Fly fishing for beginners can be a bit intimidating. There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of “stuff” that goes into fly fishing.
The casting is more difficult with the mechanics taking some time to learn, there’s a lot of gear that needed and you have to learn to tie your own baits.
We are going to break down the fears and the clutter that comes with fly fishing, getting you the beginner to a better understanding.
The first thing to remember is that we all had to start somewhere. At the start, no one was “good” at fly fishing right and no one knew everything about fly fishing.
We ALL started as beginners and we ALL had to learn through practice.
This article will break down the principles of fly fishing for beginners into a simple and easy to understand format.
Let’s dig in and learn.
The Equipment needed to get Started for Beginners
If you just started looking into fly fishing it can be overwhelming with all the gear needed.
However, not everything is needed.
A lot of what you see is extra that can be done away with by simple planning and know what you want to fish for.
For simplistic reasons let’s just start with the absolute minimum that you need.
You will need:
- a fly rod (This is the combo I use and love it – best price here on Amazon)
- fly reel
- backing for the reel
- fly line
- a leader
- hook that has a fly tied to it.
[Tweet “Sometimes the flies are a little hard to catch alive, especially keeping the wings attached while tying it to the hook.”]
Okay, I’m just joking. You don’t use a real fly.
We will actually teach you how to make some basic artificial flies later on. But I couldn’t resist a bad joke.
Being able to tie your own flies is going to be a necessity if you are on a small budget.
But, if you don’t mind spending the extra money, you don’t even have to tie any of your own flies, you can just buy them already made.
Buying flies that are tied by other people is more expensive and takes away from the feeling of accomplishment when you catch a fish on a fly that you have tied.
Depending on where you’re fishing you may need some other essential gear.
If you fish in the Mountain Streams, you may need a set of waders for cold water.
If you fish in tropical waters a pair of board shorts or thin nylon pants, as long as you don’t mind getting wet, will be just as sufficient.
Best Beginner Fly rod combo
The best beginner fly fishing rod and reel combo is the one that you can afford.
As a beginner, you do not need to spend a lot of money on a fly fishing rod or reel at the beginning.
The reason is, you are not skilled enough at this point to get the added performance justifying the additional expense that some of these combos bring.
Mucho Money on these high-end performance fly fishing combos!
No Worries though you will get there and they will gladly take your $2,000, but I digress back to the article.
Why Should You NOT Buy the Top of the line Fly Rod as a Beginner?
As a beginner, you are going to be rough on your equipment.
Learning to cast a fly rod is challenging at the beginning and you need something that’s going to be tough.
Now I’m not suggesting that you go out and buy the cheapest fly fishing combo you can find because that is not going to serve you either.
I suggest you pick something middle of the road when it comes to cost.
Middle of the road will get you a good sturdy, durable rod that has good flexibility to help you with your cast. The reel that comes on a middle of the road combo usually has all of the components needed to make a good solid real.
PRO TIP: Usually last years “high-end, high performance, Cadillac combo” is now this year’s middle of the road. Cha-Ching! Saved you some coin.
The next question that you need to ask yourself is, “what type of fishing do I plan on doing, and what species of fish am I targeting?”
This will all depend on what weight size combo that you will purchase.
How to know Which Fly Rod you should Buy as a Beginner?
Fly fishing rod combos are differentiated by the weight in different strength levels of the rod.
Weight scales range from 4 weight (4 WT) all the way to 12 weight (12 WT).
4 weight rod combos would be for small trout and panfish. 6 to 8 weight would be for larger trout and even into bass fishing. 8 to 12-foot wait is geared towards larger bass, saltwater fishing, and even larger offshore saltwater species.
12 weight rods are used for large tarpon and offshore fishing for large species like sailfish or marlin.
So as you can see, determining on what you plan on fishing for in a species and size of fish, determine what type of fly fishing combo you should purchase.
The best way to figure this out is to decide on what you would “normally” fish for and pick the weight in the middle of the range.
For example, I chose a 9 weight combo because it fit the “middle of the road” for how I fish.
I normally target bass and saltwater inshore fish that can range anywhere from 4 pounds to 25 pounds.
I chose a 5 weight combo, to fish freshwater panfish. Their weights range from a few ounces to 2 pounds.
Picking middle of the road or middle range gives you the flexibility to catch smaller and larger fish on each end of the weight range spectrum.
Flexibility is important when it comes to Fly Fishing rods.
You don’t want to get extremely cheap fly rob because it will usually be too stiff.
But, you don’t want to get a super expensive fly rod because it’ll be too flexible.
Again this is why I’m suggesting that you pick something in the middle of the road.
Flexibility is important for a fly fishing rod because flexibility makes it easier to cast.
Too stiff and the rod doesn’t flex enough making it hard to cast.
