What is fly fishing? The beginners guide to professional fishing

fly fishing

For those who do not know what is fly fishing? – its a type of sport fishing that uses mainly a fly rod and a bait or lure called fly. It is mainly practiced in continental or fluvial waters, such as rivers, streams, marshes, lakes or reservoirs, and much less frequently it can be practiced in salt water. Other names it receives are flyfishing or rat-tail fishing, due to the characteristic line it uses.

The Origin Of Flyfishing

Have you ever wondered where fly fishing comes from?

This discipline, in its modern version, derives from the techniques developed in Great Britain with a purely recreational objective, leaving aside the historical need of man to fish for food. It has been over the past few centuries that these techniques have evolved to become what we know today as a sport or an outdoor recreation discipline, to call it somehow.

But the origins of the technique of using a hook disguised as an insect to catch fish come from the East, many centuries earlier, where some cultures have managed to develop ways of deceiving fish based on their need to feed on the organisms that inhabit their enviroment.

Although the earliest recorded writings mentioning the use of artificial flies to catch fish come from 4,000-year-old Eastern documents dating back to the Shang dynasty, the origins of this practice should date back to the 2nd century BC. . in macedonia At that time an account was written in “The Natural History of Elian” (De Natura Animalium) describing a “way of fishing in Macedonia”, referring to a river called Astraeus, in which “there are silver-skinned fish spots”. These fish concentrated their food on some flies flying over the river, which the natives called “hippouros”.

In particular, fishermen do not use these flies as bait, since when they die they lose the color of their wings, leaving their attractiveness as food. So what they did was wrap a hook with red wool and adorn it with wax-colored feathers, and with a 2 meter long rod and a similar length of thread, they cast this lure and the fish is attracted to the color, thus attacking this object. on the surface. It’s that easy.

Fly fishing, as it is practiced today, focuses on imitating the organisms that are part of the fish diet, decorating the hooks with various materials, both natural and artificial, which manage to give the impression of real insects, deceiving and catching so these elusive fish. Flying fish

Centuries later, the evolution of this simple and direct technique has allowed the development of countless varieties of fly mounts, which are able to imitate not only the flying insects that fish feed on, but also small crustaceans, other fish, and in general. the full range of organisms that can be part of the diet of the fish we are looking for.

While much of the fly fishing techniques have developed around trout, considered by many to be “the fish designed for fly fishing”, in recent years both gear and skippers have turned to other environments and species, including the large saltwater fish.

The technique for fly fishing


It is not easy to fly fish, especially if you are just starting out, since it requires a lot of practice to make the line “dance” to the sound of the rod and to place the fly in the exact place where we want our desired fish to bite. Giving the whip effect to the rat tail requires a lot of skill and hours and hours of tangling, but don’t worry, as everything can be learned and if you like fishing, this experience will get you hooked once you try it, I assure you.

Basically we will use a very light rod and much more flexible than any other type of rods used in sea fishing.

The fly casting requires 3 steps:

  • 1st Step: We cast backwards
  • 2nd Step: Pause moment
  • 3rd Step: Cast forward

The moment of pause is the one that will give us more or less distance in the cast, that is to say, more pause, more distance and vice versa.

This type of river fishing is based on capturing the fish by luring it with a lure or sample that imitates all kinds of insects, whether nymphs, pupae, dried or drowned, in a slow and careful way. It is evident that each fish has its own eating habits and tastes, which is why the good fly fisherman uses this knowledge to opt for a unique lure or fly for each occasion, whether for fishing at medium depth, on the surface or on the bottom.

That is why we can distinguish two clearly differentiated types of fly fishing.

With dry fly, insect samples are used in their adult phase, their behavior is based on flying and landing on the surface of the water to deposit their larvae.

With drowned fly, lures are used to fish with rat tails in mid-water or deep water, flies that imitate small larvae or nymphs that in their natural state are under the surface.

Video on casting technique for fly fishing HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Essential materials and equipment for fly fishing

The equipment for this type of sport fishing is undoubtedly special, since fly fishing requires specific materials and accessories, let’s go over each of them in more detail.

Fly fishing rods

This type of rods is not unique, its main features are its high flexibility and low weight, although these details will also depend on the fisherman’s preferences as well as other aspects such as the weight of the line to use or the type of reel we choose.

