Tips For Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is an exciting activity for the whole family. Learn how to get started in these seven easy steps.

By Courtney Johnson
Fish Ambassador

There is something exciting about catching a fish. When you combine beautiful scenery and a connection with nature, a day fly fishing can be both a positive mental and physical experience. These seven tips can help any fly fisher enjoy a day at the water.


Focus On Safety

Be sure to wear proper clothing when fly fishing to stay safe. Waders or full-length pants are the best choice. Closed-toe shoes are also recommended if you’re not wearing boots or waders. Long sleeves on top are also recommended. A hat and polarized sunglasses will help protect you from the sun, glare and even flies. Don’t forget the bug spray and sunblock, too.

When fly fishing, you will be in and around open water. Keeping an eye on children along swift-moving water is a top priority. Young children will do better fishing from shore. Older children may fish from the water but should be aware of the currents and other safety hazards. “At a young age, a one-parent-to-one-kid ratio is recommended,” said Jim Ciccarelli, fly fishing guide with Shredder Outdoors.

Equipment safety is also important. “Pinch your barbs down in case you hook yourself or someone around you; save everyone and the fish the hassle,” recommended Ciccarelli. Be sure to check your surroundings before casting, so that no one is within your casting zone. “Also, watch for trees and bushes that may get you tangled or stuck,” said Ciccarelli.

Pay special attention to the weather forecast, from current weather to the future. Weather can move in quickly, and flooding is a concern, especially when fishing in canyons. Afternoon summer storms are common, especially in the West, bringing heavy rain and lightning.


Choose The Right {Simple} Fly And Equipment

When just starting out, there is no need to invest money in a wide range of flies. Have a good selection of flies to “match the hatch,” but don’t spend a whole tacklebox worth of money on them.

According to Ciccarelli, fly rods come from 0-weight to 12-weight. A 3-weight would be good for little creeks with smaller fish and a 10-weight for tarpon in the ocean. Rods also vary in length from 6 to 14 feet. “If you are younger or smaller, an 8-foot or 8.5-foot 4-weight will be a little more manageable to start with and will still catch bigger trout,” recommended Ciccarelli. You also don’t need to invest in expensive reels when you are catching trout, salmon or other smaller fish. “Most cheaper reels can do everything you need,” he added.

When it comes to the line, make sure the fly line matches the weight of your rod. From experience, Ciccarelli has found not all fly lines are created equal. “You can get cheaper lines, but I don’t think they cast as well.” Cleaning your fly line after each fishing trip can make the line last longer.


Keep It Short

For those first fly fishing experiences, you want to keep it a short outing. Try to find a location close by. Head out in the morning for cooler temperatures.

Use others’ knowledge and beta to find the best location for a successful trip. “Know before you go,” suggested Ciccarelli. “Call a fly shop in the area to ask for a location recommendation and ask them what flies have been successful.” Hatch charts for the river can also help tell you what should be hatching for the specific time of year you are fishing.


Watch Fish Behavior

Before casting out, watch out for fish behavior. This may mean looking for fish activity, from rises to bubbles and even flashes underwater. “Sometimes just watching the river and looking for fish without casting can teach you more than going in there blind casting,” said Ciccarelli. “Many fish sit in shallow water on the edges of rivers and lakes. Walk slowly and watch; you’ll see more fish and get to know where they are lying with a little observation.”

Also, make sure before you let out the line, look for fishy-looking spots. “Deep holes, dropoffs, foam lines, eddies, seams where fast and slow water meet — these are all places fish hang out in,” suggested Ciccarelli. “If you are on the water with no one around, move up or down the river looking for the best water. Try those spots for a while, and if nothing is happening, move on.”


Cast Less

The less you have to cast, the more likely you are to attract fish. “Fish are always looking overhead for predators. The less casts you make, the less chance of scaring fish. If you are new to casting, get used to practicing good roll casts and double haul casts if there is nothing behind you,” suggested Ciccarelli.

Part of having to cast less is a focus on proper technique and presentation. Check to see if you are getting a good drift. Is it necessary to mend your line? “Sometimes if you have two or three currents in front of you, you may have to mend your fly line,” said Ciccarelli. “The idea behind this is that you leave your fly in the current you want, but roll your fly line up or down the river, depending on the current, to keep it in a nice dead drift. A dead drift is when the fly floats down the river naturally, like it is dead following the current.”


Show Some Etiquette

Being conscious of other fly fishers and being friendly can go a long way toward a more enjoyable and successful experience. “If you are fishing around other people, give them space; ask them if they are working up or down,” said Ciccarelli. “Sometimes a little river etiquette can get you friendly with other fishermen, and they may offer some helpful tips.”

Also, be aware of the animals that call the area home. Give them the space they need to roam freely about their habitat. Be conscious of the flora and fauna, taking care to not snag lines on plants and trees and avoiding damaging or crushing them when moving about.

Other areas of etiquette include the principle of leaving no trace. Clean up your trash, including broken fishing line. Pack it in and pack it out.


Have Fun

The biggest thing to focus on when fishing is the experience. “We all get our flies tangled and in knots from time to time,” Ciccarelli said. “Don’t get frustrated; just take the time to take a deep breath and figure out how to get it out and what you did to get yourself in that situation.”

Some days the fish will be biting, and some days they won’t. “If you are new to fly fishing, don’t worry about how many fish you catch,” Ciccarelli said. “Some days the best fishermen don’t catch anything. Enjoy being outside and on the river. A bad day of fishing beats a good day of anything else.”

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