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How to Fly Fish

Fly FishermanThere is much to know when it comes to fly fishing.  It is by far one of the more complicated fishing techniques that takes years to master.  It is one of the most elegant versions of fishing however and if mastered properly can generate some great results.  There is an elegance to fly fishing that can only be described by watching a master fly fisher at work.  I will describe below the fly fishing equipment, locations, techniques and species that will hopefully allow you to land some keepers.

Fly Fishing Equipment

The first question you should ask yourself is what species of fish are you after, freshwater or saltwater.  This will determine your fly fishing rod and reel type.  In general freshwater rods are lighter and more flexible whereas saltwater rods are heavier and more rigid.  

Fly Rod Types

Fiberglass Fly Fishing Rods

These rods are generally heavier than graphite rods and are used more for saltwater than for freshwater species.  They are very durable and strong.  If you are just starting out than this would be the rod of choice.

 Graphite Fly Fishing Rods

Graphite rods can be a bit on the pricy side, but seasoned fisherman prefer them for durability and stiffness.  They are also much lighter than their fiberglass version.  

 Bamboo Fly Fishing Rods

These rods are probably the most expensive on the marker as they can take over 100 hours to produce a single rod.  Bamboo fly rod creation is a real art and only the most seasoned fisherman generally possess one.

Flexibility of Fly Rods

Slow Action Fly Rods

The flexibility of fly rods can be described as slow action and fast action rods. Slow action rods are more flexible hence creating less action with your fly or lure at the end of your line.  The opposite is true for fast action rods.  You would use slow action rod to preserve a delicate fly at the end of your line.  Slow action rods are better for beginners as they allow more room for error in your cast.  Generally designed for smaller fish.

Fast Action Fly Rods

A fast action rod is much stiffer and is used for larger game fish.  Its casting is less forgiving.  These rods are better for casting in winds as they allow you to whip out the fly even if the wind is blowing directly in your face.  These are designed for more long and powerful casts.

Fly Rod Length
The length of the rod generally depends on what type of fish you are fishing for.
If you plan to fish a small river or creek with much debris then you would be
better with a smaller rod as you will have much more control.  Likewise if you are    in an open area and want to cover more distance than a longer rod would suite you better.  Generally an 8’ rod is versatile for most situations.

Fly Types

Flies used for Fly Fishing

Flies used for Fly Fishing

Once again the type of fish you are searching for will depict what fly or lure you should be using.  There are various classifications of flies.

Dry flies are used as a surface fly.  It will float on the top of the water and act like a fly that has landed and is struggling to get back in the air.  Slightly flicking your wrist will send vibrations down the fly line and make the fly appear that it is struggling to get back in the air.  This technique is very effective when fishing for trout, salmon or bass.

 Wet flies unlike dry flies sink a few feet down into the water column.  There are various methods fisherman use to land fish using these types of flies.  Some fisherman slowly real in their line helping to cover a larger area of water.  Other fisherman just let sink down to the bottom.  These flies are designed to look like a primitive insect trying to make it too the surface to enter its next stage of life.  In some situations beginners prefer this method as it is easier to land fish using wet flies.  Some fisherman even use these flies in tandem, stringing a few of them together to increase there odds.

 Streamers mimic the surrounding baitfish in the nearby water.  The generally have long feathers or dear hair.  Try to use a streamer that is close to the other baitfish in the area.  They are popular is fast moving streams as well as saltwater fishing as the size of streamers can get quite large.  Saltwater striper fisherman use streamers often while surf fly fishing.   

 Poppers are similar to dry flies however they generally consist of a cork material with a scoop like face.  They create a frontward splash in the water as they are jerked forward, hence drawing more attention to themselves.  These are popular amongst beginner anglers.  As they are easier to cast and will float under any condition.  

 Nymph fishing is similar to a wet fly, but slightly more challenging as nymph lures are very small.

Fly Line Types:  The type of fly line you choose is also very important.  It can either attract or repel the species of fish you are after.  Certain fly lines offer more buoyancy in the water and is a key component into getting your fly in from of the fish.