Rods of between 2 and 3 and a half meters (between 7 and 11 feet) are usually used, the length will depend on the area and the type of fish we are going to fish and the lure to be used, built in different materials according to the range of the rod, for example, for medium or low range rods fiberglass or bamboo is used and for high range fly fishing rods the main material is carbon fiber, much lighter and stronger.

Regarding the action of the rods (where the rod bends) there are 3 types:

  • Fast action: the reed bends only at the tip.
  • Medium action: the rod bends from the tip to the middle part of the rod.
  • Slow or parabolic action: The rod bends almost to the grip or blank of the fishing rod.

Fly fishing reels

Semi-automatic fly fishing reel – it is a special piece within the fly fisherman’s equipment, its main purpose is to carry and store the fishing line inside, we can find in the market an infinity of brands and prices very different from each other, although by their characteristics there are two types of fly fishing reels, manual and semi-automatic, with the latter we can pick up the line in a much faster and more comfortable way, this type of semi-automatic fishing reels are very practical for beginner fishermen.

The weight and size must be proportionate to our rod.

Fishing lines

fishing line

It is undoubtedly one of the parts of the fly fishing equipment that differs the most from other sport fishing modalities, the fly fishing silk has unique characteristics in weight, size and thickness and depending on these we can give it some applications or others.

The material of manufacture of the lines can be natural or synthetic, and due to its shape it receives the name of rat tail, since the thickness goes backwards until it joins the mother line. The weight is greater than other types of conventional fishing lines in order to cast the small and light flies to the desired spot.

The parts of the fly fishing line are:

The main line or rat tail: they can be centered or off-center depending on the way of use, the average length is usually about 25 meters and its manufacture is made of nylon mostly. Formerly these lines were made of natural materials such as silk, but due to their high cost and the appearance of new materials, they have fallen into disuse.

The fly fishing lines are numbered by reference to their weight from 1 to 15, since this characteristic is fundamental in fly fishing casts, since by using very light lures we must give weight to the line to carry out our casts. The number 1 refers to the lightest line up to number 15 for the heaviest.

Expert anglers know perfectly well how to combine the weight of both the rod and the line depending on the fish they are going to catch, it is an art.

Leader: It is the part of the thread that forms a union with the fly thanks to the tippet, and in turn joins with the mother line, the length of the leader is usually about 12 feet or 3 and a half meters. There are two types of leaders, the conical ones that can be leaded or floating and the knotted ones, more economical than the previous ones although they can give us more problems because of the knots they can cause.

Tapered leaders are the most commonly used in fly fishing due to their reliability and resistance.

Tipped: As we have already mentioned, it is the part of the line that joins our fly with the line and it is the finest part of our rigging. The tipped suffers a lot of wear in the fishing action by rubbing or abrasion, therefore it is the most critical section, that is why we must pay more attention to have a tipped in perfect condition so that our line does not break.

The average length of the tipped is half a meter up to 75 cm. For fishing in areas with strong currents, we will use shorter tipped lines to minimize the dredging effect on the fly. It is very common to use stainless steel tipped when fishing for pike, because these fish have saw-shaped teeth that can cut the nylon line.

Backing: It is the most resistant part of the thread, normally braided thread is used for our backing, it is the section of the line that is tied to our fishing reel.

It has three particular functions:

  • To give balance to the weight that makes up our rod and reel.
  • To give access to the line exit more easily.
  • To have extra length of line for very difficult catches.

Types of fishing lines most commonly used for fly fishing

fishing rod

Shooting Tapers: It is a type of line that is characterized by having more weight at the tip giving more distance to the cast.

Double Taper: Medium-weight line, very soft and delicate, widely used in streams with little water and small creeks.

Rocket Taper: The weight is placed on its tip and, like the shooting taper, it reaches long casting distances, ideal for beginners.


Waders are a main part of fly fishing since the angler is constantly in the water, this type of garment is made of neoprene and insulating PVC, they are waders that cover from the chest to the feet. For very cold waters it is advisable to use waders with neoprene of a thickness greater than 3 or 5 mm to better withstand the low water temperatures as we will be quite a long time in and out of the water.

Other accessories…

Tweezers, pliers, sunglasses, sunscreen, fishing cap, insect repellent, boga grip, fishing bag, fishing box … in short, a whole arsenal to complete our fly fishing equipment.

Flies or Lures

They are small artificial lures that imitate insects. Depending on the insects’ state of maturity, we can find a wide range of flies, and they are extremely light lures.

Types of flies or lures used

  • Dry flies
  • Nymphs
  • Streamers
  • Imitators
  • Attractors

Dry fly fishing

We refer to the use of flies that are placed on the surface of the water floating above it, the use of feathers and hairs are very common to give greater buoyancy to our flies, it is an art of craftsmanship and there are true artisans fly fishermen who design and manufacture their own lures with delicacy and perfection. There are many types of dry flies but without a doubt the most famous are the Elk Hair Caddis, Royal Wulff or Adams.

Nymph fishing

In this case, fly fishermen rely on the larva state of the flies to build their lures, this type of flies called nymphs work underwater, they have less buoyancy so that they can dive underwater more easily, therefore less feathers are used for their manufacture, in addition they are provided with an additional weight or ballast so that they dive better. The most commonly used nymph models are the pheasant tail, Zug Bug or the Hare’s Ear.

Streamer fishing

The trout fishing lure par excellence, the streamer is intended to resemble and imitate the small minnows and crustaceans that trout eat, like nymphs, an extra weight is added so that they can act underwater. The most commonly used streamers are Marabou Muddler, Woolly Bugger, Bucktails Streamers or the Zonker.

It is very common in the world of fly fishing to catch and release fish, since the philosophy of the fly fisherman is closely related to the care of the environment and a deep respect for the fauna and flora that coexist in rivers, reservoirs, marshes or streams there.

How to fly fish for black bass?


Dragonflies and basses, hunters hunted.

These extremely beautiful insects are the kings in the air. They boast perfect maneuverability, standing at will as if they were stuck in the sky. They are perfect hunters, with astonishing vision and reach up to 80 km/h (50 mph). Winged predators that, in turn, and for these reasons, have few natural enemies.

The basses go crazy chasing them without being able to hunt them. But, at this time, when dragonflies have already finished their life cycle, they become more delicate and it is the moment when they are tasted by these centrachids with greater eagerness.

Summer sees its last days. Invertebrate life also and, possibly, it is this month when dragonfly imitations offer us the best days. These assemblies are not complicated, the color of the imitation will be similar to the color of the place where we intend to fish, although it is not strictly necessary, because although there are of various shades, I have achieved the best results with the red ones, it may also be because they are more abundant.

These imitations are super light, but we must not forget that the wings protrude quite a lot and will produce when casting them, the “swirl” effect deteriorating our bass, especially when we use fine tips.

It is important to check it from time to time, because as it gets wrinkled it loses the resistance it was supposed to have and in an oversight we would lose the bass that all fishermen have had in mind for many years. In addition to the colors they can be mounted with different materials, but lately the king is the foam, they are more comfortable and faster to mount, they fulfill to perfection their function of buoyancy and they are light and easy to throw.

These imitations, besides having a nice look, are really effective for black bass fishing, what I can assure you is that they make us feel more fulfilled as riggers.

The equipment and flies for black bass

It is the usual for black bass fishing, nine-foot rod (tip action) and eight-foot line, if possible, off-center. There is a special one that works very well and is designed for surface bass fishing. It is called “bass bug taper”. Long leader, although not excessively, twelve feet will be enough, 0.25 to 0.30 ends will be good to secure big fish and, above all, so that they do not curl, although if necessary we would lower the thickness.

Fly fishing strategy for black bass

Fishing while waiting: this type of fishing is perfect especially on the points of the reservoirs or on the ledges of the bends, where “mother black bass” is two meters deep and is not bothered by anything, but a bite as exquisite as that of a dragonfly will make her come up, but always after making sure that she will not be trolled.

It is a type of fishing for gentle people, patience is the best weapon. If you thought that fishing with popper was the maximum of tranquility, you will realize that this fishing is made for people with ice blood, because, I have even managed to nail basses after more than five endless minutes without blinking, and of course, without moving the fly, disappearing in the softest of the attacks.

