What is Fly Fishing?
Fly fishing is attempting to catch fish with an almost weightless artificial known as a fly. It is the oldest form of sport fishing known to man. Fly fishing is typically practiced using a fly rod, fly reel, fly line, tapered leader and of course a fly.
Although there is evidence of the use of flies tied on bone hooks as early as 1400 BC in Egypt, it really became codified into its sporting form in the UK in the 1400 s. Dame Juliana Berners authored the first book on fly fishing in 1496 (Treatise on Fishing with an Angle) and some of the flies and methods described in this book are still effective today.
Although you can fly fish for just about any fish that swims, fly fishing is a particularly effective method for catching trout. Trout will certainly take cheese, worms and other types of bait, but aquatic insects make up most of their natural diet and are readily available to them throughout the year. Fly fishing allows you to realistically imitate these aquatic insects with a delicacy not possible by any other method of fishing.
What Equipment Do I Need to Get Started?
The first thing you need to buy is a fly rod. Then you will need a tapered fly line (do not buy a level fly line) a fly reel, a leader, and some flies. The next purchase should be a good pair of polarized sunglasses and a hat. Polarized sunglasses will cut through the glare on the water and allow you to more closely follow your fly. This allows you to detect strikes more easily and, hopefully, catch more fish. A hat with a wide brim will help stop the sun from burning your ears, and sneaking in around the edges of your sunglasses. It will also help protect your ears and the back of your head from your fly on an errant cast.
If you expect to fish from the bank or from a boat, you can hold off on purchasing a vest and waders for the moment and just use a shirt with big pockets to get started. When the pockets will no longer hold the items you need, then you should get a vest. Into those pockets you should put a fly box, such as the World’s Lightest and Most Indestructible Fly Box. This one box will hold all the flies you’ll need for the first year or so. Also into those pockets you should put a hook hone to sharpen your flies, fly floatant for dry flies, a selection of small Non-Toxic Split Shot or Sink Putty for fishing nymphs, some sunblock, and some bug repellent.
Outside your pockets you should attach a Snip and Zinger so that you can easily reach it. The snip is the tool you will use the most and it needs to be conveniently placed. You can also hang a pair of Forceps to the flap of your pocket if you click the handles to the second notch. One click sometimes lets go, two clicks doesn’t.
Waders (breathable, neoprene, or nylon)will allow much greater mobility allowing you to get into the water for a better angle on the fish, and allow you to get away from the fly-eating trees on your back cast. Depending on the type of water that you fish, you may want to purchase either bootfoot or stocking foot waders. Boot foot waders are convenient, but stocking foot waders with separate boots give you better support and allow you to be athletic in your wading. If you use chest waders, for safety reasons you should **always** wear a Wading Belt.
As you progress in fly fishing skill, you will find items that you may want or need to tailor the experience to your temperament. Add them as you progress, but this should get you started.
What is a Fly?
A fly is an artificial lure that is constructed typically out of fur, feathers, and perhaps synthetic materials. These materials are tied to a hook in an attempt to imitate the size, shape, and color of the food form that the fish is feeding upon. Some are also tied in an attempt to trigger a predatory response from the fish. Originally (and still in the UK) the description of fly was only used to describe an imitation of an insect. In the US and many other parts of the world, that definition has been expanded to generally describe any imitation fished with a fly rod including imitations of other fish. In the UK, flies that are tied to imitate fish as opposed to insects are known as lures.
What is a Leader and Why Do I Need One?
The leader encompasses everything between the fly and the fly line. It is usually made out of monofilament nylon (some use braided nylon) or similar materials. Leaders used in fly fishing are typically tapered and can be anywhere from as little as three feet to as much as 20+ feet in length.
Fly lines are comparatively big and opaque, and are too large even at the smallest section to tie onto a fly. The leader removes the fly from the vicinity of the heavier and more obvious fly line and is usually transparent. It is also tapered small enough to tie to a fly. When used in the appropriate size to match the fly you are using, the leader will allow the fly to be delivered effectively to the target, and yet still drift naturally in the current.
How Do I Choose a Leader?
1. Do I want knotted, knotless, or braided?
Knotted leaders are constructed by tying four to six gradually descending diameters of mono together until you reach your tippet diameter, be it 3X, 4X, etc. Enthusiasts maintain that flies turn over better with knotted leaders. The Orvis knotless leaders are single strands of mono that taper from the butt section to the level tippet section. They have a heavier butt and exclusive taper that make them cast better than any other knotless leader in the world. However, after some fly changes, you will eventually be tying onto a thicker material as you work your way back up the leader. Braided leaders are very supple to reduce drag, absorb shocks, transfer energy efficiently, and allow you to change tippets very easily.
2. What length do I need?
Determining the right length and size of your leader is very simple. The general rule of thumb is to use 15′ to 18′ leaders with dry flies on calm water, 12′ leaders on slow moving streams where a fish can see the fly line on the surface, 9′ leaders for dry fly and nymph fishing on faster water, and 7½’ leaders for small stream fishing. Our 6′ leaders are designed for use with sinking and sink-tip lines. We offer a complete selection of lengths and diameters all packaged in our new, environmentally friendly “seed packets. ” See some of the leaders offered by the Blue Quill.
Is Fly Casting More Difficult Than Other Types of Casting?
Fly-casting is different but not unduly difficult. It is not as intuitive as other types of casting, but with practiced attention to a few basics, it can be learned in an afternoon. However, like chess, although the moves can quickly be learned, a lifetime may be spent truly mastering the intricacies and possibilities. A casting lesson from a qualified instructor will shorten the learning curve dramatically. Short periods of practice (30 to 40 minutes) two to three times a week generally produce the best results in the shortest amount of time.
Fly-casting is different from regular casting because of the physics involved. In spin and bait casting, you cast the lure or bait and the line follows along for the ride. In fly-casting, you are casting the line and the fly follows along for the ride.
With spin or bait casting you either have a lure or some other weight on the end of the line. With a quick flick of the wrist this weight bends (loads) the rod, and then the rod unloads hurling the weight or lure out towards the target.
With fly-casting, the weight on the end of the line is virtually non-existent. Flies weigh almost nothing. So, the weight of the fly line is used to load the rod. Because the fly line weight is distributed over a larger area and is not concentrated just at the tip, the casting motion required is different. Instead of a quick flick of the wrist, a slower, longer move, often called accelerating to a stop, works best.