Learning any new method of fishing is exciting, and we especially love this one. For any angler that is thinking of taking up fly fishing, we’ve put together this guide showcasing the most important information about fly fishing for beginners.
What is Fly Fishing
Fly fishing in an angling method that uses a specific rod, reel and line; a particular type of bait; and casting strategies that differ from traditional fishing. For starters, the bait used is lightweight and resembles a fly (hence ‘fly’ fishing) or some other type of bug or invertebrate. The three main categories of flies are dry flies, nymphs and streamers. The bait does not provide the weight though, like it does in most other fishing endeavors.
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The line used, known as fly fishing line or fly line, is what provides the weight needed when casting. The rod and reel are also quite different as compared to conventional fishing. The rods are longer and more flexible, allowing for unique movements and curvature. Fly fishing reels, as opposed to traditional ones, are open and require frontside hand position.
The goal is to make the fish think a bug has landed on the water’s surface, tricking them into biting. To achieve this, the technique employed when casting must be tactful and delicate, to avoid spooking the fish. In its most basic form, the technique requires a length of about a rod to a rod and a half of line to be released prior to whipping the rod backward and then forward to cast out. In addition to the casting approach, the leader and tippet play an integral role in staging the bait in a manner in which the fish will only see the bait and nothing else.
Most importantly, fly fishing is most often performed when standing in the middle of a creek or stream but can be successful from a boat in both fresh and saltwater.
Popular Fish to Target While Fly Fishing
The technique used when fly fishing may be slightly different depending on the type of fish being targeted and where you are fishing. Florida offers such a unique challenge for fly fishers as there are so many species to choose from, whether you are in fresh or saltwater.
Top 7 Tips for Beginners
We really hope every angler, new or seasoned, tries their hand at fly fishing at least once. It is not disappointing! Here are a few things to know before venturing out:
Scout the Water and Observe
Arguably, the most important step in becoming a pro at fly fishing is knowing how to properly scout the water. This will serve several purposes and offer many benefits. For starters, check for fish along the banks. Walking in without looking around could spook a bunch of fish nearby and spoil a perfectly good opportunity. Then, look further out for other potential places to settle in, ideally downstream of the target zone.
Before settling in, walk around in the water and observe the behavior of the inhabiting fish. Find out which fish are eating which bugs. Determining the eating habits will help in choosing the best fly. Walking around will also aide in finding the most fishable areas.
Practice the Basic Fly Cast
A basic fly cast is the foundational move for all fly casting techniques. This movement begins with the rod tip pointing down with the line laid out on the water in front. It then requires a smooth acceleration from the starting position until the rod tip is behind the angler, pausing to release the line. Then, another acceleration forward to cast the line out ahead.
For an even easier method, anglers can begin their fly fishing experience by dapping. This is a simple method in which an angler stands about a rod-length away from the water and, using only the leader through the rod tip, gently dips the fly onto the water, letting it drift a few inches and then picks it back up. By repeating this ‘dapping’ process, it mimics the motions of a bug landing on water.
In Small Waters, Fish Upstream
When in a small body of water, like a river, there is less space to maneuver, making it hard to remain stealthy. Fishing upstream is the trick. When fishing upstream, noise produced by an angler is reduced by the rushing water, making it hard for fish to anticipate. It can also reduce changes in water clarity caused by an angler’s movements in the water by washing mud/dirt/sand and debris downstream.
By fishing upstream, an angler can use the current to guide the fly into the target zone by casting beyond it and waiting patiently. This will mimic the movements of real flies or bugs landing on the water and riding it down. The current will also aid in an easier fight between fish and angler, as opposed to fishing downstream and wrestling the fish back up river.
Use Bigger Flies and Heavier Weight in High/Murky Waters
When the waters are high and/or visibility is low, best practice is to use a thicker tippet and leader to add some weight and durability to the line. Then, make use of a larger fly, like a conehead streamer or larger copper john. This combination will produce more vibrations on the water and will make it harder for the fish to ignore, despite the less-than-ideal water conditions.
It may also be beneficial to use more brightly-colored flies in murky waters, but don’t overlook the efficacy of a black fly in any circumstance.
Better Too Much Tippet Than Too Little
A rule of thumb in fly fishing is that using too much tippet is better than using too little. That is because having too little tippet makes it hard to change flies, is not good for drag reduction and doesn’t help with gentle presentation. It’s recommended that anglers use at least 3-4 feet of tippet material on a 9 to 12-foot leader.
Check Your Bait Often
Tippets can get tangled or knotted around the hook, making it important to check your tippet and fly every five or so casts. Consider replacing the fly as well if the fish aren’t biting.
When in Doubt, Ask for Help
Every body of water has its nuances and particular species, making them all challenging in their own ways. If any questions arise while out on the water, check out the local fly shop. This will be the best place to find information, resources, gear and bait.
Our Popular Boats
Take a look at some of our popular boat models. Our certified manufacturers make good quality boats of all shapes and sizes!
New 2023 27' Grady-White Freedom 275 Dual Console powered by twin Yamaha Outboards. Available for
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New 2023 Cobia 301 CC Center Console Boat Powered by Twin Yamaha Outboards. Available for
Local Places to Fly Fish
If you’re looking for places local to South Florida for great fly fishing, look no further.
Myakka River should definitely be on your list. It’s a great place for catching any fish on a fly rod. You can lure fish species such as Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, Snook, and Red Drum.
Usually popular with canoeists, the Peace River is a great spot for fly fishing and freshwater fishing. The most popular fish species include Largemouth Bass, Bass, Snook, and Catfish.
Another one of the most popular places for fly fishing in Florida is Sarasota Bay. Home to fish species such as Tarpon, Mackerel, Bluefish, Redfish, and Snook, Sarasota Bay is one to behold.
It’s recommended to use a flats boat if you’re going fly fishing, to cover more water. One of the best places to fly fish in Sarasota Bay includes Buttonwood Harbor, where you can score fish species such as Tarpon and Snook.
Pine Island Sound
Fly fishing in Florida wouldn’t be the same without Pine Island Sound. Pine Island Sound comprises Cape Coral, Pine Island, Punta Gorda, Sanibel Island, and Cayo Costa. The most popular fish species you can find here include Redfish, Tarpon, Mackerel, and Snook.
Caloosahatchee River is one of the best places in Florida for catching freshwater species, including Red Drum, Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, and Snook.
Fly fishing should be on every angler’s bucket list. This beginner-friendly sport doesn’t require much outside of some specific fly fishing gear and a good understanding of the water body of choice. Although it can be somewhat frustrating at times, as with many other new hobbies, it just takes a little practice.