HOW TO: Beginner Fly Fishing

Autumn may have already knocked down our doors, but now is a great time to get started in fly fishing. The cooler temperatures bring fish closer to shore and make them more active during feeding time. That makes for some great fishing. But even with the first frost comes a bevy of opportunities to dip your waders in the fly fishing waters.

You may have noticed that I recently took up the sport. Starting with the novice title has given me a great perspective on the true art and craft of fly fishing. Unlike what most of us think of when we hear “Fishing” — what’s actually known as spin fishing or spin casting — where you toss bait as hard and far as you can into the water and then reel it back in, fly fishing requires a bit more finesse and skill to master. Getting those huge, graceful loops in the fly line, the kind you see in A River Runs Through It, takes a dexterity most people don’t realize they have. There is no denying that there are myriad things to know to become a master fly fisherman (and let’s not even get into fly tying yet), but the barrier to entry in this graceful and surprisingly addictive sport is relatively thin.

From a novice perspective, here are some things you should consider when you’re first getting into fly fishing.

Buy a book

Books on fly fishing are plentiful, and most are full of fantastic information for the beginner fly fisherman. The internet is a great resource too, but you can have too much of a good thing, so grabbing a book from your local library will help you avoid a brain meltdown. Orvis and L.L. Bean offer some fine resources (disclosure: I am an L.L. Bean employee, but that doesn’t really color my opinion all that much), like the L.L. Bean Fly-Fishing Handbook or The Orvis Guide to Beginning Fly Fishing.

Take a lesson

When it comes to book learning, I’m a dummy. It’s far easier for me to learn from someone who already knows how to do a skill, So, I’ll speak from experience here: L.L. Bean offers some great fly casting “Walk On Adventures” at many of their stores, and several fantastic fly fishing courses through their Outdoor Discovery Schools. Courses at other shops are likely available in your area from experienced fly fishermen, and while a book can get you the basics of knots and mechanics, there’s really no substitute for going outside and actually doing it while a trained instructor watches. They’ll be able to point out flaws, give you tips on how to improve, and show you tricks the best fishermen use to catch fish.
Fly Fishing on the River Severn

Buy some gear

All you really need to get started are a rod, a reel, backing, fly line, leader, some flies, and a place to fish. When you shop for a rod, reel, and line, you’ll hear about matching rod & reel weights, rod length, and the hundreds of types of flies you can purchase. Talk to the sales reps to learn about what you need, and do some research ahead of time by reading some fly fishing books or visiting some of the more popular fly fishing websites.

Find some water

One of the more fun (and sometimes secretive) parts of fly fishing is finding a good place to fish. The best way to start fly fishing is to practice your cast on a grass lawn with a practice fly made of yarn. But once you’re ready to hit the water, grab a map of your area and your fishing regulations book, and head out to do some fly fishing! Lakes, brooks, rivers, streams, and ponds almost always offer good fishing, depending on the area and time of year.
Fighting the morning first bass

Fish on!

Spring is a great time to fly fish, as the fish are in the spawning stage, so they’ll be really active and ready to chow down on just about any bug you drop. Summer gets tough because it’s hot and the fish become less active due to lower oxygen levels in the water. In the summer, you’ll want to fish early in the morning or later in the evening when things have cooled down. Fall offers some great fishing in the northern climates too, when the temps have cooled and fish are moving around again.

Fly fishing can be one of the most rewarding and exciting sports around. There’s nothing like the thrill of hooking a fish and reeling him in, landing him in your net and taking that trophy picture before gently releasing him back into his home. It’s amazing: once you’re hooked (pun possibly intended), it turns into an addiction. Remember to not let all the fancy gear get in the way of why you’re truly there. Fly fishing is one of the simplest sports around, and you should enjoy its simplicity.

Chris Cavallari

About Chris Cavallari

Chris is a longtime digital content producer based in Maine. Since 1999, he has been an early adopter and active participant in blogging, podcasting, and social media, and has been guiding small and mid-sized businesses in leveraging video, social media, and digital publishing to the fullest. With an avid love of travel and the outdoors, Chris started in 2009 to give him a platform to showcase his outdoors and travel adventures, and to help educate others in doing the same.