Fly Fishing Basics

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If you’ve been ultralight fishing for a while and just need a change of pace, fly fishing might be the answer. Or if you’ve never been much for fishing, but you love the great outdoors and would like an activity that would help you enjoy it more, ultralight fly fishing may be just the ticket. Continue reading for a short primer on fly fishing basics or learn how fly fishing compares to lure fishing.

What is Fly Fishing?

Fly Fishing is the most relaxing form of ultralight fishing
photo credit: Graylight via photopin cc

Put simply, ultralight fly fishing has the same goal as traditional ultralight fishing, but with lures that resemble flies (or similar flying insects). So just as you look for bait that appears and acts like a worm, small fish or other creature that could be found underwater when traditional fishing, you do the same while fly fishing, but with lures that resemble insects that typically appear just above the surface of the water. Part of making your bait appear that way is utilizing a unique motion specific to fly fishing. The goal of this specific casting method is to further imitate these insects and trick fish into reacting. Follow these tips for selecting the right fly lure.

How to Fly Fish

The secret to fly fishing is all in the unique casting motion. Because the lures fly fishers use don’t carry much weight to them, they need to carry out a very specific motion in order to get their cast far away to where the fish are.

Unlike with conventional spin fishing, fly fishing involves almost continuous casting (some methods involve less, but on average, you’ll be casting the majority of the time). It’s a fluid motion that almost resembles cracking a whip. This motion’s job is to use the weight of the line to carry the bait out as far as possible, and then use all the stored energy in the line to pull it back. The return almost resembles the cast in reverse as the bait goes all the way behind the fly fisherman, gathers energy and then propels it forward again. A skilled fly fisherman makes the entire process seem like nothing more than a flick of the wrist.


Building a fly collection is an addictive part of ultralight fly fishing
photo credit: helti via photopin cc

As you can imagine, fly fishing calls for much different equipment than its traditional cousin. For example, fly fishing needs a rod that is lighter and more agile, as this lends itself to the motion discussed earlier. We covered the difference in bait, but the line that a fly fisherman needs to use will actually be much heavier than the traditional version. That’s because the bait itself doesn’t have the hefty type of weight that makes casting easy.

That said, if you’re looking to get started with fly-fishing, you can fly-fish with a conventional spinning rod. It’s also a fun technique to experiment with for the experienced fly-fisher looking to try something different. Read our guide to learn more.

Unlike traditional fishing, fly fishermen almost always cast from in the water. An important piece of equipment is waders, waterproof overalls that allow the fisherman to get a good distance into a body of water before beginning.


Fly fishing used to be aimed mostly at trout and other fish that were well known for jumping out of the water for their meals. But as the sport has grown, fly fishermen have gone after just about any fish they can find. Overall, they’ve been successful. One of the central tenets of fly fishing is to challenge oneself in the type of fish you go for and where you try to find them. Therefore, it’s not all that surprising that fly fishermen would be up for a challenge.
Bodies of Water

Rainbow trout is a grand prize of ultralight fly fishing
photo credit: Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing – Northern VA via photopin cc

Typically, fly fishing is done in moving water. The fishermen use their waders so they can actually get in the water itself. From there, they begin their casting motion. However, fly fishers have been known to find success in still water as well.
If you’re up for a challenge and you love the great outdoors, consider giving fly fishing a try. It will get you out into nature, right into its moving water and provide you with a fun activity at the same time.

Don’t Forget to check out our Ultralight Fishing Post!

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