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I’ve been fascinated with fishing since I was little, especially fly fishing. But I didn’t start fly fishing until a couple of friends invited me on a camping/fly fishing trip to the Spring River in Arkansas.

My buddies didn’t have extra gear, so at their suggestion, I headed to Bass Pro Shops and got a beginner fly fishing setup. That was 20 years ago. I still have some of the same gear today.

With a little learning at the river, I easily took to fly fishing and I think you will too.

Fly fishing isn’t hard to learn. It’s the placement of a fly in front of a fish by casting with the weight of the line instead of the weight of the bait. After you learn to cast, it’s very similar in nature to other styles of fishing.

Let’s look at how to master fly casting, the basic gear of fly fishing, and some simple tricks I’ve learned over the years.

How to Master Fly Casting

Proper fly fishing hand placement when learning to cast with a fly rod and reel.

The most challenging part of fly fishing is the cast. Let’s compare conventional fishing in order to understand the difference.

When baitcasting, the weight of the bait or sinker is used in casting the line.

Fly casting, however, focuses on the weight of the line to deliver a rather weightless fly to its target destination. Fly casting may be as little as 20 feet when trout fishing or 50 to 80 feet when saltwater fishing.

When getting started, don’t buy an expensive fly rod and reel. A beginner fly fishing setup is a perfect place to start.

Casting a fly is performed on a four-count rhythm between the positions of 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. The speed of the count depends on how much fly line you have out. The longer the line the slower the count.

Steps for Practicing Your Cast

1. Find a Practice Area

An open area of a park or your yard will work great for mastering your casting technique.

Hold the fly rod like shaking hands with someone. Place your thumb on top with the rest of your fingers wrapped around the rod. Keep your grip relaxed yet firm.

2. Start with the Back Cast

On the count of one, take your cast from the front back to the 2 o’clock position. Begin slowly and speed up as the rod moves further back.

3. Pause at the 2 O’clock Position

This is done on the second count. This pause in movement lets the line travel through and unravel/unroll. The pause on this count is long enough to let the line fully unroll.

If you forward cast too soon, you will probably hear a snap and may lose your fly, so don’t practice with a fly on the line. Also, when forward casting too soon, you might see your line pile up in front of you instead of straightening out.

If you wait too long to forward cast, your line will start to fall and momentum will be lost. You don’t want to lose the energy you build through the back cast.

4. Forward Cast

On the count of three, forward cast while focusing your aim on the spot where you want your leader to land. Start slowly and pick up momentum through the cast to transfer energy through the line.

5. Stop or Pause at the 10 O’clock Position

This is done on a count of four. Stopping will allow the line to travel through and reach your target area. Or if you’re off the mark, you can pause and go through the steps again.

Not sure you’re casting properly? Check out the YouTube series on casting from the instructor featured here and find a local fly fishing shop or outfitter that will teach you the basics of casting your line. Or better yet, maybe you have some friends that will teach you. That’s how I learned.

Tying Basic Fly Fishing Knots

Fly fishing requires an ability to tie multiple lines together…

  • A section of monofilament or fluorocarbon line called a leader is tied to the fly line, your main fishing line.
  • Another section of monofilament or fluorocarbon line called the tippet is then tied to the leader.
  • And the fly is then tied to the tippet’s end.

Various knots have specific uses in connecting each of these.

Changing out your flies will probably happen throughout your day of fishing where tying on a new tippet and leader is less commonplace.

Surgeon’s Knot and Blood Knot

The surgeon’s knot and the blood knot are great for tying the leader to the fly line and tippet to the leader. The surgeon’s knot is easy to tie but the blood knot is preferred by many. Learning to tie both is a good idea as it gives you options.

How to Tie a Surgeon’s Knot

How to Tie a Blood Knot

Clinch Knots

Single or double clinch knots work well for tying the fly to the tippet. Consider a single clinch knot for smaller flies and double clinch knots for larger flies. Just make sure you’re comfortable in the security of your knot.

