Fly Fishing Beginner’s Guide to Help You Get Started

Fly Fishing Beginner’s Guide to Help You Get Started

Fly fishing can prove to be one of the most challenging yet rewarding forms of fishing there is. While many take fly fishing very seriously, it can also become a fun exciting activity or hobby for nearly anyone. What was once considered a sport reserved for the wealthy has now become accessible to nearly anyone willing to give it a try.

It can take a lot of time and patience mastering the many skills needed to become a successful fly fisherman, and many beginners can easily become overwhelmed with all the various techniques and gear that the sport requires. To make things a bit easier, we’ve created an informative guide for those who are looking to jump into the sport of fly fishing.

This guide will help you to better decide what fly fishing gear you’ll need, offer some helpful tips on fly fishing techniques, and inform you on where you should be fishing to increase your chances of landing a fish.

Fly Fishing Gear

It goes without saying that you won’t be able to go fly fishing without obtaining the right gear. While certain fly fishing equipment can be expensive, today’s market now offers fly fishing gear for beginners which is allowing those with more limited budgets the opportunity to enjoy the sport. Let’s take a look at some of the basic gear you’ll need to start enjoying the art of fly fishing.

Fly Rods & Reels

The two most important pieces of fly fishing equipment are your fly rod and fly reel. While they can be purchased separately, as a beginner you’d be wise to purchase them as a combination set which is usually offered by most manufacturers. This is because fly rods are given a weight rating which must be matched to the appropriate fly reel. If you buy them as a set, they are already matched for you and you can usually get a better price than if you were to purchase each item individually.

Fly rod prices vary considerably and their cost largely depends on their level of craftsmanship and what materials they are made of. Fly reels are less complex than spinning reels and allow a fly fisherman to strip fishing line off the spool with a single hand, thus allowing them to use their other hand for casting.

Fly Line

The fishing line that is used in fly fishing is very different than line used in other types of fishing. Beginners may need to do a bit of research or ask for assistance from a salesperson of a bait and tackle store to make sure they are purchasing the correct type of line. The flies that will be tied to the end of your line (tied to the tippet to be more precise) are weightless and it is therefore the line’s weight which will allow you to control where your fly is placed on the water.

Buying quality fly line is vital for success and knowing what density, taper, and weight you should get may seem confusing at first. Fly line density refers to whether the fly at the end of your line will float, sink, or be suspended. Many beginners find that buying a fly line designed for floating dry flies on the water’s surface is more rewarding as you get to see the fish strike the bait. Nymphing or wet flies are generally paired with sinking or suspending fly lines.

Fly line taper is defined as the fly line’s variation in width from one end to the other. Beginners should use a weight-forward taper since it is quite versatile. When it comes to line weight, your choice will largely depend on what fish species you are targeting. Most fly fisherman that fish for trout and salmon in rivers and streams will generally stick to line that is rated somewhere in the range of 1wt-4wt. Line with a  higher rating is used when fishing for larger freshwater and saltwater species.  

Leader and Tippet

Fluorocarbon or monofilament tapered fishing line is used for your leader which connects your fly line to your tippet. The thinner monofilament tippet in turn then connects to your chosen fly. The combination of your leader and tippet should be lightweight, clear, and have a length that is equal or greater to your redfish rod’s length to avoid fish getting spooked. As you become more skilled, you may wish to tie your own leaders which will allow for greater customization.  

Other Essential Fly Fishing Gear

Waders: If you plan on standing in a river or stream as many fly fishermen do, you will need to get yourself a pair of durable neoprene or flexible nylon waders to help you combat the often chilly water. Waders can be chest high (recommended) or waist high depending on your personal preference.

Fly Fishing Vests: Having a vest allows you to keep all your fishing essentials handy whenever you need them. Vests are equipped with pockets where you can store your box of flies, leader lines, multi-tool, spare parts, and maybe a few snacks for when you get hungry.

Polarized Sunglasses: Wearing a pair of brown or red polarized sunglasses will allow you to more easily locate fish beneath the water since it cuts down the reflective glare upon the water’s surface.

Landing Net: This will allow you to grab the fish easier when you hopefully bring it in and helps to protect the fish if you’re planning to catch and release or when your fish doesn’t meet the size requirements needed to keep the fish. A smaller net should suffice and can more easily be clipped to your vest.


While there’s no shortage of flies to choose from, it’s important to match your flies to the insects that are currently out in the area you are fishing. Beginners should ask other local fisherman or their local fishing shop for advice on what type of flies they should be using. This will vary depending on what type of fish you’re after.

There are three main types of flies, dry flies, nymphs, and streamers. Dry flies are made to mimic various flying insects that commonly land on the surface of the water. They are often made of real or synthetic fur, hair, or feathers and their small size and lack of weight allows them to rely on surface tension to float on the water.

Flies that mimic nymphs, immature insects that can’t yet fly, are used to catch fish like trout that often prefer to fish below the surface instead of at the surface. Nymph flies are designed to float just below or at the surface of the water. Streamer flies mimic larger aquatic life like leeches or baitfish. These flies are also known as lures and are designed to lure fish in beneath the water.  

You will also need to learn how to tie various fly fishing knots which may include tying Albright, clinch, blood, and uni knots. You also have the choice of choosing flies with or without barbed hooks.


Many say that fly casting is about control, timing, and intuition. Effective casting requires practice and acquiring finesse. It’s important to learn proper casting techniques early to prevent yourself from acquiring bad habits. It may even be wise as a beginner to hire a professional fishing guide that can give you some proper tips. If you’re on a budget, there are also plenty of online videos where you can self-teach yourself how to cast.

Casting is a bit of an art and there are several different techniques. One of the most common casts is known as the overhead cast which many other casts are based on. With an overhead cast, the fly line is cast in front of you towards your target after having brought the line overhead from behind you.

Where to Fish

While obtaining all the required gear is important, your success will also largely depend on finding quality fishing spots. One of the best ways to gain knowledge about all the best fishing spots in your local area is to join a local fly fishing club or see if there is an online Facebook group that focuses on fly fishing in your region.

Fellow fly fishermen are often willing to give advice and share some of their successful spots with beginners. They will be able to tell you what species you are likely to catch and when the best time is to fish for them.

Trout and salmon species are often present in fast flowing rivers and streams that have deep pools, rocks, or tree branches from which they can easily hide in or behind and then strike at passing prey or hopefully your own flies.

Have Patience and Practice

Fly fishing will require a lot of patience on your part, especially if you are indeed a beginner. The key is to do your research and then spend as much time as you have available out in the water. Don’t get discouraged at first if your line continually becomes tangled or your knots fail.

As time goes on you’ll be able to fine tune your technique and learn to read the water and fishing conditions. It may even be a good idea to take note of the conditions, what flies you’re using, and the technique you’re using when fishing is proving successful so you can hopefully replicate the experience again.

We hope our tips help you to get started on the right foot and hopefully land some quality fish. There are plenty of rivers and streams out there awaiting your arrival.

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Author: Michael Jerrard

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