I recommend you to be very attentive, as most anglers expect a brutal, water-splashed bite from these fish. However, the opposite is usually the case. In addition, if we are not attentive, it will immediately expel the fly from its mouth, realizing that it is “a bit” of a lie.

To hook these fish it is better to do it laterally, since the fly is standing still for so long, even when using floating lines, the leader sinks as it is longer, makes more belly and if we were to hook it vertically it would take a few tenths of a second longer, besides costing us more work.

Stalking fishing: we will look for them along the banks, throwing our dragonfly in front, to alert them. If before we let our imitation rest in the water, we lift it as soon as it touches the water, and we land it again, we will finish them off and they will gobble it this time with a real bass attack. Besides, when bass are grouped and hunting, they don’t wait for their partner to come first, it’s the classic “I’ll eat it so you don’t eat it”.

Another very simple strategy to follow is to locate the flocks of basses after the dragonflies, we will see with our own eyes how they chase them and jump out of the water to catch them. It will be easy in this case to fool them easily with our imitation, but the bigger ones will not fool around, they know how to wait in their hunting grounds and when to move to get what they want.

Try dragonflies and fish while waiting, you will get fewer specimens, but I assure you that they will be bigger. Take care of them and release them, because, as a good friend told me, these fish are special.

Other curiosities about dragonflies

These beautiful insects, which some will identify as “damselflies” are harmless to humans, as they neither sting, since they have no stingers, nor suck blood. They are hunters that kill their prey by holding them with their strong legs and breaking them into pieces with their powerful jaws. There are many dragonflies flying around the world, comprising some 3,600 species of insects belonging to the odonate order (odonata) that live mainly in tropical areas.

The largest dragonfly ever known lived in the Permian and Carboniferous periods, and measured seventy centimeters with open wings. Can you imagine what basses must have looked like? However, nowadays and around here we can only see as maximum exponent the royal dragonfly (Anax imperator) that only reaches eleven centimeters with its wings spread.

The larvae live in the water, remaining underwater for one to four years, depending on the species. They feed on Trichoptera, Ephemeroptera, tadpoles and fish fry, as well as other small invertebrates. To pick up speed, they spurt water from the respiratory chamber of their abdomen with force, thus catching their victims faster and at the same time hiding from predators.

One of the most important virtues of these insects when they are adults, apart of course from the magnificent flight they perform, is their powerful eyesight, as they have compound eyes, reaching ten thousand lenses per eye in some species, which gives them a unique vision.

The suborder of dragonflies (Aisoptera) includes perfect flying insects that keep their wings outstretched at rest, while damselflies (Zygoptera) are more clumsy in flight and fold their wings when they perch. In addition, the latter are found at higher elevations, even where our mountain trout live, and live for a few weeks as adults, while the adult dragonfly lives for about four months.

Species most caught in fly fishing with droppers

Droppers, double set-ups for all species

fly fishing method

Dropper fly-fishing rigging – If any fly-fisherman no longer remembers the tangles he made during his first steps as a caster, here is the solution and surely if he has never tried it, when he does, he will remember those first catastrophic casts. Although everything has a solution and practice, as everything in life, will be the key to casting (of course).
these flies, which will also give you success in rare or complicated situations for all types of fish.

And with both marine and freshwater species, predatory or not, why not try it?

Among the great variety of flies and fishing systems, there is one that stands out for the way it works; they are not single, double or tandem flies, they are called droppers and are nothing more than two flies separated by a few centimeters of nylon.

Normally one larger than the other, almost always the first one will be in charge of attracting attention, being very attractive to the fish, but fishing with the second one, smaller and more discreet, and also more appetizing. This system will solve rare or complicated situations and with different species as we will see later on.

It is not a system for catching fish two by two, even if it sometimes happens, since it will almost always be a matter of one of the flies calling and the other one fishing. It is the old “teaser” trick so well known to offshore anglers.


Reel and fly fishing rod – To fish this salmon, which is becoming scarcer in our waters, we can use a dropper for very clear water and moderate currents that has also given me results in other types of scenarios. A large and visible fly is tied followed by a nymph at a distance of forty to fifty centimeters (always depending on the depth and current of the river).