As with a super flexible Rod, it’s too much making it hard to control your casting loops again making it hard to cast. We will talk about casting and loop later.
You can look into these expensive, super flexible rods once you master the art of casting.
Most fly rods are going to be able to be broken down.
In other words, they come apart in either two or three pieces.
This is essential for traveling as fly rods are usually in the 9-foot range.
A 9-foot rod is hard to travel with but if you can break that down into two or three, three-foot sections, it makes for an easier package.
Materials that fly rods are usually made of are either graphite or fiberglass or a combination of the two.
This again allows for lightweight and flexibility to make fishing easier.
Fly Fishing Tackle for Beginners
Tackle for fly fishing can seem like it’s never ending; always needing something else.
There is always something that you can purchase or that you think that you need to make you a better fly fisherman.
However, here we are going through the basic minimal items needed to get you started.
Let’s talk about the line.
Fly line starts with backing.
The backing is a thin usually braided line that attaches to the spool or Arbor of the real.
Backing usually is in links of 150 to 300 yards depending on the size of your reel and in 20 to 30-pound test strength.
The larger the pound test rating, the larger diameter of the braid taking up more space in the reel.
The purpose for backing is when you catch a fish, a large fish, who tends to take out (or run) more line, making sure do not run out of line.
The backing is the extra line attached to the fly line to give you more line capacity without the cost of size.
Why not just use more fly line?
Let me explain.
The fly line has a thicker diameter than the backing line, taking up more space on the reel.
The backing is thinner, which allows you to have more line in length on the reel.
The backing is very important in saltwater fishing.
For instance, if you hook into a tarpon, and you only have 100 feet of fly line, that fish is going to run you out of line quick costing you the fish.
Backing gives you an additional 150 to 300 yards of line (depending on the pound test you choose) so you can keep up with the running fish and do not run out of line.
Even then you can still “get spooled”; fish running you out of line on the reel and losing the catch. Total bummer and buzz kill.
Freshwater fishing for panfish or trout you may not necessarily need backing or as much as you would on a saltwater reel.
How to Choose the right Fly Line.
Now that we’re talking about fly line let’s get into the different types of fly lines. You can get the fly line in just about any color you can imagine.
Fly lines come designed for different types of waters, fishing patterns and in different styles.
Let me explain the styles.
You have weight forward (WF), Double Taper (DT), and Level. Each has their own reasons for use, but most common is weight forward (WF). This is the easiest fly lines to cast and is the most universal.
I only use weight forward (WF) fly line but the fly
Now you have the choice of floating line, sinking line or sink-tip lines.
Decisions, decisions and more decisions.
Fly lines can also be determined by the type of water you will be fishing in either tropical, warm water or cold water.
These different types of lines come with specific coatings to perform better in the desired environment.
For your learning, we will focus on the weight forward, floating, warm water as your standard fly line with a length of 90 feet.
Next on tied on to your fly line is the leader.
Leaders can either be purchased pre-made or you can tie your own with different weight monofilament lines.
They come 9 feet in length, starting at a thicker diameter monofilament and as they go down, usually in 3 ft sections, the diameter becomes thinner or smaller until you reach the tip.
Leaders are sized in pound rated in tensile strength. For example, you would purchase a 02X| 20-pound test leader for a larger species of fish and 3X| 8-pound test for smaller species of fish. Leaders can go all the way from 6-pound test up to 60-pound test. Depending on the species of fish and the average wait someone might catch is determined by what leader pound test you would need.
Here’s an example of how to tie your own leader if you do not decide to purchase a premade one.
Finalizing the line sections is the tippet.
Tippet is a very thin monofilament or fluorocarbon line that is attached to the end of the fly line leader. Usually, in the link of 3 ft, this is attached to the end of the leader so break offs do not cost you the entire length of the leader.
Tippets are tied to the leader through a loop to loop connection (see what a “loop to loop” connection is here).
This allows for quick interchanges for different species of fish and larger pound test if needed.
For example, if the fish has teeth you may want a thicker diameter pound test tippet to protect from break off.
Tippet is usually extremely cheap and is the reason why it is used because it is more disposable than a leader. Your selected fly will be tied to the opposite end of the leader using whatever not is desired for that fly. Different knots allow the fly to have different actions in the water. We will get more into that later.
What other miscellaneous tackle that a beginner fly fisherman will need?
You will always need:
- a good pair of needlenose aluminum pliers
- a large pair of fingernail clippers
- a box to carry different colors and styles of flies
PRO TIP: Fly boxes can get expensive, so I bought a plastic handgun box and removed the eggshell foam inside. The cut craft foam to fit inside and glued it down. I then cut slits in the foam with an exacto knife, so the hooks would stay in place. For a smaller pocket box, you can you an old Altoids tin set up the same way.
Not necessarily tackle, but some things that you would want to make sure to have as you begin fly fishing.
