Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks
Getting started with fly fishing can be quite challenging, but once you get the hang of it, the fun is endless! When I first started fly fishing, my older brother taught me a bunch of the ins and outs. These tips and tricks made my life a whole lot easier, and I was able to catch fish almost every time out on the water. Since all of us aren’t as fortunate with having an experienced fly fisherman out with us on every trip, I thought it would be great to write an article with some of the simple tips and tricks to help you land more fish in your net.
From casting, rigging up your fly rod, buying the right gear, reading the water, picking the right fly, identifying the hatch, and fishing at the right time of day are all things we will cover. Not doing one of these things right can mean not catching any fish. The more practice and learning you can do, will help your chances of catching fish on your fly rod.
If you are still on the fence about whether you want to try fly fishing or not, I would suggest that you should try if you already normal fish and you want more excitement and a bigger challenge. I like to think of fly fishing like the big leagues of fishing, because of everything that goes into it, and the challenge of landing the fish once you get him on the end of your fly fishing line. I still normal fish with a spinner here and there, but once I took up fly fishing, I was addicted.
Buying the right fly fishing gear.
Fly fishing gear can be exceptionally expensive, but that does not mean you have to spend that much money. Like everything else in life, you get what you pay for. If you are looking at getting started with fly fishing, I would suggest buying lower to mid expensive gear, then if you like fly fishing, you can upgrade as time goes on. The other reason for this, the more experience you get, the better you will be at understanding exactly what you are looking for in your gear. Everyone is different and has different wants.
Gear you will absolutely want to have in order to start fly fishing:
- Fly rod. I would suggest a 5/6 weight as an all-around good rod.
- Fly reel. I would go with a 5/6 reel weight to match your fly rod and make sure it has a disc drag system with a large arbor. The arbor is the part where the fly line rolls up.
- Fly line. You want to make sure the fly line matches your reel and rod weights, so a 5/6 will be good. I would go with 50-100 feet but aim more towards the 100 feet.
- Fly line backing. This is what is reeled up on your reel before your fly line. It is your insurance policy if you catch a large fish that ends up pulling out all your fly line. This should be 100 yards in length.
- Leaders. Leaders are tapered line that connect to your fly line. They start out thick where they connect to your fly line, then they get smaller to the end where you tie on your fly. If you are dry fly fishing, 15-foot 3x leaders are good. If you are nymphing, I would go with a 9-foot 3x leader.
- Flies. You can have all the fly fishing gear in the world, but if you don’t have the right flies, you won’t be catching any fish. A good assortment of flies is key to your success.
Gear that isn’t a must have but makes catching fish way easier and more likely.
- Tippet. Tippet is small line that you connect from one fly to another fly. This makes it so you can run 2 or 3 fly setups which drastically increases your chance of catching fish, especially when nymphing. 1x, 2x, or 3x tippet works great for beginners.
- Fly fishing net. Fish are constantly lost, right when you are in the middle of grabbing them out of the water. This is because when you bend over, your fly line goes lose and the fly often pops out of the fish’s mouth. With a net, you can keep your fly line tight, and scoop the fish up.
- Strike indicators. These little guys are bobbers for fly fishing when nymphing. They act as an indicator and to control the depth of where you want your hooks.
- Fly case. Having your flies organized in a fly case is super important for time management. When you are at the water, you want to be fishing for as long as possible. Finding the right fly quickly is imperative.
- Flotant. Flotant is liquid that you rub on your dry flies to help them float.
- Clippers and pliers. Clippers are great to snip off excess line and the pliers help when taking flies out of the fish’s mouth.
- Split shot. Split shot or weights will help your flies and line to sink. This is to get your fly into the water column that the fish are at.
- Waders. Waders are waterproof pants and boots that you can wear to stand in the water. They work extremely well if the water is cold.
- Fly vest or pack. All your little fly fishing accessories need to go somewhere. A fly vest or pouch makes everything organized and easily accessible.
Best time of the day to fish.
Fish like to eat mainly in the mornings and at night. If you are fishing when the fish are eating, your chances of catching them drastically increases. Fish do tend to eat throughout colder or overcast days. Usually, the worst fishing is from 11:00am to 6:00pm on a hot and sunny day. On the river by my house, the professional guides are taking people out at 4:30am to 10:30am in the morning because of the hot weather we have been having.
