When you think about the quintessential fishing experience in America, the first thought that springs to mind is probably a focused fisherman in a pair of rubber waders, standing out in a running stream, flinging his rod back and forth in the hopes of catching something tasty.
That image is, for many, very close to how they were raised and watched friends and family enjoy that style of fishing before they tried it themselves.
Fly fishing is a unique type of fishing that requires a whole lot of skill but a lot more excitement, using flies that resemble insects and hatches found in the area where the fish are to try and lure them to feed. What it involves, though, is a whole lot more including casting, entomology, fly tying, stealth, and patience.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, there were close to 4 million fly fishers in this country, but that number is likely to have grown since their last report. As a sub-category of angling, it’s pretty obvious that people love the thrill and challenge that this unique style of fishing has to offer and that’s why so many are eager to learn more.
There’s a lot that goes into fly fishing, whether it’s looking at all of the gear and accessories you need or knowing how to correctly use them and sight fish, or pick the correct fly for the job, and this planning and process makes it even more powerful when you land one.
Fly anglers are patient with their hobby and rewarded ten fold when they catch a fish as so much has gone into their beloved passion.
If you’re completely new to the concept of fly fishing but want to be part of the millions who know and love everything about it, this comprehensive beginner’s guide is the right place to start.
We’ll take you through the history of the sport all the way through to the tips and tricks you can use to help you land your first fish, and with a little bit of practice, you’ll become as hooked on fishing as everyone else.
What Is Fly Fishing?
Although one of the most recognized forms of fishing in the world, some people are still a little confused about what fly fishing actually is. In basic terms, fly fishing is when the angler uses an artificial fly as bait in order to catch fish, but there’s a whole lot more that goes into it than just that.
The fly used to catch fish is imperative to the success of the fisherman and depending on where you’re fishing and what fish you’re trying to land, you’ll need to change it up quite a bit. Usually, fishermen go by a phrase ‘match the hatch’ which means to match their fly to the insects hatching in the water nearby, as this is what the local fish will be used to feasting on.
However, as with any style of fishing, there’s a lot of patience and craft that goes into it and because you’re using a fly you want it to be as enticing to the fish as possible. This means you need to study your own movements as well as how the fly moves in the water, as all of this works together towards your success.
Fly fishing was traditionally done in streams, however, nowadays there’s really no limit to where you can cast your line. Using a traditional rod and reel, as well as carefully selected flies, you can set up at any freshwater or saltwater body of water and try your luck at this special style of fishing, realizing why it’s so popular when you land your first fish.
The History Of Fly Fishing
Just like anything we enjoy today, fly fishing has itself undergone some changes since it was first introduced and all thanks to the wonders of technology. One thing that has never been truly established was when exactly the first fly fishing ever occurred, although we can assume it was around the end of the 2nd century in Rome.
Local Roman, Claudius Aelianus, noted that he saw Macedonian fisherman using a technique that we today recognize as fly fishing where they would use red wool and feathers from a bird to lure fish onto their line. The very first iterations of flies were made from natural materials like this, however today it’s common to see more artificial materials being used.
During the 18th century, inventions like running rings on the rods were invented in order to give anglers more control and eventually they began being made of things like bamboo for greater flexibility. Once fly fishing became a commercial hobby it was common to see flies and rods being sold in department stores, and from there we saw the production of books on the art.
One of the biggest revelations to fly fishing came with the 1836 book by Alfred Ronalds titled The Fly-Fisher’s Entomology which featured detailed colored images of which flies would suit which fish a well as detailed guides and instructions on the fishing style.
To this day, these types of illustrations are still seen and this amount of detail is still used by those in the angling industry.
The rods were another significant area of development as they moved from bamboo onto more modern materials including graphite and carbon. Orvis was the first to develop the novel reel and fly design in 1874 which is still considered to be monumental to this day, and from there the modern reel as we know it was made.
Why Fly Fishing Is So Popular
Those who don’t know as much about fishing assume that all types were created equally, but you ask any fly angler and they’ll tell you that their style of fishing is best. These are just a few reasons why fly fishing is better than other types of fishing, and how you can benefit:
Common Fly Fishing Species
There are countless species of fish out there and all of them present their own unique challenge to the fisherman, but here in America, there are some that we most commonly try to land.
Some are considered easy to catch and are great for beginners but others are more of a challenge that the expert angler tries to land.
The Essential Fly Fishing Gear
Just like any other form of fishing, fly fishing can get expensive if you get carried away with all of the gear and accessories. There’s no need to spend a lot just to get the basics, and here are some things you might want to consider, in addition to your flies.
Popular Fly Fishing Methods And Techniques
The most common technique people want to learn is how to fly cast, as this is completely different to other styles of fishing.
These simple steps will help you perform a fly cast, although you’ll need to put in hours of practice to get it right.
Other Techniques Used In Fly Fishing
In addition to the standard type of fly fishing, there are many other variations you can try, which is what makes this sport such a diverse one. Here are some common fly fishing methods you might want to practice:
Every angler is different and might have their own spin on casting or other techniques and that’s one thing that makes this sport so special. Over time, you might even find your own way of casting that best suits you and be able to pass this knowledge on to friends and family, too.
The Many Types Of Artificial Flies
A huge part of the fly fishing process is the flies that you use, and choosing the right ones will be even more important than the rod and reel you select.
These are a few types of flies and how they differ from the rest:
Within these categories of flies, there are thousands and thousands of varieties, each designed with a particular species in mind.
One of the best things about fly fishing is that in addition to buying ready made flies that look like these insects, many anglers prefer to create their own flies with natural materials which only adds further to the excitement and satisfaction of the sport.
A Special Style Of Fishing
After just one try of fly fishing, you’ll see why it’s enjoyed by so many, and will quickly realize why four million Americans love it so much. With so much to learn about this special sport you could easily spend years researching it before you ever set foot in the water, but half the fun is about practice and getting amongst nature as you learn.
The best place to start is by looking at your local fishing spots and spending some time there researching the environment and what insects are around. You might even spot a fellow fly angler who is happy to give you some tips and tricks, sharing their passion for the amazing style of fishing.
There are plenty of guides and books to keep you busy, but for the most part, you’ll learn everything you know from experience.
To get yourself started with your lifelong passion for fly fishing, you’ll need the right gear. Thankfully, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get started and there are plenty of great ways to start with simple and affordable gear. We’ve created a buying guide just for this purpose so that you can find the right rod and reel to suit your needs.
According to the research, our nation’s love for fly fishing only grows bigger and better, and we’re now seeing even more women get involved in the sport. This is a great activity for nature lovers, the elderly, families, and friends, or those who like to have some alone time in the wilderness, and it will motivate and satisfy you in ways you never thought possible.