Clear Fly Line:  As its name suggests clear fly line is clear, which will allow for less visibility of the fish that is stalking your bait or fly.  It has less of a chance of spooking your fish.

Floating Fly Line:  Floating fly line floats and is used in combination with dry flies to keep your fly afloat on top of the water.

 Wet Tip Fly Lines:  Are essentially floating fly lines that allows for the tip of the line to sink a few feet or more into the water.  This will allow a fly fisherman the ability to cast his line into deep water and let his fly sink a few feet beneath the surface.  

 Fly Line Weight:  This is a measure of the strength of the fly line.  It ranges from 1-15. 1-7 can be used for lighter fish, whereas 7-15 can be used for heavier fish.  Also the weight will determine your casting length depending upon headwind and weight of the current fly.    

 Fly Line Taper:  The taper of the fly line is essentially the variation of width of the line.  It is essential for maintaining a good cast, as it is the weight of the fly line that actually propels the fly forward into the water not the weight of the fly itself, unlike fishing with a standard lure.  A double tapered fly line is essentially a tapered fly line on both ends of the line.  The advantage to this is that if one line wears out you can reverse the line on your reel and use the other end.  

 Fly Line Density:  Density will determine the buoyancy of the fly line.  The density of the line will determine if it is a floating or sinking line.  The Wet Tip Fly lines have a heavier density at the tip which makes the tip of the line sink.

Miscellaneous Fly Fishing Gear

Fly Box:  A fly box can be used to store the various flies that you plan to use.  They are generally a single box separated into numerous sections to place your various flies in each section.  The range in size and shape.

 Fly Wallet:  A fly wallet is similar to a fly box, but can attached to your belt with a belt loop.  It allows you to attach a number of flies within it, on either small loops or a soft piece of cloth.

Fly Fishing Locations

Location, Location, Location, as with any successful business location will determine your success.  It pays off to move locations frequently and try out new areas that you normally would not.  It is very important to experiment often with new places.  Sometimes it goes against all logic where the most fish end up.  Numerous factors play into where the fish are at the current moment, light, tide, temperature, season, wind direction and many times a combination of all of these elements.  Some common and effective places you will find fly fisherman are as follows.

Rivers:  Depending upon the species of fish you are after rivers are generally a good place to find trout, salmon, herring and sometimes Bass.  Fish are generally lazy so look for eddies in the water, behind rocks, sticks or other debris.  Sometimes just a strong bend in the river you will find a collection of fish.  You should always fish facing down river, this is because the fish will always be facing up river swimming again the rushing water.  Think about the current bait that is already being swept down the river and try to match your fly to mimic that bait.  Working the river is also important.  Let your bait flow down the river a ways, around a bend or behind a rock.  Let it float right by the fish you are after.  Try to fish near the bottom of the river, it is OK if you gets snagged and loose a few flies in the process.  Deep sections of the river are always a sure bet for fish.  They will be hiding out near the bottom behind a submerged rock or other debris.

Still Ponds:  Still ponds allow fly fisherman to get the most out of their fly casts.  They can use sinking tip lines to cast a long way out and a few feet down to sneak up and place their bait exactly in front of the fish they are after.  You want to utilize the reach of your cast as much as possible to reach sections of the pond where you think the fish are hiding, without actually getting yourself to close the area.  This will prevent yourself from spooking the fish.  Large open areas allow you to do this.  As always move around frequently to maximize your odds of finding the fish.  Pay close attention to the water and the surrounding fish to best match your bait to the fish you are after.

Saltwater:  Saltwater fly fishing is becoming ever more popular.  More and more information about it is popping up every day.  Any surface or mid-water fish is a potential target for fly fisherman these days.  Some species in particular are striped bass, bluefish, herring, tuna and mackerel.  Many surf casters have been putting their conventional rod and reels aside and been picking up fly rods.  When the time is right you can now see many Striped Bass being caught off of modified saltwater flies that look like the silver sides, worms or other baitfish that they are after.  A bluefish caught on a fly line can offer an unbelievable fight and a lasting memory.   

