Is Fly Fishing Hard to Learn?

Fly fishing is one of the most enjoyable recreational activities out there. However, as a beginner, the learning curve can be quite steep, particularly if you have never done any other type of fishing. Common aspects of fly fishing that are hard to learn include setting up a rig, casting a rod, determining the sections of water that have fish, and many other aspects. But is fly fishing hard to learn?

It is worth noting that the most critical skill you need to learn as a novice fly fisher is casting. Effective casting entails utilizing the line’s weight instead of the bait’s weight. Mastering this skill will get you one step closer to becoming a highly effective fly fisher. 

Is Fly Fishing Hard to Learn?

Despite the challenges involved in learning how to fly fish, grasping the art of fly fishing can be quite rewarding. After learning the art, you will be well equipped to fish in streams, lakes, and rivers. Secondly, you can catch freshwater fish such as trout for food or leisure purposes. Fly fishing also allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature since most inland water bodies are found close to lush green forests and beautiful landscapes. Lastly, you will find recreational fly fishing to be an extremely fun leisure activity. 

Listed below are the most important aspects of fly fishing that you need to grasp.

1. Casting

Learning how to cast remains critical to effective fly fishing. Even though casting seems challenging at first glance, it can be quite easy if you master the art of timing. Most casting techniques are much quicker to grasp than you would expect. Notably, overhead casting is one of the most effective casting techniques in fly fishing. The method entails casting the fishing line in even loops directly overhead. In executing this technique, you need to grip the fishing rod firmly while simultaneously loosening your hand. Also, you should ensure that your wrist stays in place. 

Man Fly Fishing
Man fly fishing in a pond

2. Equipment

As an angler, you need to have the right equipment to fly fish successfully. Also, learning about the most effective equipment for fly fishing is a vital aspect of learning how to fly fish. The equipment you require for fly fishing includes a fly reel, a rod, a fly line, sunglasses, a leader, flies, a tippet, a slip shot, a floatant, an indicator, nippers, and a fly box. It is worth noting that the ideal fishing rod is the 9-foot 4-weight rod. A reel is simply a fancy line holder while the line’s weight moves the fly further onto the water surface. 

Waders allow you to fish comfortably on big rivers. Meanwhile, you require boots to fly fish during the winter and autumn seasons when the temperature is low. A leader enables you to attach an insect onto the fishing line. Notably, the leader is easy and quick to replace. A floatant is an indispensable piece of equipment that enables dry flies to remain afloat. If you are fishing using subsurface flies, you also need an indicator and a split shot. 

3. Ability to “Read Water”

In fly fishing, the term ‘read water’ loosely refers to the art of determining where fish is concentrated or located in the water. As a beginner, reading water is a vital skillset that you need to learn to become a master at fly fishing. At first, reading water may appear difficult, but the fact is that you only need a little experience and study and practice to become good at it. The secret to reading water lies in identifying sections of water that reduce energy costs and optimize food delivery for fish. 

A riffle is a good example of a water section that fits the above description. Riffles are quicker-moving and long water sections that resemble tiny rapids. It is worth noting that submerged rocks are the primary cause of riffles. Trout food such as stonefly larvae, caddis, and mayfly clings onto submerged rocks, and as a result, trout tend to congregate on such river sections. 

Another part of the river where you are likely to find trout is in pools of still water that lie behind rocks. In fly fishing jargon, the pools are commonly known as water pockets. Lastly, trout tend to congregate on current seams. Notably, current seams include river sections where two distinct currents meet.

4. Learning Basic Entomology

A significant element of learning how to fly fish is learning which flies to use on your fly fishing expedition. Notably, different fly fishing environments require varying types of flies. Every experienced angler has tried and tested flies that they turn to when facing a tough fishing day. Critical factors that determine the most appropriate fly for a particular fishing expedition include the location, the season, and the type of fish you intend to catch. 

The most common fly species you are likely to find in fly shops include San Juan Worms, Adam flies, mayflies, hare’s ears, stoneflies, pheasant tails, caddis, brassies, and Glo-bugs. These flies comprise a trout’s core food, and you can utilize them to catch trout in water bodies where the specie is abundant. As you gain experience, you’ll learn which of the flies mentioned above is the most effective in luring trout to your fishing line. Ideally, it would be best to carry a variety of flies in a fly box every time you go fly fishing to maximize your chances of catching big fish. 

Salmon fly
Salmon fly

5. Setting Up a Fishing Rod

As a beginner, setting up your fishing gear is an important skill you need to acquire. Some of the aspects you need to learn are the appropriate length of the leader, the type of fly you should tie on the leader, and how to tie the fly, so it does not come off. In essence, you should embrace simplicity in setting up a fishing rod. 

It would be best to consider a 9-foot, 5x leader when rigging a dry fly. You’ll start by tying a tippet, normally similar in size to the leader. Doing this lets you have extra wriggle room when you misplace flies and ensures that your leader lasts longer. Leaders are quite expensive, and as a result, it is in your best interest to preserve them. 

The second step involves attaching the fly to the tippet. In so doing, it is advisable to deploy a simple clinch knot. After this step, the rod is ready for casting. If you are using subsurface flies such as nymphs as bait, you should follow the procedure highlighted above. However, it would help to tie a longer tippet at the hook. After that, you should place a fly fishing indicator approximately 5 feet above the nymphs. You can also add a split shot depending on the depth of the water.

6. Handling Fish 

Once you learn how to fly fish, you should learn how to handle fish. For a novice fly fisher, this step is relatively easy to learn. However, it is worth noting that fish can easily slip away from the hook if you fail to take the right steps.

Turning the reel handle swiftly gives the fish little chance of escaping since the action ensures that the hook tightens its grip on the mouth of the fish. When the fish arrives close to your position, you can use a hand fly fishing net to pull it out of the water. 

If you are sports fishing, you can choose to catch and release the fish into the water before it suffocates. Even though trout normally sustains injuries after biting the hook, releasing it back into the back is a good idea since it heals relatively fast. On the other hand, you can use the fish you catch for food. In such instances, you may consider hitting the fish on the head with a metal rod to minimize its suffering and subsequently store it in an icebox to ensure that it does not go bad. 

7. Staying Safe

Fly fishing is not an inherently dangerous undertaking, but some fly fishing situations can place you in danger. One such situation is fly fishing in deep river waters. Notably, deep rivers present a drowning risk, particularly if you do not know how to swim. As a result, it is incumbent upon you to take safety measures or avoid fishing in deep waters altogether. 

Another danger that fly fishing may present to you is the risk of hypothermia. Fly fishing during cold seasons for protracted periods of time heightens the risk of hypothermia exponentially. You can minimize this risk by wearing the right gear, including waders and thick boots. Another safety risk that fly fishing presents to fly fishers is the risk of injury. Some rivers have protruding rocks that can lead you to suffer a broken ankle if you trip and fall. Always trade carefully when wading in pools and rivers.

Wrap Up

Overall, fly fishing is an extremely enjoyable sport for individuals who love outdoor activities. As such, you should take it upon yourself to learn how to fly fish despite the hurdles you may face along the way. If you are passionate about fly fishing, you can learn all aspects of the activity relatively fast. 

Photo of author

Brian Hopkins

Brian is an outdoor writer and the youngest member of our team, but he is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to fishing and different techniques for catching different species. He shares valuable information that the younger generation can relate to. When he is not fishing, you can find him hanging with his friends and gaming on his computer.

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