Fly Fishing for Beginners – Part 1 – What is Fly Fishing?

Fly fishing is a very popular activity that people from all over the world pursue and enjoy. Some refer to fly fishing as an art, others think of it as a sport, many approach it as simply a fun, stress-relieving pastime, and some primarily utilize fly fishing as a means of harvesting food for the dinner table. Yes indeed, if you ask ten different fly fishermen or fly fisherwomen what they enjoy about it and why they do it, you’re bound to get ten different answers.

Fly fishing is sometimes portrayed as an elite, specialized form of fishing that’s only reserved for wealthy and prestigious sportsmen. After all, fly fishing gear can be very expensive, traveling to premier fly fishing destinations can seem totally unrealistic to many folks, and all that fancy fly casting can look very difficult and intimidating. While it is true that beautiful, custom-made fly rods and exotic travel can cost a small fortune, and it does take a little practice to get the hang of fly fishing techniques, the reality is that anybody, anywhere, can fly fish. No matter how old or young, no matter if you’re rich or poor, no matter what your athletic ability or level of coordination may be, you can do it!

In this new fly fishing for beginners blog and video series, I’ll be introducing you to the world of fly fishing. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran, I hope to provide you with some fun, informative content that will kindle, or rekindle, a love and appreciation for this wonderful outdoor activity. I’ll be covering the following topics in the episodes to come:

  • What is fly fishing?
  • A brief history of fly fishing
  • What kind of fish can you catch with fly fishing
  • Where you can go fly fishing
  • Essential fly fishing gear
  • Overview of the types of flies
  • Basic fly fishing techniques
  • Introduction to fly tying
  • How to tie some of the most popular and effective fly patterns
  • And more…


What is Fly Fishing?

Let’s get things started by answering the question, “What is fly fishing?” Many a fly fisherman has jokingly been asked, “So how do you get those little flies to stay on your hook?” To clear up any confusion, no, fly fishing is not a matter of fishing with actual flies and other tiny bugs for bait. For starters, consider that there are two basic styles of rod and reel fishing: fishing with live or prepared bait, or fishing with a wide variety of artificial lures. With bait fishing, the live or prepared bait is secured to a hook of one kind or another, cast out into an ideal spot where fish are most likely to be present and active, and then the fisherman typically waits for a bite. By contrast, fishing with artificial lures is generally a much more active style of fishing, as the fisherman continually casts and retrieves a lure over and over again through a potential area and keeps moving to cover as much water as possible instead of just waiting for the fish to come to them.

Fly fishing can be a combination of these two basic styles of fishing. The baits, or lures, that are used for fly fishing are simply referred to as flies or fly patterns. These are hand-crafted artificial lures that are tied from natural materials such as feathers and fur, as well as a wide variety of synthetic materials. Many of the “flies” that fly fishermen use are carefully crafted to closely imitate the insects, baitfish, and other natural food items that a certain species of fish eats. On the other hand, fly fishermen also commonly use what’s referred to as “attractor patterns” which are flies that don’t necessarily imitate a natural food item, but rather, appeal to a fish’s sense of curiosity or aggression.

With fly fishing, some fly patterns are presented to fish like a live or prepared bait that slowly drifts through an ideal spot, or that even sits still, waiting for a fish to come and take a whack at it, and other types of fly patterns are fished more like artificial lures which are presented over and over again with a fast retrieve and with the fishermen staying on the move and covering a lot of water. Much of this depends on the specific body of water you’re fishing on and what species of fish you’re after. In either case though, the fly patterns that fly fishermen use are generally fairly small and lightweight compared to live bait or artificial lures. In fact, some fly patterns are so teeny tiny that you may need a magnifying glass to even tie them to your line. Due to the much smaller size and weight of most fly patterns, specialized tackle is needed to cast them out and present them to the fish. Thus, the fly rod and reel…which is generally a long, flexible rod and special line that’s designed to help cast those fly patterns out there. Again, I’ll be covering more about fly fishing tackle later.

In the next episode, you’ll get a brief history of fly fishing to set the stage for the rest of the topics we’ll cover in this series, so stay tuned.

Check out the video below to see more.