Fly Fishing For Beginners: An Ultimate Guide To Get You Started.

If you have been weighing it on your mind that fly fishing is something you could try this season. Then, let me tell you that it is one of the most fulfilling outdoor activities you can engage in.

Well, I tend to agree, that difference in technique and number of required gear and accessories make it seems a bit overwhelming for a beginner.

And that’s not it.

Every now and then I meet people who tried fly fishing, but lack of proper guidance was the baggiest hindrance in their progress, and they lost motivation.

If you are one of them, then your worry days are over.

Because keeping all of this in perspective we have created this ultimate guide which will provide all the required information for beginners and set your feet on the right path when it comes to fly fishing.

So, let’s start with Fly fishing 101.

But before we start let me assure you once again.

Taking up fly fishing is one of the best decisions you can make this year.

Fly Fishing 101

fly fishing 101

What is Fly Fishing?

As the name suggests, fly fishing is a form of angling in which (artificial) flies are used as baits. Unlike traditionally bait casting in which baits usually sinks in water, the purpose of fly fishing is to go for the fishes that feed on the surface of the water.

Usually, the preys of such fishes are floating insects, larva or flies in general.

And order to catch those fishes, fishers go for artificial baits that are made to resemble the prey or food of the target fish.

And in order to achieve their target i.e.

  1. Make your (fly) bait float.
  2. Mimic the movement of an insect.

Fly fishers use a lot of different equipment. But as a beginner the most basic ones you will need are:

  • The fly fishing rod.
  •  Fly fishing line.
  • Fly fishing reel.
  • And the (artificial bait) flies.

Many people mistakenly think fly fishing is a creation of the modern man. But historians have pointed out references to fly fishing in manuscripts that are as old as the second century. The ancient Romans and Greeks have engaged in activities that metamorphosed into what we know today as fly fishing.

Nowadays, fly fishing is more of a recreational activity that is only done for the joy and sense of fulfillment. This is why the emphasis is laid on releasing the fish after a catch.

How Fly Fishing is Different?

Fly fishing is different from traditional bait fishing in many ways. Being able to identify this will help you in your journey to become good in fishing with an artificial fly.

Difference in location.

Well on a given day you can catch anything from your fly rod anywhere. But regarding location usually what distinguishes it apart from spin reel fishing is that it is generally done in shallow and moving waters, like streams, narrows rivers and channels. However, these locations can only be termed as preferred locations of fly fishers. In general no one limit fly-fishing to streams and canals or even to fresh waters. So we can safely say that it can be done anywhere(whether fresh or seawater) where you can get a species of fish which can be caught by imitating floating baits.

The difference in the fish type.

Salmon and trout have come to be associated to fly fishing by many, but the activity actually encompasses a wide range of fish types. While many fly fishers only look to catch a specific kind of fish, it is easy to catch unintended species while fishing. Due to the technological development of stronger fishing equipment, it’s possible to catch even predatory fishes like sharks and tuna. You only need to make sure the artificial fly resembles the primary food source of the target species.

Difference in equipment.

With bait fishing, the weight of the lure makes it easy to cast your fishing line to any intended spot in the water. But Fly fishing is different, as in fly fish the bait, i.e., the fly has almost no weight, therefore, casting with bait fishing equipment will not work. This is why a heavier line is used since it is what will determine how and where to cast. And in accordance to the difference of this intent, in fly fishing, the rod and fly line is always tempered for the maximum effect.

Difference in technique.

As far as I know, there is a consensus among anglers that fly fishing is among the most active and enjoyable form of fishing. Since the bait has no weight and cast is done through the weight of line. Therefore, the casting techniques are entirely different from spin casting. Secondly, the fisher not only has to cast differently but also has to imitate the movement of actual fly or nymph which makes its overall technique a lot more different and active.

Types of fly fishing.

Fly fishing is often categorized according to the type of fly used. The basic types are dry fly fishing, wet fly fishing and streamer fly fishing.

Dry Fly fishing.

If you are starting out as a fly fisher, this is what I will introduce to you to keep your feet wet (no pun intended). This involves the use of a dry fly, an artificial insect, to catch a fish. It is usually recommended for beginners to fly fishing because it is very easy to detect a strike on the fly.

You should know that when a catch has been landed, keeping the fly afloat may become an issue. What I do is to have a couple of replacements along and rotate until the used ones become dry.

Wet fly fishing.

