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Fly Fishing Basics

fly fishing
Not all fly fishing requires you to wade out into a stream. Learn more about fly fishing and how to get started with Blain’s Farm & Fleet.

Fly fishing is not only one of the coolest types of fishing, it’s also one of the easiest to pick up. But there’s a lot more to it than the image of the lone angler standing in the shimmering waters of a mountain stream as the early morning sunlight filters through the trees. There are several different types of fly fishing, and they don’t all involve waders.

One of the things that sets these different types of fly fishing apart from each other is location. The body of water you plan to fish determines a lot about what fly fishing gear you need and how you’ll fish.

Not only this, but there is a wide variety of fly fishing gear out there. Some of it’s expensive, some of it’s actually quite affordable. We’ll help you work your way through this equipment and pick the gear that works best for you.

Types of Fly Fishing


Wading is obviously done in shallow streams, rivers, and lakes. The angler uses hip or chest waders and fishes from a fixed position in the water. This may be the most popular or iconic version of fly fishing, and is usually used to fish trout and other fish that are found mainly in streams and rivers. It requires a certain amount of physical fitness to stand for a long time and resist currents.

Boat Fly Fishing

Fly fishing isn’t just for shallow water. Fly fisherman often fish deeper waters using a fly rod to great success. Popular species to fish from a boat include pike and muskie. This is the type of fly fishing preferred by older anglers who have difficulty standing for long periods of time and resisting river or stream currents.

Saltwater or Beach Fly Fishing

You can also fly fish from the beach. Beach fishing can be done in fresh water, but is most often done in saltwater for snook and other coastal ocean species. This usually requires the fisherman to be more fit to resist the swells as the waves wash against him.

Fly Fishing Equipment

One of the keys to becoming a successful fly fisherman is getting the right equipment. You might walk into a sporting goods store and notice that fly fishing gear can get expensive. It doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg to get started, though.

Fly Fishing Rods and Reels

You can find good rod and reel combo kits for less than $100 in most stores. Now, most of these will be for smaller species, so if you want to fly fish from the beach or in saltwater, you’ll want to invest in a more expensive, heavy duty rod. But a cheaper rod and reel are fine for trout and bass here in the Midwest. Look for one with a line weight of 5 or 6 that will be lightweight and easy to swing.


Fly fishing is all about the art of imitation. The goal in choosing a fly lure is to fool the fish into thinking it’s a real fly or small fish swimming in the water or just above the surface. This means that you’ll have to look into what your prey likes to eat. If you’re fishing trout, research what they like to eat and pick a fly that’s designed to imitate it. For freshwater species, these are usually shaped like insects or minnows. Spinner baits will also include a shiny, spinning coin or two to get the attention of fish from far away.

For saltwater fishing, your lure should imitate pray like crustaceans and larger bait fish. Crab and shrimp flies usually work very well for beach fishing. As with freshwater fish, always be sure to research the diet of the species you want to catch, and pick a fly that mimics its favorite meal.

For whatever kind of fish you’re after, always try to match the color of your fly to the color of the river, lake, or ocean bottom of the area you’re fishing. If the bottom is dark, use a dark-colored fly. If it’s light, use a light-colored fly.

Also, consider the depth of the water you’re fishing. If it’s shallow, use a lightweight fly that won’t sink as fast. For deeper waters, use a heavier fly that will sink quickly. The weight of flies is determined by the type of eyes they have. Eyes are small bits of plastic or metal that are used to attract fish and weigh down the fly. Plastic eyes give you the lightest fly, hollow metal ones will be middle-weight, and solid metal will be the heaviest.

Tackle Bag or Box

Tackle bags are generally better for wading, while tackle boxes are ideal for fishing from the shore or from a boat. If you want to be mobile or you’ll be fishing somewhere that won’t have a space to set down your tackle, get a tackle bag. If you will have space, go with a tackle box. They offer more space and protection for all your lures, leads, and tackle.


If you plan on wading out into a stream, river, or lake to fly fish, you’ll want some waders to keep you dry. The best policy when choosing waders is that you can never go too long. You can always fish a shallow spot with waders that are too long, but you can’t fish a deeper spot with waders that are too short. Invest in a good pair of well-camouflaged chest waders for your first pair.

Fly Fishing Technique

There are so many different styles of casting in fly fishing that it’s hard to know which one to master first. You won’t have to be perfect to start with. Just pick a basic overhead cast to work on at first. The most exciting part of fly fishing might be the cast, but it’s not as important as how you play your line once it’s in the water. Remember, when you’re fly fishing, the idea is to imitate the prey of the fish you want to catch. This means that you’ll have to learn about how the prey of the fish moves. Do this either by watching them near the stream, or by watching videos or reading fly fishing guides like the ones we feature in our blog.


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