Gone Outdoors

How to Fly Fish

by Zach Lazzari

Mastering the art of fly fishing requires a significant investment of time. The sport is comprised of multiple elements that will entertain the angler for a lifetime. Fly casting is done through precision timing and muscle memory and multiple movements are used to make an effective presentation. The goal in most fly fishing scenarios is to imitate the natural food source for a fish.

Assembling the Rod

Assemble your fly rod by connecting the tapered sections. Most rods have either two or four pieces with male and female sections that connect. Align the guides and make a snug connection until the rod is complete. Place the reel on the reel seat and tighten the nut until the reel is snug. Grab the end of the line and pull roughly 15-feet off the reel. Make a loop in the line and feed it through the guides, beginning with the bottom and working through the tip. The rod is now ready for casting practice.

Casting Practice

Stand in an open field or the edge of a pond for casting practice. Grip the rod with your thumb on the back of the grip. Hold the line above the reel in your free hand. Begin the back-cast with the rod parallel to the ground. Make a swift motion back, stopping with the tip of the pole at roughly the 1 o'clock position. Keep your wrist tight and use your forearm to generate the energy. Watch the line as it travels backwards and the loop unravels behind you. Begin the forward cast as the loop straightens on the backcast. Stop the forward cast at roughly 10 o'clock. The line will unravel and straighten out in front of you. Repeat the sequence until you are comfortable casting.

Selecting a Fly

Select a dry fly, nymph or streamer based on the situation. Use a dry fly when fish are visibly eating on the surface. Use a nymph when fish are not visible and use a streamer when targeting aggressive species like bass and pike. Tie the fly to the end of your leader with a clinch knot. Feed the leader through the eye of the hook, make 6-twists in the leader and feed the tag end through the gap between the hook eye and the first twist. Pull the knot tight and clip the tag end close to the knot. You are now ready to begin fishing.

Make a Presentation

The presentation style varies based on your fly choice and the type of water. The moving water of a river requires more maneuvering than the calm currents in a pond or lake. Cast the fly onto the water in a pond or lake. Let it sit still for dry flies and use a retrieve for nymphs and streamers. Strip the line through the forefinger on your rod hand to make a retrieve. Cast the fly up and across the current for rivers. Allow the fly to drift down river until the line is tight. Recast for dry flies and nymphs. Retrieve a streamer back up river before recasting.

Set the Hook and Land the Fish

Make a swift lifting motion when a fish eats the fly. The motion will set the hook into the bone or flesh. Keep your rod tip high and bent to absorb the weight of the fish. Reel the line to bring the fish in close. When the fish makes a hard run, it will pull line off the reel and the drag will help maintain tension on the fish. When the fish is close, scoop the head with a net to complete the landing. Remove the hook with forceps and either release or keep the fish.

Photo Credits

  • Mike Powell/Digital Vision/Getty Images