Because the larger population of fish feeds underwater, it will be far more profitable for you as an angler to use an underwater fly instead of one that floats. Wet fly fishing entails the use of a sinkable fly or adding extra weight to a fly or hook to fish below the water surface. Successful wet fly fishing can only be done by someone with good knowledge of sub-surface current and drifts. This is one reason I don't recommend wet fly fishing to beginners that are just starting out.

Streamer fly fishing.

Streamer fly fishing, sometimes called still water fly fishing, resemble wet fly fishing in approach. An angler uses flies that imitate smaller fishes to catch a bigger fish.

Required Fly Fishing gear to get started.

fly fishing gear

It is often said in many quarters that the gear makes the fly fisher. Without the essential kits, you can’t even set out in fly fishing. Therefore we have outlined here the essential gear you need to start.

Fly Rods.

Rods used in fly fishing are a lot more different and more flexible from the ones used in traditional bait fishing. A fly fishing rod can be made of different materials. In the early days, they are made from bamboo, later rods from fiberglass. Nowadays, you will see fishing rods that are made of carbon fiber or graphite.

A fly rod is specifically designed to cast a fly line not the lure. So, an emphasis is laid on the ability of the rod to control the line. Due to advancement in technology has enabled the manufacturing of light but stronger rods. Fishing rods can be identified by their weight and action. A fly rod determines the distance and accuracy of your casting, and the size of fish you can catch.

As a beginner, go for 6-weight rods.

Why this is recommended?

If you are just starting out it will enable you to fish with dry flies and sub-surface flies on a single fly rod.

Fly Lines.

A fly line is a thread the fly is fixed upon. Modern fishing lines are generally made of silk or nylon. In fly fishing, the line is usually wrapped in a waterproof plastic material. What you should keep in mind as a beginner is that the fly line and the weight of the rod must go hand in hand.

The weight of a rod is usually printed on it. Someone new to fly fishing can easily be overwhelmed with the vast amounts of selection available in stores. Things you should keep in mind while shopping for a fly line are the level, double, shooting taper and weight forward.

For beginners, it is preferred to go for a weight forward line.

Fly Reels

The fishing reel, the cylindrical device attached to fishing rods, plays a prominent role in fly fishing the same way it does in traditional bait fishing. The way you use it is where the slight difference lies. A line is not cast off the reel in fly fishing. You strip the line out before the casting.

Fly fishing reels are simpler in construction compared to other types. In fly fishing, you use your reel to store the fly line. When casting, a reel will provide the needed balancing for the weight of the fishing rod. And when a fish makes a long run, it helps facilitate a smooth, unbroken tension.

When it comes to buying a reel, you must consider your rod and fly line. All three have to match weights. Manufacturers usually state the weight range a reel is suitable for.


One of those things that made me fall in love with fly fishing in the first is the ability to get in there with the fish you're trying to catch. And it's not advisable to get into the water, no matter how small, without a good wader.

This is one area fly fishing beginners are often given free reign to choose whatever they like. If you want to look like Chuck Norris in the water, you are free to go for the premium kit that gives you the kind of look you love. And if you only want something comfortable on you, there are thousands of brands to choose from.

But getting into the water requires you to have at least basic knowledge of using a wader and how to differentiate between what is available in stores.

A wader can either be hip high or chest high. Both types are good. A hip-high wader is perfect for low water levels. If you're fishing in cold conditions, a chest-high wader is your best friend. Hip-high waders are easier to pack for traveling and storage. They are usually less expensive than chest-high waders. Note that some chest-high waders, especially those made of nylon, can be rolled up and pack which makes them ideal for traveling fishermen.

A wader can either be hip high or chest high. Both types are good. A hip-high wader is perfect for low water levels. If you're fishing in cold conditions, a chest-high wader is your best friend. Hip-high waders are easier to pack for traveling and storage. They are usually less expensive than chest-high waders. Note that some chest-high waders, especially those made of nylon, can be rolled up and pack which makes them ideal for traveling fishermen.

You can also choose whether you want a stocking foot or boot foot. In a boot foot wader, the boot is already attached. They are cheaper compared to when you're buying your fishing boot separately. But they come in limited size number. You may need to get felt liners to get a good fit. Or you can wear extra socks.

Waders have evolved from the traditional rubberized canvas. Now they're made in insulated Neoprene and lightweight nylon.


Fly fishing is all about presenting a fake bait to a fish in order to catch the fish. This requires more work than the traditional fishing, where you present live bait for the fish to strike at. This is one reason fly fishing is regarded as an art in many quarters. Flies come in hundreds of varieties. They can be grouped into three groups according to how they are used.

Fishing Pliers.

Extracting a hook from a fish sounds simple but can actually turn to a beginner’s nightmare. A pair of fishing pliers can help you do this effortlessly.

