Skip to main content

Getting Started Fly Fishing

Getting Started Fly Fishing
Fishing the still water of lakes and ponds for bluegills and other panfish is a good way to master fly-fishing basics. (Keith Sutton photo)

There’s something incredibly beautiful in the way a well-cast fly line unfurls in the air, gently delivering a hook adorned with a few twists of thread and some feathers to a distant target. Romantic images of fly fishing have drawn many newcomers to the sport in recent years and caught the attention of many more who would like to learn the art of catching fish on a fly.

If you’ve been thinking about getting started fly fishing, you may wonder, how does one begin? Where can you learn the proper methods of casting? What equipment do you need? How do you choose from the hundreds of fly patterns available?

“The best way to start off fly fishing is to find a mentor,” says Anthony Acerrano, an ardent fly fisherman and field editor for Sports Afield magazine. “This might be a friend or acquaintance who is a competent fly fisherman, or perhaps an instructor at a fly fishing school or an expert who does seminars. Hands-on instruction from such people will allow you to learn the basics quickly. But if you can’t find someone to help, try the video store. There are many instructional fly-casting and fly-fishing videos on the market that can help beginners get started on the right track.”

Acerrano notes that basic fly casting isn’t as difficult as it sometimes looks. With a good teacher by your side, you should be able to learn the fundamentals in a single session.


“Don’t listen to too many different people, however,” Acerrano cautions. “If you take advice from someone who isn’t good, you’ll just learn their bad habits.”


Acerrano mentions a couple of things to be aware of when learning to fly-cast. “Most people make two mistakes,” he says. “First, they try to rush the cast, trying to go back and forth too fast. Second, they use too much muscle. The rod should do the work; the angler provides the rhythm and timing.”

When you begin your casting lessons, Acerrano suggests starting out on dry land or in a fishless pond. Don’t start fishing until you’ve mastered the basics. And when you’re ready to move to water, fish in still water such as ponds or lake edges first. Doing this will allow a smoother transition when you start fishing in a stream with current.

“Bluegills, which are abundant in many still waters, are great targets for beginning fly fisherman,” he says, noting that he learned to fly fish while targeting this species. “They aren’t very difficult to catch, especially in the morning or near dusk when they’re dimpling the surface as they feed on insects. All you need are a few flies: some surface poppers with rubber legs and a few sponge-bodied flies. Just cast the fly out there, twitch it and, bang, they’ll hit.”

It’s easy to get confused when you’re first learning about different weight rods, tippets of various sizes and flies that come in hundreds of patterns. A basic outfit that will get you started in the right direction for panfish and trout, says Acerrano, is “an 8- to 9-foot, 5- or 6-weight graphite rod, a serviceable reel with a simple drag and floating weight-forward fly line.”




Most fly fishermen also consider waders essential. Choose between neoprene models or lightweight, breathable waders, with or without built-in boots. Felt soles provide traction on slippery rocks, and a wading staff is a good investment for beginners and veterans.

Many fly fishermen adorn their fishing vests with gadgets the way war heroes collect medals on their chests, but beginners, Acerrano says, can get by with hemostats for removing hooks, clippers to cut line and knots, and a good hook sharpener. You’ll also benefit by wearing a good hat with a dark underbrim and polarized sunglasses that cut glare on the water.

When selecting flies, “Start simple,” Acerrano says. “Don’t try to buy everything in the shop. Talk to local experts, in a fly shop or on the water, and ask them to help you pick a few basic patterns, including some of the hot ones all the locals know will catch fish.”


Add some extra leaders and tippet material, some strike indicators and shot for weighting your leader, and you’re set to enjoy a wonderful outdoor pastime that will bring you many hours of enjoyment.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

ATA 2021 NeDuring this video from the Archery Trade Association's New Product Premiere showcase, Bowhunter's TV Mike Carney visited with Evan Williams, pro staff manager for Hoyt Archery, to learn about the new RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum and Ventum 33 bows.w Product - Hoyt

New for 2021: Bear Redemption EKO, Legit RTH Compound Bows

New for 2021: Bear Redemption EKO, Legit RTH Compound Bows

Bear Archery's newest bows - Redemption EKO and Legit RTH - are light, adjustable and fast.

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

The Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system is the pinnacle of kayak control with more efficient fin designs, glide technology and allows the boat to be moved in any direction.

New for 2021: Rage Broadhead, Nockturnal Nock, Carbon Express Arrows

New for 2021: Rage Broadhead, Nockturnal Nock, Carbon Express Arrows

New for 2021, here's a look at the new Rage Trypan NC, Nockturnal Shift Nock, Carbon Express Maxima RED Contour and D-Stroyer PileDRIVER arrows.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Smart technology offers crossbow hunters instantaneous decision making capabilities.Field Tested: TenPoint's Vapor RS470 XERO Proves Itself on Ohio Hunt Crossbows

Field Tested: TenPoint's Vapor RS470 XERO Proves Itself on Ohio Hunt

Dr. Todd A. Kuhn - November 18, 2020

Smart technology offers crossbow hunters instantaneous decision making capabilities.

Want to learn how to cook tasty walleye? This recipe includes three easy methods (on a grill, in a foil packet, and on a stovetop) that are sure to result in a delicious lunch or supper.Grilled Walleye Recipe Fish

Grilled Walleye Recipe

Raschell Rule - August 12, 2014

Want to learn how to cook tasty walleye? This recipe includes three easy methods (on a grill,...

Make this venison chorizo recipe and cook it right away or freeze it (cooked or raw) and use it as needed.Venison Chorizo Recipe Wild Game

Venison Chorizo Recipe

Allie Doran - October 30, 2020

Make this venison chorizo recipe and cook it right away or freeze it (cooked or raw) and use...

This Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe makes the perfect wild game sandwich. Elk burger patties are accompanied by melted Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and Thousand Island dressing and then pressed in between two toasted and golden brown pieces of rye bread.Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe Wild Game

Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe

Kristy Crabtree - October 27, 2020

This Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe makes the perfect wild game sandwich. Elk burger patties...

See More Trending Articles

More Fishing

The record hickory shad is the first record of 2021 in Georgia.Angler Targets Crappie, Breaks 25-Year-Old Shad Record Records

Angler Targets Crappie, Breaks 25-Year-Old Shad Record

Game & Fish Staff - February 09, 2021

The record hickory shad is the first record of 2021 in Georgia.

With more huge Texas largemouths reported, and the spring spawn looming, it may get even better.Will Winter Hot Streak Turn Into March Bass Madness? News

Will Winter Hot Streak Turn Into March Bass Madness?

Lynn Burkhead - March 01, 2021

With more huge Texas largemouths reported, and the spring spawn looming, it may get even...

Winter is truly the best time to get your hands on a supersized northern.Ice Pike: Tweak Your Game Plan to Target Trophy Northerns Other Freshwater

Ice Pike: Tweak Your Game Plan to Target Trophy Northerns

Dr. Jason Halfen - February 11, 2021

Winter is truly the best time to get your hands on a supersized northern.

On heels of historic winter weather, O.H. Ivie becomes hottest bass lake in Texas.Texas Follows Deep Freeze With Big-Bass Hot Streak News

Texas Follows Deep Freeze With Big-Bass Hot Streak

Lynn Burkhead - February 26, 2021

On heels of historic winter weather, O.H. Ivie becomes hottest bass lake in Texas.

See More Fishing

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now