Fly Fishing Techniques

It is always important to match your fly line to your fly.  For instance you do not want to tie a wet fly onto a floating line with no wet lead.  This would defeat the purpose of the dry fly.  The opposite is also true about a dry fly.  Watch the speed of your retrieval.  If you have a standard dry fly your retrieval should be much slower than if you have a streamer or a popper. You want to match the behavior of your fly to the behavior that is appropriate for its natural behavior.

Try not to leave to much or to little slack in the line.  Depending upon what type of fly fishing you are performing will determine how much slack you should have in your line.  If you are river fishing, having slack in the line is not always a bad practice as it will allow your fly to float down the stream.  Whereas is you are pond fishing and have much slack in the line, you may not be able to set the hook appropriately and in time.   

While casting some newcomers to fly fishing often to not let the line flow properly after they make their cast. After you cast make sure you are waiting long enough for the line to full reach its full length before retrieving.  Also always remember to have ample space when you are casting.

The current lighting conditions and the time that you decide to fly fish will also be key in how many fish you land.  Every species of fish is different, but generally early in the morning and late in the evening are popular times to fly fish.  Especially for bass and trout.   

The more you know about the fish you are after the better your chances are going to be.  One element to pay close attention to is water temperature.  Some fish prefer to feed in colder water temps, like Northern Pike, whereas panfish or bluegills like to feed when the water is warmer.   

If you are planning on doing some saltwater fly fishing pay close attention to the tides.  The tides will determine the current flow of the water and potentially what side of a peninsula or jetty you decide to fish.  Keep a record of where, when, tide condition, temperature, lighting when you caught your last fish.  This will aid you greatly in the future.

Fish Species  

The common species to fly fish seems to grow every year.  As fly fishing becomes more popular the diversity of fish caught also increases.  Probably the most common fish to fly fish for however are as follows.

Trout:  Probably the most common fly fisherman’s prey.  Can be caught on dry or wet flies, poppers, streamers and nymphs.  There are many species of trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, flathead trout, golden trout, bull trout and lake trout.  Trout are generally found and are most active within 50 to 60 degree waters.  They commonly inhabit rivers and streams and can be found in schools.

Trout can be found spawning in riffles (fast moving shallow streams). The base of river pools are generally good placed to find large brook or rainbow trout.

 Salmon:  Probably second most common fly fishing species caught by many anglers.  Salmon put up an excellent fight and are a great eating fish.  Salmon can be caught in flies that imitate small fish, dry flies, wet flies, steamers and poppers.  Streams and rivers in the northeast and northwest are probably the two most common places to catch salmon.  

 Striped Bass:  A very common fish caught by many anglers.  Recently fly fisherman have been casting their lines towards this species of fish. Striped bass are another excellent eating fish that puts up a decent fight.  Streamers that act as imitation fish while surf casting is an excellent technique that is getting refined annually.  Any local bait shop should not have flies available for saltwater fly fishing for striped bass.  

 Bluefish:  Bluefish are highly aggressive saltwater fish that are also becoming very popular within the fly fishing community.  While blitzing (schooling baitfish) bluefish will most likely strike anything that is moving or resembles a baitfish.    

 Bass:  Largemouth and smallmouth bass have been a long popular game fish that many fly fisherman have enjoyed fishing for.  They can be caught on dry and wet flies, steamers and poppers.  Early Morning or late evening would be ideal times to fish for bass.

 Bluegills:  One of the easiest and smallest fish to catch while fly fishing are blue gills which are small hand sized fish that will hit dry or wet fies.  

 Perch:  Slightly larger than bluegills Perch which are related to trout can also be caught on dry or wet flies, poppers and streamers.  Perch are school fish so it is easy to catch a great deal of them within a short amount of time.  They can also see very well so brightly colored flies are very affective.

 I hope that this posting has been an asset to your next fishing experience.  Good luck and tight lines.

One Responseso far.

  1. […] moments I have had fishing.   Flies come in many varieties, I would recommend reading the “Beginners Guide to fly Fishing” found on this site.  In short you have “Dry Flies” and “Wet […]

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