How to Tie a Clinch Knots

Basic Fly Fishing Gear

Fly fishing gear: flies, fly box, fly rods and reels.

Let’s face it. There’s a lot of fun fishing equipment out there. It’s no different when fly fishing. Let’s cover some of the gear to see what you might want to invest in.

Necessary Fly Fishing Gear

Very little gear is absolutely necessary when fly fishing. It’s a fairly inexpensive sport.

Possible Fly Fishing Gear

The following fly fishing gear might be needed or might make you more comfortable. It all depends on where you’re fishing and your personal needs.

For instance, you can fly fish at the edge of a lake or river and forgo the waders and boots.

Highly Recommended Items

Some items are just smart to take along on outdoor adventures like these and others from the Ten Essentials list that pertain to personal health and safety.

  • Polarized sunglasses like the ones I wear from Bajio
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Water
  • Food
  • Headlamp

Down Right Fun Fly Fishing Gear

There’s a lot that could be listed here but let me say without a doubt you need to look at fishing float tubes and fishing kayaks. Incredibly fun!!!

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Tips for Catching More Fish

Need some useful tricks and tips for catching fish on those bad days when nothing seems to bite but the mosquitoes? I have you covered…

Learn to Read the Water

Nature provides clues to where fish may be hanging out. When fishermen study the water for these clues, they are said to be “reading the water”. Undercut banks, overhanging trees or vegetation, fallen trees or limbs, large rocks, weed beds, shallow, nearshore, springs, riffles, holes, and transition areas are a few of the clues to where fish may hide.

Cast Downstream

Fish often feed into the water’s current. Setting your hook downstream will help prevent the hook from coming out of the fish’s mouth especially if you’re using barbless hooks.

Keep Fishing

Simple. Don’t give up. If you aren’t fishing, you won’t catch anything. Explore your fishing spot by casting around in different areas.

Don’t Spook the Fish

Fish frighten easily. Be a stealthy fisherman. Be silent. Avoid sudden movements. Wear natural colors and blend into your surroundings when possible.

Use Smaller Flies

Small flies like nymphs, drys, midges, and streamers often work best.

Change Locations

The more water you cover the greater number of fish you stand to catch. This is where fishing float tubes and fishing kayaks come in handy.

Properly Catch and Release Fish

Releasing a trout back into the stream.

You may be the catch-and-eat type or catch-and-release. Either way is a great way to go. Quite honestly, I’d rather you catch and keep your limit than improperly catch and release a fish.

I have great respect for nature and conservation. This was instilled in me by a grandfather who worked for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Preservation and protection of our natural resources are all but bred into me.

Actually, if you aren’t going to catch and release with care, fly fishing might not be right for you.

Tips to properly catch and release fish:

  • Pinch the barb or use a barbless hook.
  • Avoid exhausting the fish by bringing it in as quickly as possible.
  • Gently handle the fish with wet hands or wet fishing gloves.
  • Keep the fish in the water and resuscitate it.
  • If using a landing net, use a catch-and-release-style net made of a clear net that cradles the fish gently and disappears when you slip it into the water. This will minimize stress on the fish.
  • Keep the fish underwater when using a landing net. Don’t lift the fish out of the water unless necessary.
  • If you plan to both catch and eat and catch and release, let the fish’s condition dictate the keepers, not the size. Fish you hurt are your keepers.
  • If you plan to photograph your catch, do so responsibly and with as little stress on the fish as possible.

Where to Go Fly Fishing

You don’t have to find that picturesque river with amazing views. Ponds, lakes, and streams close to home are great for fly fishing too. They are often perfect for mastering your casting skills.

That said, if you live near a beautiful river, go for it! When I was learning to cast, I often went on day trips and weekend camping trips to nearby rivers.


It won’t take you long to learn the basic skills of fly fishing.

One of the things I like most is that there’s always something new to learn. It’s one of those peaceful activities that can take a lifetime to master and you’ll love every minute of it, especially if you share in it with family and friends.

Have fun out there!

Fly fisherman in a cold mountain stream with patches of snow on the ground.
Steve Hood

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