Fly Fishing vs. Conventional Lure Fishing

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It’s difficult to observe someone fly fishing and not take an interest in what they’re doing. Learn fly fishing basics or read on to discover how this unique sport differs from conventional lure fishing.

Between the solitude involved and the hypnotic motion of a fly fisherman’s rhythmic cast, it’s understandable that so many observers can’t wait to learn more about fly fishing. To better understand it, though, let’s take a look at how it compares to conventional ultralight lure fishing.

Successful Ultralight Fly Fisherman
photo credit: Nicolas Valentin via photopin cc

The Goal

Obviously, both methods of ultralight fishing are aimed at catching fish by providing them with a lure and tricking them into thinking it’s a free meal. Once they do, the hook that’s used snags the fish and your cast is successful.

In conventional ultralight fishing, the bait can vary. Generally, it is meant to appear like any number of creatures that call the body of water home and that the intended fish is known to eat. Depending on the bait used, the fisherman will utilize different tactics to further the ruse.

With ultralight fly fishing, the fisherman’s bait resembles a fly or any other airborne insect that hangs around the particular body of water. Learn how to choose the right fly lure here. Their rhythmic casting motion is designed to make the bait further resemble the insects that dart around, before finally resting it on the surface of the water.

The Equipment

Both styles involve poles, though they are very different. Simply put, both poles are designed to facilitate how their respective fisherman cast. Conventional fishermen usually cast out once and then leave the bait in that spot for some time. Their pole is generally heavier, with a lighter line. There’s a bobber attached to the end of the line to let you know where your bait is and give
you an indication if it’s being eaten and there’s also a sinker that helps keep the bait from floating to the surface.

Ultralight Fly Fishing Equipment
photo credit: Nicolas Valentin via photopin cc

ultralight Fly fishermen need much lighter poles to make their casting motion possible. Their line, however, is much heavier as they need this extra weight to make up for how light their bait is. Extra weight makes it easier for them to cast farther out.

Though we touched on the bait already, it’s notable that many fly fishermen actually design their own bait based on the fish they’re chasing, the water where they fish, the conditions they fish in, etc. Conventional fishermen sometimes do this as well, but they also use a much wider array of bait, even for the same kind of fish.

Conventional Ultralight Fishing Lure
photo credit: Nicolas Valentin via photopin cc

A big difference between the two poles is that traditional fishing poles include a mechanism for pulling the line back in. You simply use the reel to help return the line. Fly fishing poles don’t have this. In order to gather the line, a fisherman must do it by hand. Sometimes they will wear little baskets on their waist which they can put the line into when it’s gathered. One of the reasons fly fishing is the oldest form of fishing is this lack of reel. Traditional fishing didn’t really catch on like we know it today until after the first spinning real was invented shortly after WWII.

As fly fishermen actually step into the water, a key piece of equipment is waders. They’re basically waterproof overalls that keep the fly fisherman dry.


Fly fishermen fish almost exclusively in rivers or deep streams where the water is constantly in motion. However, fly fishermen have been known to fish still water from time to time. Conventional fishermen, on the other hand, generally fish in all kinds of water. They don’t get in the water like fly fishermen do, making a boat one very important piece of equipment at times. Those who practice conventional ultralight fishing do it in lakes, rivers, ponds, the sea and the ocean. Even ice won’t stop conventional fishermen from dropping a line.

Ultralight Fly Fishing Serenity
photo credit: *natalia altamirano lucas* via photopin cc

Hopefully, this brief synopsis has helped shed some light on these two very different forms of fishing. Which one you choose to do will ultimately come down to preference as there are pros and cons of fly fishing and conventional spin fishing. But there’s no law saying you can’t love both. In fact, you can try to get the best of both worlds by experimenting with fly-fishing with a spinning rod.

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

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