Fly fishing gained a lot of attention over the last few years as many of us looked for new ways to spend our free time and reconnect with nature. For those that haven’t taken the plunge, it may be because it appears intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you focus on the essentials and are willing to do a small amount of research, you’ll realize that it’s far more achievable than you thought. So, if you have even the smallest itch to give fly fishing a shot, start by reading our fly fishing tips for beginners and you’ll be on your way!
9 Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners
1. Visit your local fly shop
Fly shops are an incredible resource for anglers of all skill levels. Find the nearest fly shop and pay them a visit. Let them know that you’re a beginner and ask them to help you get started. They will help you find entry level gear and fishing locations for you to cut your teeth on. Fly shops are experts on their local lakes and streams, so they’ll know the perfect water for a beginner.
2. Buy the essentials
As a beginner, keep it simple! Only buy the gear that is absolutely necessary to get on the water. There are affordable rod/reel combos, nets and beginner packs that contain a fly box, a dozen flies, line, nippers and forceps. This is all you need to get a feel for the sport and learn. As you progress as an angler, you’ll naturally upgrade your gear, but that can wait.
Optional items: Unless you're fishing in colder climates or seasons, waders and wading boots are optional. If necessary, inquire with your local fly shop about rentals before you buy!
3. Wear sun protection
It might sound obvious, but sun protection is critical when fly fishing. Not only are you outside for extended periods of time but you’re typically standing in water, which means you’re exposed to direct and refracted UV rays from the water.
In addition to sunscreen, wearing appropriate attire is key. More often than not, you’ll find us wearing UPF 50+ protection long sleeve shirts with a hood. If we don’t have a hood, we wear a UPF 50+ neck gaiter to shield our neck and face from the sun. To top it off, always wear a hat and sunglasses (polarized preferred) to protect your head/face and decrease water glare.
4. Read and watch “How To” blogs
Congratulations! You’re already working on this step. Fly fishing has become a very popular sport and as a result, there is an incredible amount of content online geared toward beginners. Performing a “How To” search in Google or YouTube will provide the information you need to learn the basics. At FlyCast, we’ve dedicated a large portion of our blogs to beginner level tips, so check them out!
5. Practice casting before you get to the water
Casting is an art that can take years to master. While you don’t need to be an expert on day 1, getting a feel for the rod and learning how to “load your line”, or extend the fly line behind you, before casting forward, will make your first day more enjoyable. Watch a few videos and practice casting in your yard or at a park. It may sound funny, but it’s not. 10+ years into fly fishing and we still practice casting. We’ve even made a game out of it that we call FlyGolf. Focus on getting a smooth cast where the line lays out flat behind you and rolls out onto a flat plane in front of you. Landing your line in front of you as soft as possible is the goal.
6. Find beginner-friendly water
Regardless of where you live, odds are you have access to a number of different types of fishable water. Rivers, creeks, lakes and ponds are all fair game when it comes to fishing, but some are better than others for beginners. Ponds and lakes are typically the most beginner friendly as they offer wide open space for you to practice casting and landing your flies softly on the water. Not having to work with a moving current is also a plus. If you’re itching to fish moving water, creeks and smaller rivers tend to contain less selective fish, increasing your odds of having a successful day.
7. Find a mentor
There’s a lot that goes into having a successful day of fishing and it can be overwhelming for a beginner, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether it’s a friend, fishing guide or local fly shop, finding someone to guide you through the basics will dramatically decrease your learning curve. Buying the right gear and getting to the water is the easy part. Knowing how to use your gear, which flies to use and how to fish, is where a mentor comes in handy.
8. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Similar to golf, fly fishing isn’t something you pick up overnight. It’s a continuous game of improvement, so be patient with yourself. In the first year, you’ll frequently get tangled, stuck in trees, lose flies and have days where you don’t catch a single fish. Enjoy the process and appreciate the time you spend outside. Catching fish is fun but it’s not the only thing that makes fly fishing so enjoyable and therapeutic.
9. Fish the warm months
Depending on where you live, fly fishing can be a year-round sport. Every season has its perks but for beginners, summer is ideal for two reasons. The ability to wet-wade is one. With warm air and water temps, anglers can ditch their waders and stand in the water with appropriate footwear and shorts. Not having to immediately invest in a pair of waders is a great way to save money up front. Second, fish tend to be easier to catch because there is ample bug life. More bugs in and on the water means just about every fly in your box will work, making it easier to select an appropriate fly.
About FlyCast USA
A big thanks to our friends Travis Coe and Taylor Cavey at FlyCast USA for this guest blog. When they’re not providing dynamic fly fishing forecasts for the State of Colorado, Travis and Taylor are out fishing. Follow them on Instagram and check out their website for forecasts and info on the FlyCast Collective, a membership program that gives anglers access to shops and guides. Get even more fishing tips on their blog.
Photo Credit: River Ambassadors Media