A good pair of polarized sunglasses as they will help you be able to see into the water by removing the glare of reflections in the water allowing you to see the fish better.
Sunscreen is a necessity when fishing, especially saltwater offshore fishing.
A hat, I prefer one that has mesh on the back to be able to hook additional flies that I will be using for quick access. Some people like to use a vest with a wool patch for this same purpose.
As stated before a pair of waders if you will be fishing in cold water, however, I have friends that use them in saltwater fishing as well here in Florida.
A pair of Wade boots especially if you will be wading in the water; you do not want to step on anything that could do harm to your feet.
Beginner Fly tying materials and tools
Ah, the world of tying flies.
What makes Fly Fishing different from any other fishing.
Almost an art form, tying your own fly is what fly fishing is all about.
There is a sense of joy and accomplishment you get whatever you catch your first fish on the first fly that you have tied.
Yet, it’s almost a daunting task.
There are so many options and so many different materials needed in order to tie flies.
The first time you go into the materials at your local fly fishing shop you will be overwhelmed.
Fear not though, as we are going to get you set up with the basics needed to fill your tackle box with flies that will catch fish.
Essential items that you will need:
- Fly Tying Vise (This is the exact one and I love)
- A pair of small sharp scissors
- Waxed thread in three different colors red, black and white.
- Monofilament thread
- Head cement
Now, this is where it gets a little tricky. You need to figure out what are the most common fish species that you are going to Target and where you will be fishing for them. Now I know this is going to change from time to time, but where are you going to fish most and for what?
For example, the most targeted species that I fish for are inshore saltwater fish which include redfish, snook and sea trout. Freshwater fish include bass and some panfish.
Most common fly tying materials that you will use is:
- Bucktail in colors white, red and chartreuse
- Marabou feathers in colors white, black and red
- Thin craft foam in White, black and red
- Crystal Flash
- Crystal Chenille
- Dumbbell eyes
- Bead chain eyes
- Silicone spinnerbait skirts
Get creative when it comes to finding materials to tie flies.
Most people think that you have to run out to a fly specialty shop or local fly fishing outfitter.
If you can, do it.
They are a good source of information and supplies, with some offering weekly fly tying classes teaching you how.
I am always for helping local business why I can.
But, you can find a lot of these materials in your local craft store.
If you like me and your wife drags you to craft stores you might as well make the best of it.
Go hunting through the aisles and see what you can find that would help you construct a fly.
Use online sources like eBay or Amazon (Here is an everything you need to get started).
The key is to get creative and try not to spend as much money as possible.
It is almost like a game for me.
Trying to figure out how I can tie a fly, that looks like the bait I need, out of materials laying around the house or that I can find elsewhere.
Think of it as a manly man’s scavenger hunt.
PRO TIP: I go to my local fly fishing outfitter and ask which flies are working best for the time of year and fish I am targeting. They will show you. BUY ONE! Take it home and reverse engineer how yo it was tied. You can also do a quick internet search and usually find someone showing you how to tie that specific fly or an equivalent.
Best Beginner Flies to learn to tie
What are the universal flies that catch the majority of fish?
Glad you asked.
One of the easiest fly to tie and the first that I learned.
This can be tied in various different sizes for a varied of species of fish. Use different size hooks and colors to match whatever you need.
White and red or white and chartreuse are my go-to colors.
The Schminnow is my second go to fly that is super easy to tie. Created in Sanibel Island, Florida by local Norm Zeigler, fly fishing shop owner.
The Schminnow fly has caught fish hundreds of species of fish from all over the world.
Definitely, one you need for the Box.
Floating Ant or Bug is one that you will use a lot on panfish in freshwater, as it floats on water just like an ant or bug would.
Easy to tie and very deadly when it comes to catching small panfish.
These are just three of the many flies you can tie. Some work better on specific fish species, but this is a good start and you can catch a majority of fish with just these three.
We will dive deeper into more of the different flies and tying tutorials in the near future so make sure to subscribe and have that article delivered to your inbox when it is available.
Fly fishing is more than a sport, it is an art form that develops over time.
Practice makes perfect.
Don’t get discouraged and give up.
It takes time to develop skills like what you see on TV and other videos.
Stick to the basics for now and as your skills improve, move on to more advanced stuff.
We will be getting more advanced with more posts that will be coming available in the future as we grow together.
Now that you have all your gear together you are going to need to learn how to cast the fly rod.
In a previous post, we discussed the EXTREME Basics of fly fishing rod combo casting, but in the article How to Cast Your New Fly Rod the Easy Way, we break down the cast into a better to understand tutorial.
Keep your lines and loops tight and keep practicing.
I look forward to where this journey is to take you and I’m glad that we can be a part of it.
- Have you tried Fly Fishing, what was you first experience like?
- What were your first hurdles to overcome?
- What is your favorite fly and why?