Tackle Box.

A beginner to fly fishing can easily get overwhelmed by the number of things you need to get ready to engage successfully in fly fishing. But don’t be dismayed. You will have a dependable ally in a fishing tackle box. A tackle box is a storage equipment to hold your fly fishing accessories like fly lines, reels, artificial flies, etc. Modern tackle boxes will even come with compartments so that your fishing tools don’t get mixed up.

Fishing Vest.

Choosing a fly fishing vest is another area where personal taste is going to play an important role. Many beginners, because they see the pros doing it, will pack their vest with all types of kits. This may actually hinder effective fly fishing. Only pass one or two things and then use your tackle box for the rest.

For beginners, I usually recommend a padded fishing vest or a fly fishing sling pack for added comfort.

Fisher boots.

If you are going for a stocking foot wader, then you're going to need a fishing boot. Fishing boots do more than keeping out water. They prevent you from slipping in the mud. Many fly fishing beginners often think that any rubber boot will do. While rubber boots can be used as alternative fishing boots once in a while as they can help to move around on a wet surface, you’re advised to get a proper wading boot as rubber boots get easily trapped in the mud. They can also be heavy which can hinder your movement while fishing.

Misc Equipment:

Fishing Hat.

Fly fishing is a contemplative activity and you may find yourself spending several hours out in the open. A fishing hat can come to your rescue by keeping your upper part of your body from getting sunburned. It will also keep off raindrops. Go for one with a broad bill since it comes with an added advantage of keeping off a misdirected fly hook.

Polarized Sunglasses.

A pair of polarized sunglasses will protect your eyes against the glare. Rays reflecting off water surface are big issues for fishermen. But polarized sunglasses do more than keeping out the rays. They can improve your vision under harsh conditions and help you spot that strike more quickly.

Fishing Gloves.

Most Fly Fishers consider fishing gloves as very crucial gear. As they not only enhance your handling, but also protects you from cut and other injuries due to line tension and fish handling.

Flotation Device.

As a newbie that wants to get into the water, you need a flotation device for safety since you can easily lose your footing. Fishing flotation devices are fishing safety kits that are designed to keep the user afloat in case of in-water accidents. The flotation devices I know are CO2 activated and come in different designs. There are fishing vests inbuilt with flotation devices and there are some that are worn like a harness.

Fly Fishing Nets.

A fly fishing net is another tool you will want to have in your arsenal as a fly fisher. It can help you to hold the fish during a catch and if you’re planning on releasing the fish, it will help to protect it from any harm.

Fishing Rod Bag.

Most seasoned fly fishers are usually equipped with more then one rod during their game. These rods are of different weights and equipment settings. Fly fishers keep them to more adaptable of fishing conditions and chose their equipment as them.

Moreover it is always fruitful to keep a spare rod to tackle any avoidable circumstances. A fishing rod bag is a good option not only to carry and manage more then one rod but also your other fishing gears.   

Fishing Rod Rack.

Apart from action over waters, you need a proper storage system for your expensive fishing equipment.

And that is where fishing rod racks comes handy. They will not only keep your fishing rods intact during off season, but also provide sufficient storage space for other fishing accessories.


A tippet is a piece of line at the end of the leader. It comes between the leader and the fly. The size of the tippet to be used is normally determined by the size of the fly and the fishing conditions.


A leader is a piece of line between the fly line and the fly. The leader has dual purposes. It makes it easy for you to pass the fly line through the tiny hole in the fly (eye). It also absorbs the energy from the fly line from reaching the fly. Two things to keep in mind when it comes to leaders are length and tippet size. A lengthy leader can cause casting issues. Generally, you will want to choose a leader same length as the fly rod.

Wading Staff.

If you have ever tried to wade through a knee-length river before, you will know it’s not an easy task. Even for the experienced fishers, moving through a not-so-known water can become a tricky exercise. To help get your footing right, you will need a wading staff. These are designed to give you the needed support while moving through above-ankle height water.

Fly Fishing set up.

You have gotten to a section in this guide where you should be asking, "how do I put all of these together?"

I'll put you through that. But one thing you should keep in mind is that this is not something you get immediately. It might take several days of practice before you become good at it.

