Wednesday, 04 January 2017 00:00

Fly Fishing Basics

Written by

Fly fishing dates back hundreds of years, but it gained the most popularity in North America during the 19th and 20th centuries. From presidents to the common man, the challenge of fly fishing, including everything from the difficulty of casting to the diverse fishing conditions, appeals to all. If you are just starting out, here are the basics you need to know.

The Basic Materials

While many experienced fly fishermen have dozens of lures, lines and leaders, the beginner only needs the following:

  • Rod
  • Reel
  • Line
  • Leader and Tippet
  • Flies
  • Snips



Fly rods are different from other types of fishing rods. These rods bend in a specific way, allowing you to put the fly exactly where you want it. Finding the right rod consists of knowing (a) where you will be fishing and (b) what type of fish you will be catching. A 9-foot rod is the most common type among fly fishermen. Depending on the type of fish, you will use a specifically weighted rod. For example, a 3- and 4-weight rod would be used for smaller panfish, like bluegill and small trout.

Rod Weight Water Fish
1 - 2 Weight Extreme Light Freshwater Small Panfish
3 - 4 Weight Light Freshwater Small Panfish, Trout
5 Weight Freshwater Trout, Panfish, Small Bass
6 - 7 Weight Medium Freshwater/Light Saltwater Large Trout, Bass, Bonefish
6 - 7 Weight Medium Freshwater/Light Saltwater Large Trout, Bass, Bonefish
6 - 7 Weight Medium Freshwater/Light Saltwater Large Trout, Bass, Bonefish
8 - 9 Weight Heavy Freshwater/Saltwater Carp, Bass, Bonefish, Snook, Baby Tarpon
10 Weight Extreme Heavy Freshwater/ Medium Saltwater Tarpon, Salmon, Permit
11 - 12 Weight Heavy Saltwater Large Saltwater Species
11 - 12 Weight Heavy Saltwater Large Saltwater Species
13 - 15 Weight Extreme Heavy Saltwater Extreme big fish, tuna, sharks



Fly rods and line are designed to work together, like a dynamic fishing duo. For instance, a 5-weight rod will work best with a 5-weight line. Most rods have the information printed on the shaft. As for color, some fly fishermen prefer a brightly colored line so they can see it easily in the water. Others prefer a color that blends into the background. Choose the color that works best for you.


A fly reel holds the line, and you operate it by stripping the line off of the reel and manipulating it with one hand and casting the rod with the other. Most fly reels have a disc-type drag system, although you can find some with a coiled spring mechanism, which automatically pulls the line into the reel.

Leader and Tippet

The leader and tippet are used to connect the fly to your colored line with a material that won’t scare the fish away. The leader also allows you to cast your line in a straight line. The leader is the clear material connected at the end of the fly line. The tippet is the lightweight material attached on the end of the leader and fly. Light and strong are two qualities of a great tippet. Tippets are used to help present the fly in the most realistic way.


There are three basic groups of flies, including streamers, nymphs and dry flies. The type of fly you use during your fishing trip depends on the flies or insects that are common in the area you are fishing. If you aren’t sure which flies to choose, check with the experts at your local bait shop.

Don’t forget a quality fly fishing vest for your first fly fishing trip! You can find one at a high quality retailer like Carhartt, along with other fishing gear essentials. Now go catch some fish!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .