Fly Fishing the Basics

Fly fishing can be summed up in one word "Awesome" It's a sport that everybody can enjoy and learn to love. Fly fishing is not necessarily an expensive sport but to the contrary it is one of the least expensive fishing techniques to get started in. You don't need a boat; you don't need a ton of gear; just fly rod, reel, line, and flies. The one thing you do need to be a successful fly fishermen is patience and a wiliness to learn. Fly fishing is not something you decide to do one day and automatically your a professional. Fly fishing can take a lifetime to master, but you can learn to be a very successful fly fishermen with some practice and patience.

Fly Fishing Gear Needed

Fly Rod - When choosing a fly rod you need to decide what species of fish you are targeting, which will help you decide what weight fly rod you need to purchase. I have two fly rods that allow me to target everything from steelhead, stripers in saltwater to chasing sipping trout with dry flies. I use a 10 foot 7 / 8 weight rod with a fighting butt for steelhead, salmon, stripers, and bluefish. This rod is a little longer than which allows me to better handle large hard fighting fish like steelhead and stripers and also to throw heavier weight with ease. My go to fly rod when targeting trout is a 9 foot 5 / 6 weight rod, this rod allows me to fish with dry flies, streamers, and wets. The rod has a very fast tip and stiff backbone, which allows me to shoot out fly line for long distances when trout are shy.

Fly Reel - Your choice of fly reel is heavily dependent on your choice of rod. You need to match your reels fly line rating to your rods fly line rating. For example with my 10 foot fly rod which is rated for a 7 or 8 eight line; I use a reel that rated for 8 / 9 weight line which is a Orvis Large Arbor reel. This reel is a little larger which allows me to pick up line very quickly when a fish running at me. As for my trout reel I use a fly reel that is rated for 6 or 7 weight line, which is a Mid-Arbor reel that allows me to pick up line quickly. I find that having a reel with a smaller frame for my trout reel is more comfortable due to utilizing my hands to strip line more often than using the reel to bring fish in.

Fly Line - Again you are matching your rod and reel with your line weight. I use an 8-weight weight forward floating line for my steelhead / striper rod and an 6 WFF (Weight Forward Floating) line for my trout rod. I tend to always use a floating weight forward line with a long leader, which works well for me. There are other line styles such as sinking and intermediate but I enjoy working with a WF floating line and I find it deal with than other types of lines. The fly line I use on all my fly reels is the old standby Cortland 444 which comes in peach color only. I've used a lot of different lines and I find this line to work the best in all the fishing situations I fish from saltwater to freezing water temperatures chasing steelhead.

Leader - Learn to tie your own tapered leaders it will save you a bunch of cash and they perform better than the pre-made tapered leaders. With tapered leaders YOU decided the length of the leader and the weights of line used. I will use leaders up to 16 feet in length when fishing deep cold water chasing steelhead and leaders as short as 8 feet when fishing streamers for trout. To tie your own tapered leaders you only need to learn two knots the Nail Knot which is used to connect a heavy piece of leader to your fly line then Blood Knots to connect the heavier line to the lighter line which tapers your lead to the tippet. Here are a couple of leader formulas I use for saltwater and freshwater trout fishing.

  • Saltwater

    50 lb test 25"
    40 lb test 20"
    35 lb test 15"
    30 lb test 15"
    25 lb test 15"
    20 lb test 12"
    15 lb test 12"
  • Freshwater Trout and Bass

    20 lb test 25"
    15 lb test 20"
    12 lb test 15"
    10 lb test 15"
    08 lb test 15"
    06 lb test 12"
    04 lb test 12"

Those are two basic leader formulas that you can use that are 9.5 feet in length and they will cover almost any species of fish you want to chase.

Flies - Flies are going to depend on what species of fish you want to catch and you would be wise to find a local fly shop that can help you find flies that will catch fish in your area. However here are some essentials, which I will always have with me.

  • Steelhead Flies - Streamers, Egg Sucking Leech, Sucker Spawn, Glo Bugs
  • Trout Flies - Wolfs and Adams (Dry Flies), wooly buggers, prince nymphs, hares ears nymphs
  • Saltwater - Clouser Minnows, (White, White / Chartreuse, Red / White)


If you have always thought about fly fishing but didn't know where to start these tips will help you get started. Fly Fishing is a sport for all people and with time and patience you will grow to love and dream fly fishing.