They can be knotted in different ways, but the best one is joined by the same bass line, as shown in the drawing, although it has the problem that the fly above nails badly, but it is quite effective for fishing with drifting nymphs (without ballast) apart from being a really good system for those anglers who do not master fishing with sinking flies.

This dry-nymph dropper will be perfect for them and the dry fly will serve as a bite indicator, as well as fishing also on some occasions while serving as an attractor. But this assembly can be varied if we want to make it work the other way around.

The nymph will make them move, but they will eat the fly that sails overhead. The difference comes when mounting them so that the first one nails well, and we will have to use two different threads, one is the main one and is tied to the dry fly, and the other is a branch that is attached to it in front of the dry fly and where the nymph is tied. It is not very orthodox, but it also works.

And as trout eat or feed in different ways, you can mount different dropper, each one for its moment, being able to make different combinations with the same species of insect: dry-emergent, dry-nymph, emergent-nymph, dry-drowned, drowned-nymph, etc. For restocked trout, so fashionable nowadays everywhere, the nymph streamer works very well.

The best results have been obtained with a streamer mounted on blue krystal flash and dark nymphs.

Black bass

When we fish for bass, especially in places with a lot of pressure, it becomes really difficult to fool them, especially the bigger ones, which often don’t even deign to look at our imitations, making a devastating disdain towards us. Apart from the endless possibilities, the one that gives the best results is the dropper formed by the popper-streamer combination, but it is necessary to make some variation in the rigging so that both of them navigate well and also fish.

Before starting to mount the popper, a loop is made with thick nylon (0.60 mm) to later tie the streamer. You can also attach an emery hook to the hook or with wire like the one we use for pike. When basses don’t decide to take the popper because they don’t come up at all, this system will give us the solution.

The popper will do its job calling all those that are hiding with its incessant blup, blup, blup, blup, and the streamer will be the one that catches them, because they will not have to go up so high to eat. This system is also used in the sea with some species such as sea bass, sea bream, permit, permit, etc. In addition, with black bass it is relatively common to hook two fish simultaneously.


In some marshes, barbel and carp are becoming more and more aggressive, or at least we are noticing it now, since catches of these cyprinids with streamers are becoming more and more frequent. But the most normal situation when we fish in this way is the following: we are fishing for pike or black bass with streamer and sometimes they come just behind (barbel or carp, but also bogas) without catching them.

I advise you in these situations to put a nymph behind, you will be surprised how easy it is to catch fish. You can rig the dropper in the ways already mentioned, but the quickest and most effective way is to tie a piece of nylon, twenty to thirty centimeters long, in the same bend of the hook.

There is no danger of taking the thread that is tied to the bend of the hook, if the knot moves downwards, it would stop with the death of the streamer hook, although it is advisable to check it frequently, because the same sharpening of the hook can wear the null until it breaks.

The combined popper-nymph dropper also works for barbel or popper streamer, the latter being of very small dimensions. In this case, the best results are obtained with clear colors and without reflections.


For this fish it is not really necessary to use droppers, since when they are on they will attack, and when they are resting, we will not move them with anything. Although it could be useful on heavily fished spots where systematic rejection of our imitations would be the norm.

Putting a dropper of two streamers together, ten to fifteen centimeters apart, the results can change. When fishing in places with aquatic vegetation or places where they can hide, a solution is to put a popper-streamer dropper, or better yet, diver-streamer, but with a greater margin in the distance of the two flies.

The system for tying a dropper with emery is to attach it very well to the hook before tying the fly. If we are using steel lugs, it must also be fixed before starting to mount the streamer or diver.


Although fly experiences with this species are very limited, it does seem advisable to rely on droppers. In the case of pikeperch, it is better to mount a very large fly with a little more weight, just enough to be able to cast it, followed by a smaller one, for example, with some foam, at a distance of about sixty centimeters.

The attractor fly is the first one and touches the bottom (where they usually are), it will attract the attention of these fish, which will hit it to try to kill it and it is possible that we can nail some, but when they find the second one (which is suspended in mid-water), sailing above it, they will swallow it better, since having a relatively small mouth, it will enter them at the first attack.

There are other species, such as tench that also like streamers with reflections, especially golden ones, and many times they also come after them, some of the droppers already seen in this article will be useful. I hope you try these rigs or fishing systems and that they give you good results, and be very careful when casting them because the ears of your companions are soft, like yours, and the hooks stick very well.

