How Does Fly Fishing Work – How to Cast and Catch Fish

man casting fly rod

Have you ever wanted to to try fly fishing but your not really sure how it works? Well you have come to the right spot! In this article I will break down exactly how fly fishing works to get you on the right path.

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Fly Fishing has a very rich history as it has been around since almost the beginning of man. It has evolved from a survival skill to a recreational sport.

There are a few basic components and concepts that are fundamental to your fishing success. Lets get started and cover this information so that you can move one step closer to catching fish.

Components Of A Fly Cast

There are a few pieces of vital gear that you must have in order to fly fish.

These are just a few item that are absolutely necessary. The rod, reel, line, leader, and fly being absolutely crucial.

Fly fisherman often times do not choose the right fly rod to get started fly fishing. You do not need a fancy $1000 fly fishing rod to be successful. I have used my $200 combo for many years and have caught hundreds if not thousands of fish with it.

If you do buy a combo fly fishing rod then it will often times be spooled with fly line already. if its not you will have to spool the fly line yourself.

You will need to add you fly leader and fishing flies yourself. Sometimes they are sold as part of the beginner starter pack or something like that. Those are fine for starting out but you will eventually have to buy some more leader and tippet.

If this sounds foreign to you then you should read my article on leader and tippet. This will give a in depth explanation to arguably the most important aspect of your fishing gear (excluding the fly of coarse).

Recommended Article >> How to Choose A Fly Rod

How Does Fly Fishing Work?

Fly fishing is not a complicated activity in theory.

Simply put, Fly Fishing is the ability to use a fly rod, fishing reel, and artificial flies to catch fish.

That’s the simple part that I referenced a second ago. It only get harder form here.

man fly fishing

Using this fly fishing equipment you still must present your fly to the fish. This part is easier said than done. Casting a fly is where the art form really comes into play.

How to Cast A Fishing Fly

When first learning how fly fishing works, you should stick to a basic fly cast. A basic fly cast involves a backward motion of your fly rod, followed by a forward motion, and repeated until you have achieved the desired distance landing the fly in your target location.

This is obviously over simplified for the sake of this article only talking about the basic concepts. You can see our other articles on fly casting if you wish to learn more.

The motion of the back cast creates energy that is transferred form your arm to the fly.

As you put your arm in motion the fly rod will go into motion as well. At this point energy is being transferred into the rod.

The energy moves through the fly rod until it reaches the tip of the rod. At this point the energy starts transferring into the fly line putting the fly fishing line into motion.

At this point the energy transfer continues down to the fly.

This process is repeated until you wish for your fly to touch or enter the water. Once your fly is presented to the fish, your job is not finished, but your cast is.

Other types of fly cast exist because not one cast is ideal for every situation. Often times we are fishing in windy conditions, steep terrain, need to make shorter or longer casts, fishing heavy current, or from a boat. This situations may require another type of fly cast.

Recommended Article >> What is A Fishing Fly and How to Select the Right One

Setting The Hook

Once you have selected the perfect fly and introduced your fly to the water, only half of the work is done. Your patiently awaiting a strike, watching your fly or you fly line.

The infamous strike occurs and its time to set the hook. Depending on species of fish, you will apply more or less power to your hook set.

Species like trout and pan fish have a soft mouth. Less pressure is needed with them. Other fish like bass, pike, or saltwater fish will require more pressure.

The process of setting the hook will look something like this.

  1. Hold the rod in your dominant hand.
  2. Pinch the fly line in your hauling hand (the other hand).
  3. Take note as to how slack in your fly line. Whenever possible reduce slack in the line.
  4. When you see the take, pinch the fly line with your hauling hand tightly.
  5. Simultaneously, raid your fly rod pointing the tip to between the 9 or 12 o’clock position (depending on slack).

If you are successful the fight is now on. If you miss your fish do not get down on yourself. This is a fairly common occurrence in fly fishing. There can be multiple factors in missing a strike. That will be another article for another day.

There’s just one more step if learning how fly fishing works, the fight!

Fighting the Fish

If you are successful with your cast, and again successful with setting the hook, the third phase is the fight.

When fighting your fish it is important to follow these key tips in order to land it.

  1. Keep slack out of your line
  2. Do NOT horse the fish or think that you have to get them in quickly.
  3. Don’t keep your rod at maximum height. You will have to motion to reduce slack if the fish swims at you.
  4. If you have a decent amount of line out try and get the fish on the reel. Reel in the slack while maintaining tension.
  5. Raise the rod to bring the fish toward you small sections at a time.
  6. Slowly lower the rod tip while reeling in the slack.
  7. Lead your fish with the rod tip in opposing direction. It the fish runs left, move the rod tip laterally to the right.
  8. Repeat these steps until the fish is a little more than a rod length away form you.
  9. Pinch your line into your rod hand and grab for your net.
  10. Raise your fly rod tip while reaching out with your net. Don’t stab at the fish while landing your catch.

Recommended Article >> How To Spool A Fly Reel -Step By Step Guide.

Handling Your Fish

man fly fishing in river

This is one of those areas in fly fishing that you will hear anglers bicker about all day long. You can do your own research into what is or is not harmful to your catch and each species may be slightly different.

There are some unmistakable tips to not injury the fish however.

  1. Use a net
  2. Keep the fish wet
  3. Keep fingers out of the gill area
  4. Don’t over handle
  5. Allow the fish to recuperate before release
  6. Use forceps to reduce handling

It is important to preserve these creatures in our fisheries. Its important to maintain the ecosystems as well as the sport. If anglers of today abuse the fish it will hurt the anglers of tomorrow.

Fly Fishing Final Thoughts

There has been a healthy amount of information introduced in this article. These are just the bare bone tips on how fly fishing works.

Fly fishing takes time to master, it can’t all be learned in one day or one trip. Try heading into your local fly shop and asking the folks there some questions. I have found that they are more the happy to teach you a thing or two. If your able to support local fly shops I highly recommend that as well.

I hope you can use some of these tips the next time your out on the water. Let me know if you have any good tips for beginners in the comments below.

Good luck out there.

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