How to Set Up a Fly Fishing Reel

  • Before you set up your fly reel make sure that you have all the necessary components, i.e. your fly reel, backing, fly line and leader.
  • To begin with open the spool of your reel and attached your back with an arbor knot.
  • Put the spool back and retrieve your backing.
  • Take your fly line out of the packing and identify the end of the line which is supposed to be attached with the backing.
  • Attach your fly line with the backing through nail knot.
  • Now reel back your line.
  • Now take the leader out of its packing and identify the end which you have to attach with fly line.
  • Whenever you have to attach the leader you have straightened it first as it might be having memory coils either due to its packing or from the reel.
  • Once its straightened connect your leader with the fly line through the loop to loop connection.
  • If you line and leaders don’t have loops connect both using Albright knot.
  • Reel it back and attached the reel with your rod.

How To Set Up A Fly Rod

  • To set up a fly rod first take it out from its case.
  • Usually, all fly rods are in four pieces.
  • First, take out the lower 2 pieces and slide a piece into another piece feral.
  • After that push and twist, both pieces until the dot on the end of each piece are aligned.
  • Repeat this procedure with the top two pieces of the rod.
  • In the end, connect both of the joined pieces applying the same technique.
  • To connect the reel with you rod first loosen the screw barrel at the end of the rod.
  • Adjust the foot of the reel in the given seat of the fly rod.
  • Tighten up the screw barrel so the reel is fixed.
  • Pull about 10 to 15 feet of the line from the reel and pass it through all the guides of fly rod.
  • Once its passed connect your leader with tippet through surgeon knot.
  • And connect your tippet to your fly through the clinched knot.

Type of Knots

Basic knowledge of knots is a must for any fly fisher. There is nothing as heartbreaking as catching that fish after a long effort and then seeing it escape due to a bad knot. The following are knots used in fly fishing. I can’t stress enough that you should learn them to a point you will be comfortable as if you’re tying your shoelace. To test your knot after tying, pull apart at the two ends.

Arbor Knot

The arbor knot is not something you will be tying often. You use it to fix your backing to the reel.

Fishermen knot

As the name suggests, this is the most basic of all the knots you need to learn as an angler. Though it is susceptible to slip when used on some fly lines, the ability to add more turns on the knots makes it a strong option.

alright knot

Albright knot

This is another strong knot used to tie lines of different materials together for e.g. braided line to leader. The Albright is smoother than most knots and will pass through certain guides.   

Surgeon Knot

One of the basic and easiest to tie knots for joining two lines of equal or unequal diameters or of different materials. It is basically a combination of two overhead knots each tied by a separate line. If tied well, it secures about 100 percent of the line strength.

clinch knot

Clinch Knot

The Clinch knot is one of the most widely used fishing knots for securing a fishing line to a hook, lure, or swivel.

nail knot

Nail Knot

Nail knot is the most popular knot almost all fisher used to their line with backing. In fact it’s more of wrap of a backing to line rather than a proper knot. But its wide acceptance is pretty an evidence of its efficiency.​​​​

fly fishing casting For Beginners

This is another area in fly fishing where you need to pay good attention to details as a beginner. There are a number of casting techniques employed in fly fishing but here, I'll stick with two that you can start with i.e.

  • Roll Cast
  • & Overhead Cast

Roll Cast & Overhead Cast

Both of the cast techniques looks pretty simple but they do require some practice because;

  • There must be some minor adjustment in your technique which can only be learned through experience rather than following tutorials.
  • The cast is not only about tossing your fly in water at distance, it about cast it at the desired spot and this precision requires practice.

The hand and body movement in both of the cast are quite similar however the main difference is in the timing.

The roll cast is one of the most fundamental cast in fly fishing. It is usually done when you have some obstruction on your back and you are unable to do the overhead cast. Secondly when you have already cast your fly in the water and just want to re-position it.

On another hand, you perform the overhead cast when you need more distance to cover or have to deal with heavy winds.

Roll Cast

Roll Cast

  • For Roll-cast start withholding the rod with soft grip (not a loose grip nor squeezing your rod grip)
  • Point the rod in front of you with the tip of the rod touching water.
  • Raise the rod by bending your elbow and bring the grip closer to your ear and rod tip passes your head.
  • As soon as the line passes your head and from a D-loop push the rod back in a whip-like motion.
  • All of this must be done in a single motion without a break. It just you pull the rod slow and push it back fast.

Overhead Cast

  • For overhead cast the movement is almost identical it's just;
  • You pull the rod fast instead of pulling the rod slowly in Roll-Cast
  • Pause for a moment till the line fly over your head.
  • And push it back fast again in a whip motion.
  • To cover more distance from overhead cast try to do a crisp stop when your hand is around 10 o'clock angle with the surface.

Finding the perfect spot.

All beginner fly fisher must know how to locate the best place to catch a fish in a river. With fly fishing, it’s possible to spend days without a single catch if you don’t know to locate the perfect spot where fish abounds. The truth is, it can take several months for beginners to master the art of determining right fishing spots on their own.

