lifting the rod until the tip is slightly behind you, then stop moving it. This will form a loop in the line as it unrolls of the tip of the rod. This is the back cast.
  • Wait a moment for the loop to completely roll out, then start to move your rod arm forward, stopping the rod tip just in front of yourself. The rod will now form a loop, which is called the forward cast.
  • As the loop straightens out, start dropping the rod tip slowly as the line falls back to the water.

Roll cast

At times, your environment will not allow you to perform a back cast. In this case, you can use the roll cast. Here is how to do it:

  • Start with about 15 feet of line on the water and your rod tip down close to the water.
  • Lift the rod tip up and back without making the fly line leave the water. Lift the rod tip to about  10 o’clock behind you, allowing the loop of fly line to come up beside the casting arm.
  • Once the loop of line stops traveling backward, move your arm forward and down quickly and forcefully. Stop the rod before it hits the water. When the tip stops, it will cause the line to unroll on the water.

Fly fishing tips for beginners

  • When dry fishing on a river, you should cast your fly upstream from where the fish are rising and let the current carry the fly down to the fish.
  •  Use attractor dry flies, which don’t look like bugs but have bright colors and sparkly attachments to attract the fish.
  • When nymph fishing, add small sinkers to your leader to get them down near the bottom of the water.
  • Use a strike indicator to let you know when the fish has eaten the fly.
  • When streamer fishing in rivers and streams, use a floating fly line and a leader that is about six or seven feet long.

FAQs About Fly Fishing

What is fly fishing, and what are the essential equipment and materials required for beginners to get started?

Fly fishing is a fishing technique that involves using an artificial fly made of feathers, fur, and other materials to imitate the insects and other food sources that fish eat. Beginners need to have a fly rod, reel, fly line, leader, tippet, and flies to get started.

How can a beginner learn to cast a fly fishing line, and what are some basic casting techniques they should know?

Learning to cast a fly fishing line takes practice and patience, but there are several basic techniques that beginners should know, such as the overhead cast, roll cast, and false cast. There are many resources available online or in-person through fly shops or fly fishing classes to help beginners learn to cast.

What are the different types of flies used in fly fishing, and how can a beginner choose the right fly for a specific fish species and fishing location?

There are various types of flies used in fly fishing, including dry flies, nymphs, streamers, and terrestrials, among others. Choosing the right fly for a specific fish species and fishing location can be challenging for beginners, but researching the local hatch charts and seeking advice from experienced anglers can be helpful.

How can a beginner learn to read the water and identify the best places to fish?

Learning to read the water is a crucial skill for fly fishing. Beginners should look for areas with moving water, such as riffles or eddies, where fish are likely to be feeding. They can also look for areas with structure, such as rocks or fallen trees, that provide cover for fish.

How can a beginner learn to tie their own flies, and what are some basic patterns and techniques to get started?

Tying flies can be a fun and rewarding hobby for fly fishing enthusiasts. Beginners can learn to tie their own flies by watching online tutorials, attending fly tying classes, and practicing basic patterns such as woolly buggers or pheasant tail nymphs.

Final thoughts

Fly fishing is a fantastic outdoor hobby that allows you to get back to nature while feeding your family. In this article, we’ve given you the knowledge you need to get started with fly fishing. If you’re just getting started, be sure to also check out this guide to the best flyrods for the money here


About the Author

Trey is a lifelong hunter and avid camper. He lives outside Denver, CO with his wife Kaci and their lab mix Ziggy. They spend as much time as possible outdoors - hunting, fishing, and camping.

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