Want to Get Started In Fly Fishing? 10 Easy Steps

January 15, 2010

fly fishing, Frenzy, Frenzy Top 10, Tips

Another awesome post from Travis “Dr” Gillespie.  Visit his blog at XstreamOutdoors.com

When some people think about fly fishing they think of a technical, elitist, and expensive sport. In some ways it can be, but if you take it step by step it can be as easy as learning how to ride a bike.
Here are ten easy steps that I have used for myself and to help others get started in this great sport we call fly fishing.
By any means I am not a professional and have probably left out some good stuff, so if any that read this have anything else to add please leave a comment and I will add it to the list. Or if you had something that helped you learn please let me know.


  • Make sure you are legal. Have an up-to-date fishing license and know the regulations to the waters you are planning to fish.
  • Have someone you can turn to for help or advice. If you know someone that fly fishes use them to help you along the way. (Most will be more than happy to help) If you don’t, visit your local fly shop and seek their advice. It is crucial and a very important part of learning the sport, plus you will gain a fishing partner or two along the way. (Also you can get information from internet sites and books)
  • Gear Up With the Basics (Rod, Reel, Line, and Leader). When getting started this might feel overwhelming with all the different fly rods, reels and lines. But use your friend or local fly shop for advice and support. I personally would start with a cheaper rod and reel (under $50-$100) and if you get addicted like most of us, than get a nice brand named set up later on. The perfect set up for Utah and most trout waters is a 9 ft-5 weight rod, 5 weight floating line with 100 yards of 20lb backing, and 9ft-3x leader. Have the fly shop install the backing, line and leader.
  • Practice Casting. Now that you have your Rod, Reel and Leader. Go out in your yard or park and practice casting. Start casting short (10ft) and as you feel comfortable strip out more line and practice longer casts. Casting is one of the most important aspects of fly fishing, if not the most and one that needs to be worked at the most. By getting familiar with the way your rod casts before you hit the river, you will greatly improve your odds of having a better first day on the water. This is the aspect that is hardest for beginners, so work on it!!!!
  • More Essential Gear. This is a list of gear that you don’t want to be without on the water. (I never leave home without this stuff, its like going to a baseball game and forgetting your uniform)
    • Tippet (3x, 4x, 5x, 6x) – b. Little bb weights – c. Line Snips – d. Forceps – e. Strike Indicators – f. Floatant
    • Fly Vest – b. Waders – c. Wading Boots – d. Net – e. Polarized Glasses – f. Hat
  • Learn how to read water (River). One of the aspects that separates a new fly fishermen from a seasoned pro is their ability to read water and know where the fish should be holding. This isn’t a concept one learns over night, but there are a few tips that will get you off on the right foot.
    • 1. Fish Bubbles-If you find bubbles in a river you know that you are in a place that trout like to feed.
    • 2. Fish Drop Offs- Look for areas that riffles drop into deeper water, fish will hangout on the drop off.
    • 3. Fish Cover- Fish are constantly on the look out for predators and will hangout behind rocks, around fallen trees, and under overgrown banks.
    • 4. Fish Seams- A seam is the area between a fast current and slow water. Usually you will notice the water swirling around, peeling off the main current, fish love seams.
  • Learn Your Basic Fly Type. In Fly Fishing you have 4 basic fly types-
    • 1. Dry Flies- These are the flies that float on the surface imitating an adult insect.
    • 2. Nymphs- These are the flies that are fished subsurface imitating the insects on the bottom of the river.
    • 3. Emergers- These are the flies that are fished just below the surface or deeper to imitate insects emerging to the surface to become adults. (They call this a hatch)
    • 4. Steamers- These flies are used to imitate leeches, minnows, crawfish and other fish food. They are usually fished with sinking line on lakes and rivers.
  • Do Your Homework. Before your first outing you should find out a few important factors that will improve your odds to having a successful day on the water.
    • 1. Where are you going and is it fishable?
    • 2. What are the flies to use during this time of year at that place?
    • 3. What is the easiest way to catch fish at that location? (Nymphing, Dry flies, Streamers, etc…)
  • For example: If I plan on fishing the Provo River, I will check the river flows to make sure they are fishable. Then since it is spring, I know that Midges and Blue Winged Olives are the main flies to use. Then I will try and fish dry flies since it is the most productive when the fish are rising and my favorite type of fly fishing.
  • Think Like A Hunter. The best fishermen I know are the ones that hunt fish. They are very cautious of the way they approach a river and the fish in it. They never walk straight into the middle of a river and start fishing. Instead they think of the best way to approach a hole without spooking any fish. So don’t ever fish water, hunt it.
  • Learn From Your Own Experiences on the Water. Get out and learn firsthand by your own experiences on the water. The best way to learn fly fishing is to practice it. One thing that I liked doing since I didn’t know anyone who fly fished and didn’t have anyone to go with, was to study others as they fished. A lot of the time I ended up talking with them and finding out what they were doing to catch fish. Those tips were a great help in learning the sport for me. The bottom-line is that nothing can take the place of spending time on the water learning on your own the fine art of fly fishing. So get out and worked through the tangles and missed hook ups and you will find your reward.

Now you have a foundation of the basics of fly fishing and you want to move up to the next level. See Part Two coming soon. (Entomology, Study of Fish, Fly Tying, Boats, etc…)

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2 Responses to “Want to Get Started In Fly Fishing? 10 Easy Steps”

  1. Bruce Says:

    Travis,

    Thanks for this great introduction to fly fishing. It’s encouraging that you liken this to learning to ride a bike step-by-step. I can ride a bike, so I guess there’s hope for me.

    Reply

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