How to get started in fly fishing? the definitive guide

fly fishing

The passion for the practice of fly fishing is unmatched, from its origins, its evolution, tips, materials and philosophy when facing this beautiful art of fly fishing. As you all know it is a very special technique that involves having a different and exclusive material, a technique that leaves no one indifferent and good fishing enthusiasts who want to try new experiences do not hesitate to switch at some point in their lives to fly fishing, especially in rivers and reservoirs.

How to fly fish? A true story

First steps
My passion for fly fishing was something natural. This passion evolved from my youth where I spent not only chasing fish, but also trying to discover the secrets of the rivers full of all those creatures that inhabited it. If you have never fished before or have not done it seriously, but would like to learn, you have a couple of options.

The first is to buy a spinning rod, some lures, a box of worms, and go straight to fishing. The second option is that before you start a multi-hour day trying to catch some fish, learn first about water types, fish structure and movements, most appropriate weather conditions, best local fishing areas etc… with this you will have a solid background before you pick up your first, and challenging, fly fishing rod.

Shortening the learning curve

Whatever approach you choose, remember that it is a learning process and will take time. It is not advisable to start by performing a complicated maneuver, such as using a size 18 dry fly for trout fishing in a wooded stream, as you are likely to become frustrated and discouraged with the results. Like any student, you will have the satisfaction of a job well done as you gain experience.

Get into a trout pond where the open spaces and fish will help you be more successful. You can learn on your own, but having a patient friend or mentor by your side is invaluable. If these friends are in short supply, look for one of the many fly fishing clubs around your province, there are bound to be some where you can meet like-minded people and gain great knowledge.

If you are really interested in learning from the best, look for a qualified instructor. Having a second pair of eyes to see and correct your shortcomings has great didactic value. And don’t think this process stops, the best golfers have swing coaches, and every fly caster can continue to learn and polish their cast even if they are already an expert angler, never stop learning.

Fly fishing equipment for beginners

Having a well-balanced outfit (rod, reel and line) is one of the most important requirements. If any one of them is not in accordance, such as a rod that is too light, too heavy or too powerful, your success will be limited and your enjoyment on the water will be diminished. First, equip yourself with everything you need to get started. Many brands have beginner offerings that are superior to the high-end models of just a few years ago due to technological advances. Seek advice from the staff at a quality fly store, and be prepared to answer their questions about the type of fishing you want to do and your estimated budget.

Fly fishing is a great sport

Fly fishing is a sport, a sport built on tradition and conservation. And with that comes rules and guidelines (some more flexible than others), fish size, environment and other aspects. In any case, the tradition of the sport defines it and fills us with reverence. The history and philosophy of fly fishing are as important as the physical and technical aspects of other more familiar sports.

The fly fishing renaissance

Although fly fishing has a long tradition, the modern fly fisherman is savvy, in terms of electronics, equipment, technical clothing, design, fishing techniques and the species of fish pursued in this sport. Although fly fishing is still predominantly practiced by middle-aged men, things are changing, everything has become more diverse and women are being attracted to the sport.

More and more young anglers are uploading their best catches to social networks.

A state of mind

Of all the attributes an angler needs to be successful, I think confidence is the most important. Once you’ve made up your mind to fly fish, and when times get tough, (believe me it will happen) you’ll be tempted to leave your fly rod in the car or on the shore. It is precisely at these times that you need your confidence to keep going and become what you really want, a true fly fisherman full of confidence and wisdom.

Above all, have fun

Don’t get me wrong, I fish to catch fish. But fly fishing is more of an attitude, as it is a physical action, and the whole experience is more important than any catch. There is a tremendous amount of information at your fingertips, from the media, social media, forums, blogs and videos. This is both a blessing and a curse. The learning curve can be expensive, but information overload is problematic. Focus on the fundamentals of fly fishing, and grow from there.

Keep it simple.

The never-ending journey of the fly fisherman.
To me, the current challenge facing fly fishermen is how to incorporate new ideas, trends and modern technology into the sport and still stay true to it. The journey has only just begun, and it will surely be worth it, are you up for fly fishing?

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