7 Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners

By Tom Keer

May 02, 2016

Fly fishing isn't hard, but it is different. Approach it with patience and follow these tips to catch trout and panfish. 

Many anglers think that fly fishing is difficult. It may be different, but that doesn't mean it's hard. Here are 7 fly fishing tips to quickly get you up to speed.

1. Easy Fly Casting. In the beginning, keep it simple. Here's how:

Back Cast: Start with your rod tip close to the water and move the rod backwards, going from a slow to medium to fast speed. When the rod tip goes past your shoulder, pause and let the line straighten out.

Forward Cast: When you feel a tug, repeat the slow-medium-fast process going forward. End the casting stroke with the rod tip at eye-level.

Presentation: Let the line unfold and drift your rod tip towards the water (or lawn).

2. Proper wading. You'll catch more fish if you wade properly. A frightened fish spooks other fish, so before you begin to wade, fish the water close to the bank. Move cautiously and try not to kick up a lot of sand or gravel. Sudden clouds of silt drifting downstream are a cause for alarm and shut down feeding fish.

3. Fly selection. We are sure you can learn all of the Latin names for bugs, but that will come with time.  If you find an insect under a rock or drifting on the water's surface, pick a matching pattern based on size, color and silhouette.

4. Short lines catch more fish. Long, graceful casts are pretty, but they are tough to manage. There are lots of currents in a stream or river, and the more line on the water the more your fly will drag. Shorter lines help beginners make proper presentations and those will catch more fish.

5. Fish faster water. Trout in slow, clear water can be tough to catch.  They're not in a hurry, they can look over your fly, and they can be picky.  Beginners can get an edge if they fish riffles or runs that have quicker current. Trout don't have all day to think about your fly, and more often than not they'll pounce on it before it drifts away.

6. Hook up some panfish. Bluegills and small bass are fun to catch on a fly rod. They're not as picky as trout, and you can get in on the action while honing your skills.

7. Use experience from other types of fishing. Dead-drifting live bait and reading the water are two skills that transfer over to fly fishing, so rock what you've got.

Fly fishing isn't hard, but it is different. Approach it with patience and process just like other types of fishing and you'll catch 'em up in no time. Learn more about fly fishing guidelines for etiquette tips.

Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com.