You can definitely try fishing all day or at any time of the day, but your odds will go up if you stick with the early morning or evening fishing. The reason these are the best times of the day are because of the insect hatches that happen. Fish feed on the insects that make their way from the water floor to the surface.
Matching the hatch.
Fish eating the insects brings us to matching the hatch. If you are fishing with a fly that is completely a different color or size than that of the natural flies on the water, the fish will be suspicious, and they probably won’t bite it. You want to be using the fly the best resembles the naturals insects that are in the water or sitting on the surface. Grab one of the insects and match the closest looking fly you have to it.
If the flies are on the surface and the fish are going for them, you will want to use emergers or dry flies. If the insects are in the water and the fish are not surfacing, chances are you should be nymphing. Zinger Fishing has a blog on matching the hatch, it can be found here.
Picking the right fly.
Having an arsenal of flies is imperative to catching fish while out fly fishing. A full blown hatch could be happening with fish jumping all around you, but if you don’t have the fly to match the hatch, then you may not catch a single fish. Zinger Fishing wants people to be fully prepared when they head out to the water, so we created multiple fly kit assortments. There is one for nymphing, one with wet flies, dry flies and nymphs, and one with the most common types of flies that exist. I personally have all 3 kits with me every time I go out fly fishing. If you are interested in checking out these fly kits, they can be found here.
There are quite a few different patterns of flies that exist. Different species and sizes of fish eat different insects. It will also depend on the water source that you are fishing in. Some hatches will occur there and some won’t. Hatches also happen at different times of the year. Some last a day and some last for a month or more.
Reading the water.
Fish normally stay in certain types of current and pockets and they tend to avoid other types. When fly fishing, you want to be presenting your hook where the fish are most likely to be. If you are fishing in rivers or streams, fish are normally hiding in the seam. The seam is where two currents of water are meeting. Bubbles usually form and you want to place your hook in these bubbles or where the slower current is showing. Fish also hide behind large rocks or fallen trees. They can sometimes be found in deep pockets of water as well.
If you are fishing in lakes, fish tend to be under docks, in weeds, or closer to shores. There are different water shelves that make the water deeper as you get further from shore. Often you will have to experiment to see what depth that the fish are hanging out at is.
Casting a fly rod.
One of, if not the trickiest part of fly fishing is casting the fly rod. There are many YouTube videos on this that I suggest checking out before heading out to the water. You can even practice casting in your street or back alley if you’d like.
There and back to front casts, side to side casts, rolling casts, flopping casts, and many more. The basics of casting are what is important when you are getting started out. I would suggest only using a 1 hook setup to avoid tangles at the start. When you cast back, you want to wait long enough for your hook to make it back all the way, before you bring your rod forward. If you don’t wait long enough, you will have a good chance of getting a tangle in your line.
As you are making the casting motion back and forth, you can slowly take line out of your reel and let the line go, so you can cast farther. Casting will take some time getting used to, but within a few trips to the water, you should be golden. I would highly suggest not going out on a windy day when you are learning. Wind makes it very difficult to cast and you will spend a lot of time undoing tangles.
Rigging up the fly rod.
Once you have all of your gear, you can then start putting together your fly rod setup. Start by putting your fly rod together, some rods come in 2-5 different pieces.
Then tie a knot with your fly line backing to the inside part of your arbor or spool on your reel. Reel in the fly line backing.
Then tie a knot from the fly line backing to the fly line, and then reel in the fly line.
Then it is time to tie your leader to the fly line.
Place the reel on the side that you want that hand to reel in it with. Most reels come made for both hands but making sure of this before buying it is ideal.
Fish your line through the rod holes and tie a fly to the end of your leader.
You should be golden to start casting!
There are a lot of steps with fly fishing that take a beginner boat loads of time dealing with at the start. After a few trips, tying on flies, casting, reading the water, identifying the hatch and gearing up will become very quick. Once you learn the basics, it will become easy and enjoyable. The more you learn and the more flies you have, the more fish you will land in your net.
If you like reading about fly fishing, our Zinger Fishing blog has a wide variety of different articles. We cover places to fish, what patterns to use, techniques, gear, and everything else to help fellow anglers land more fish in their nets.