Before you fully get the hang of this, the following steps might help you.

  • Ask at the local fishing store. Most people who run fishing stores engage in the activity themselves and can tell you where you can catch a good fish. And if they’re not fishers, they may have this information through the many anglers that congregate at their store.
  • Ask fishers directly. This is a bit difficult since most anglers will not easily reveal their great fishing spots. But you can come across one or two who will not only reveal this to you but will volunteer to take you along.

You can also join local fishing clubs or Facebook fishing groups to learn about fishing spots in your area.

Beginners tips from experts

They’ve been there before. They have fished in all kinds of waters. Fly fishing pros can help you become good at fly fishing within the shortest possible time. Here are some tips from the experts:

Start with the basic tools

Due to the numbers of kits they see with the experienced fishers, beginners easily get overwhelmed and some may decide to abandon their love for fly fishing altogether. The basic gear you need to start right away is a fly rod, fly line (backing, line, leader and tippet), reel and a fly. With these only, says the Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a website devoted to fly fishing, you can still be successful as a fly fisher.

Don’t go for cheap gear

I understand you may not want to put too much money as you’re just starting out. But it’s better to buy your tools one at a time as the money comes than going for cheap inferior kits. A low-quality rod can break easily, a cheap reel may stop working at a crucial moment and a bad line can make casting difficult. So, only go for quality fishing gadgets.

Buy matching tools from the same manufacturer

The basic tools in casting an artificial fly must match in order to work optimally. For example, the weight of your rod must match the reel. Because most fishing equipment manufacturers already have these combined, the margin for error is somehow removed. Plus, buying tools in combinations is cheaper than buying separately.

Determine your catch beforehand

Your basic fly fishing tools will be determined by the fish you’re planning to catch. The best way to determine this is to pay a visit to your local fishing shop since they’re most likely to know the kind of fish abundant in your area. The shop owner will also guide you in selecting the best fishing tools.


There you have it, things that have kept me going through the years.

Did you enjoy it?

Hope I have checked all the boxes in providing you the information which a Fly Fishing beginner may require.

Do you have a valuable information you think has been left out in this list? Please add as a comment. And don’t forget to share this post if you like it.

I’m looking forward to your comments…


Most Essential Fishing Knots
Ned Taylor

Ned is passionate about outdoor activities like fishing, camping & hunting. Always eager to explore new places for outdoor activities and testing new outdoor products.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 10 comments
Kemi - September 19, 2018

This is definitely a skill to be learned via thesis lol. Anything that requires waders, I’m very wary of. I’d like to get the hang of basic fishing before venturing onto fly fishing lol.

The Panicked Foodie - September 19, 2018

This is a really great and comprehensive guide on fly fishing. I really enjoyed the graphic detailing the different knots. I haven’t ever done any fly fishing, but I used to do regular fishing when I was a little girl. I only ever caught small sunfish though haha.

Papa jack - September 20, 2018

Great Article! I hope you write more to encourage others! Keep it up!

Phill Slater - September 20, 2018

Enjoyable post. I quite fancy having a go at this.

Monidipa Dutta - September 20, 2018

Although I have never tried it but your points, tips look promising. I’ll give it a try.

Karla - September 20, 2018

This is very informative. I enjoy exploring new activities and I think I shall try fly fishing next time. Thanks for the tips!

Eric Gamble - September 21, 2018

This is definitely a great guide for fly fishing for beginners. I just recently had a great experience in the Sierra Mountains of California with Fly Fishing. It was a bucket list project to help a friend summit Mt. Whitney and then proceed along the John Muir Trail/ Pacific Crest Trail. My Friend was struggling a bit with the hiking and backpacking so we stopped to rest and camp near some amazing lakes. There was a boy scout troop who were fly fishing the trout. My Friend who was in desperate need for a pick me up went over to visit the scouts and one younger boy and his father took the time to teach him how to fly fish. I never saw a bigger smile on his face!
Thank you for sharing this amazing activity and all the great tips for beginners.

Annemarie LeBlanc - September 22, 2018

Wow. This is a really detailed post about fly fishing. I will have to share this with my cousin who loves to go fishing with his buddies. He will be happy to learn this other method of fishing.

Kristina @ Spirit of the soul - September 22, 2018

This is great! My dad was just talking about trying this next summer on his annual camping trip.

matthew - September 24, 2018

wow great and informative post. Lots of great tips. I love to go fishing but never gone for fly fishing, will definitely try it out someday


Leave a Reply: