Fly fishing is an angling method in which an artificial "fly" is used
to catch fish. The fly is cast using a fly rod, reel, and specialized
weighted line. Casting a nearly weightless fly or "lure" requires
casting techniques significantly different from other forms of
casting. Fly fishermen use hand tied flies that resemble natural
invertebrates, baitfish, other food organisms, or "lures" to provoke
the fish to strike (bite at the fly).
Fly fishing can be done in fresh or salt water. North Americans
usually distinguish freshwater fishing between cold-water species
(trout, salmon, steelhead) and warm-water species, notably bass. In
Britain, where natural water temperatures vary less, the distinction
is between game fishing for trout and salmon versus coarse fishing for
other species. Techniques for fly fishing differ with habitat (lakes
and ponds, small streams, large rivers, bays and estuaries, and open
Izaak Walton called fly fishing "The Contemplative Man's
1 Main overview
2.3 Technological improvements
3.2 Spey casting
Fly fishing for trout
Fishing in cold water
4.2 Dry fly trout fishing
4.3 Nymphing for trout
4.4 Still water trout fishing
4.5 Playing trout
4.6 Releasing trout
4.7 Saltwater flyfishing
6 Artificial flies
8 See also
10 Further reading
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Fly rod and reel with a brown trout from a chalk stream in England
In fly fishing, fish are caught by using artificial flies that are
cast with a fly rod and a fly line. The fly line (today, almost always
coated with plastic) is heavy enough to send the fly to the target.
The main difference between fly fishing and spin or bait fishing is
that in fly fishing the weight of the line carries the hook through
the air, whereas in spin and bait fishing the weight of the lure or
sinker at the end of the monofilament or braided line gives casting
distance. Artificial flies are of several types; some imitating an
insect (either flying or swimming), others a bait fish or crustacean,
others attractors are known to attract fish although they look like
nothing in nature. Flies can be made either to float or sink, and
range in size from a few millimeters to 30 cm long; most are
between 1 and 5 cm.
Artificial flies are made by fastening hair, fur, feathers, or other
materials, both natural and synthetic, onto a hook. The first flies
were tied with natural materials, but synthetic materials are now
popular and prevalent. Flies are tied in sizes, colors and patterns to
match local terrestrial and aquatic insects, baitfish, or other prey
attractive to the target fish species.
Fly fishing is most renowned as a method for catching trout, grayling
and salmon, but it is also used for a wide variety of species
including pike, bass, panfish, and carp, as well as marine species,
such as redfish, snook, tarpon, bonefish and striped bass. Many fly
anglers catch unintended species such as chub, bream and rudd while
fishing for 'main target' species such as trout. A growing population
of anglers[who?] attempt to catch as many different species as
possible with the fly. With the advancement of technology and
development of stronger rods and reels, larger predatory saltwater
species such as wahoo, tuna, marlin and sharks have become target
species on fly. Realistically any fish can be targeted and captured on
fly as long as the main food source is effectively replicated by the
fly itself and suitable gear is used.
Many credit the first recorded use of an artificial fly to the Roman
Claudius Aelianus near the end of the 2nd century. He described the
practice of Macedonian anglers on the Astraeus River:
...they have planned a snare for the fish, and get the better of them
by their fisherman's craft. . . . They fasten red wool. . . round a
hook, and fit on to the wool two feathers which grow under a cock's
wattles, and which in color are like wax. Their rod is six feet long,
and their line is the same length. Then they throw their snare, and
the fish, attracted and maddened by the color, comes straight at it,
thinking from the pretty sight to gain a dainty mouthful; when,
however, it opens its jaws, it is caught by the hook, and enjoys a
bitter repast, a captive.
In his book
Fishing from the Earliest Times, however, William Radcliff
(1921) gave the credit to
Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis), born
some two hundred years before Aelianus, who wrote:
...Who has not seen the scarus rise, decoyed and killed by fraudful
The last word, somewhat indistinct in the original, is either "mosco"
(moss) or "musca" (fly) but catching fish with fraudulent moss seems
The traditional Japanese method of fly-fishing is known as "Tenkara"
(Japanese: テンカラ, literally: "from heaven"). Tenkara
originated in the mountains of Japan as a way for professional
fishermen and inn-keepers to harvest the local fish, Ayu, trout and
char for selling and providing a meal to their guests. Primarily a
small-stream fishing method that was preferred for being highly
efficient, where the long rod allowed the fisherman to place the fly
where the fish would be.
Another style of fishing in Japan is
Ayu fishing. As written by
historian Andrew Herd, in the book "The Fly", "
Fly fishing became
popular with Japanese peasants from the twelfth century
onward...fishing was promoted to a pastime worthy of Bushi (warriors),
as part of an official policy to train the Bushi's mind during
peacetime." This refers primarily to
Ayu fishing, which commonly
uses a fly as lure, uses longer rods, but there is no casting
technique required, it's more similar to dapping.
Ayu was practiced in
the lowlands (foothills), where the Bushi resided, tenkara practiced
in the mountains.
Fishing flies are thought to have originated in
Ayu fishing over 430 years ago. These flies were made
with needles that were bent into shape and used as fishing hooks, then
dressed as a fly. The rods along with fishing flies, are considered to
be a traditional local craft of the Kaga region.
Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler, published in 1653 helped
popularize fly fishing as a sport.
Woodcut by Louis Rhead, 1900
Other than a few fragmented references little was written on fly
fishing until The Treatyse on Fysshynge with an Angle was published
(1496) within The Boke of Saint Albans attributed to Dame Juliana
Berners. The book contains instructions on rod, line and hook making
and dressings for different flies to use at different times of the
year. By the 15th century, rods of approximately fourteen feet length
with a twisted line attached at its tips were probably used in
The earliest English poetical treatise on
Angling by John Dennys, said
to have been a fishing companion of Shakespeare, was published in
1613, The Secrets of Angling. Footnotes of the work, written by
Dennys' editor, William Lawson, make the first mention of the phrase
to 'cast a fly': "The trout gives the most gentlemanly and readiest
sport of all, if you fish with an artificial fly, a line twice your
rod's length of three hairs' thickness... and if you have learnt the
cast of the fly."
The art of fly fishing took a great leap forward after the English
Civil War, where a newly found interest in the activity left its mark
on the many books and treatises that were written on the subject at
the time. The renowned officer in the Parliamentary army, Robert
Venables, published in 1662 The Experienced Angler, or Angling
improved, being a general discourse of angling, imparting many of the
aptest ways and choicest experiments for the taking of most sorts of
fish in pond or river. Another Civil War veteran to enthusiastically
take up fishing was Richard Franck. He was the first to describe
salmon fishing in Scotland, and both in that and trout-fishing with
artificial fly he was a practical angler. He was the first angler to
name the burbot, and commended the salmon of the
The Compleat Angler
The Compleat Angler was written by
Izaak Walton in 1653 (although
Walton continued to add to it for a quarter of a century) and
described the fishing in the
Derbyshire Wye. It was a celebration of
the art and spirit of fishing in prose and verse; 6 verses were quoted
from John Dennys's earlier work. A second part to the book was added
by Walton's friend Charles Cotton.
Walton did not profess to be an expert with a fishing fly; the fly
fishing in his first edition was contributed by Thomas Barker, a
retired cook and humorist, who produced a treatise of his own in 1659;
but in the use of the live worm, the grasshopper and the frog
"Piscator" himself could speak as a master. The famous passage about
the frog, often misquoted as being about the worm—"use him as though
you loved him, that is, harm him as little as you may possibly, that
he may live the longer"—appears in the original edition. Cotton's
additions completed the instruction in fly fishing and advised on the
making of artificial flies where he listed sixty five varieties.
Charles Kirby designed an improved fishing hook in 1655 that remains
relatively unchanged to this day. He went on to invent the Kirby bend,
a distinctive hook with an offset point, still commonly used today.
Trading card of the Ustonson company, an early firm specializing in
fishing equipment, and holder of a Royal Warrant from the 1760s.
The 18th century was mainly an era of consolidation of the techniques
developed in the previous century. Running rings began to appear along
the fishing rods, which gave anglers greater control over the cast
line. The rods themselves were also becoming increasingly
sophisticated and specialized for different roles. Jointed rods became
common from the middle of the century and bamboo came to be used for
the top section of the rod, giving it a much greater strength and
The industry also became commercialized - rods and tackle were sold at
the haberdashers store. After the
Great Fire of London
Great Fire of London in 1666,
artisans moved to
Redditch which became a centre of production of
fishing related products from the 1730s.
Onesimus Ustonson established
his trading shop in 1761, and his establishment remained as a market
leader for the next century. He received a Royal Warrant and became
the official supplier of fishing tackle to three successive monarchs
starting with King
George IV over this period.
Some have credited Onesimus with the invention of the multiplying
winch, although he was certainly the first to advertise its sale.
Early multiplying reels were wide and had a small diameter, and their
gears, made of brass, often wore down after extensive use. His
earliest advertisement in the form of a trading card date from 1768
and was entitled To all lovers of angling. A full list of the tackles
he sold included artificial flies, and 'the best sort of multiplying
brass winches both stop and plain'. The commercialization of the
industry came at a time of expanded interest in fishing as a
recreational hobby for members of the aristocracy.
The impact of the
Industrial Revolution was first felt in the
manufacture of fly lines. Instead of anglers twisting their own lines
- a laborious and time-consuming process - the new textile spinning
machines allowed for a variety of tapered lines to be easily
manufactured and marketed.
British fly-fishing continued to develop in the 19th Century, with the
emergence of fly fishing clubs, along with the appearance of several
books on the subject of fly tying and fly fishing techniques.
The Fly-fisher's Entomology
The Fly-fisher's Entomology by Alfred Ronalds had a great influence on
the development of fly fishing when it was first published in 1836.
Alfred Ronalds took up the sport of fly fishing, learning the craft on
the rivers Trent, Blythe and Dove. On the
River Blythe, near what is
today Creswell Green, Ronalds constructed a bankside fishing hut
designed primarily as an observatory of trout behaviour in the river.
From this hut, and elsewhere on his home rivers, Ronalds conducted
experiments and formulated the ideas that eventually were published in
The Fly-fisher's Entomology
The Fly-fisher's Entomology in 1836.
He combined his knowledge of fly fishing with his skill as an engraver
and printer, to lavish his work with 20 color plates. It was the first
comprehensive work related to the entomology associated with fly
fishing and most fly-fishing historians credit Ronalds with setting a
literature standard in 1836 that is still followed today.
Describing methods, techniques and, most importantly, artificial
flies, in a meaningful way for the angler and illustrating them in
colour is a method of presentation that can be seen in most
fly-fishing literature today.
The book was mostly about the aquatic insects—mayflies, caddisflies
and stoneflies—that trout and grayling feed on and their counterpart
artificial imitations. About half the book is devoted to observations
of trout, their behaviour, and the methods and techniques used to
catch them. Most of this information, although enhanced by Ronalds'
experiences and observations, was merely an enhancement of Charles
Bowlker's Art of
Angling (first published in 1774 but still in print
In Chapter IV - Of a Selection of Insects, and Their Imitations, Used
Fishing - for the first time is discussed specific artificial
fly imitations by name, associated with the corresponding natural
insect. Organized by their month of appearance, Ronalds was the first
author to begin the standardization of angler names for artificial
flies. Prior to The Fly-fisher's Entomology, anglers had been given
suggestions for artificial flies to be used on a particular river or
at a particular time of the year, but those suggestions were never
matched to specific natural insects the angler might encounter on the
water. According to Ernest Schwiebert: "Ronalds is one of the
major milestones in the entire literature of fly-fishing, and with his
Entomology the scientific method has reached angling in full flower.
Ronalds was completely original in its content and research, setting
the yardstick for all subsequent discussion and illustration of
aquatic fly hatches.
'Nottingham' and 'Scarborough' reel designs
Modern reel design had begun in England during the latter part of the
18th century, and the predominant model in use was known as the
Nottingham reel'. The reel was a wide drum which spooled out freely,
and was ideal for allowing the bait to drift a long way out with the
current. Geared multiplying reels never successfully caught on in
Britain, but had more success in the United States, where similar
models were modified by George Snyder of
Kentucky into his
bait-casting reel, the first American-made design, in 1810.
The material used for the rod itself changed from the heavy woods
native to England, to lighter and more elastic varieties imported from
abroad, especially from
South America and the West Indies.
became the generally favoured option from the mid-19th century, and
several strips of the material were cut from the cane, milled into
shape, and then glued together to form light, strong, hexagonal rods
with a solid core that were superior to anything that preceded them.
George Cotton and his predecessors fished their flies with long rods
and light lines, allowing the wind to do most of the work of getting
the fly to the fish.
Fishing became a popular recreational activity in the 19th century.
Print from Currier and Ives.
Tackle design began to improve from the 1880s. The introduction of new
woods to the manufacture of fly rods made it possible to cast flies
into the wind on silk lines, instead of horse hair. These lines
allowed for a much greater casting distance. However, these early fly
lines proved troublesome as they had to be coated with various
dressings to make them float and needed to be taken off the reel and
dried every four hours or so to prevent them from becoming
waterlogged. Another negative consequence was that it became easy for
the much longer line to get into a tangle – this was called a
'tangle' in Britain, and a 'backlash' in the US. This problem spurred
the invention of the regulator to evenly spool the line out and
An American, Charles F. Orvis, designed and distributed a novel reel
and fly design in 1874, described by reel historian
Jim Brown as the
"benchmark of American reel design", and the first fully modern fly
reel. The founding of The
Orvis Company helped
institutionalize fly fishing by supplying angling equipment via the
circulation of his tackle catalogs, distributed to a small but devoted
customer list.
Albert Illingworth, 1st Baron Illingworth, a textiles magnate,
patented the modern form of fixed-spool spinning reel in 1905. When
casting Illingworth's reel design, the line was drawn off the leading
edge of the spool, but was restrained and rewound by a line pickup, a
device which orbits around the stationary spool. Because the line did
not have to pull against a rotating spool, much lighter lures could be
cast than with conventional reels.
Frontispiece from The Art of
Angling by Richard Brookes, 1790
By the mid to late 19th century, expanding leisure opportunities for
the middle and lower classes began to have its effect on fly fishing,
which steadily grew in mass appeal. The expansion of the railway
network in Britain allowed the less affluent for the first time to
take weekend trips to the seaside or to rivers for fishing. Richer
hobbyists ventured further abroad. The large rivers of Norway
replete with large stocks of salmon began to attract fishermen from
England in large numbers in the middle of the century - Jones's guide
to Norway, and salmon-fisher's pocket companion, published in 1848,
was written by Frederic Tolfrey and was a popular guide to the
In southern England, dry-fly fishing acquired an elitist reputation as
the only reliable method of fishing the slower, clearer rivers of the
south such as the
River Test and the other chalk streams concentrated
in Hampshire, Surrey,
Berkshire (see Southern England Chalk
Formation for the geological specifics). The weeds found in these
rivers tend to grow very close to the surface, and it was necessary to
develop new techniques that would keep the fly and the line on the
surface of the stream. These methods became the foundation of all
later dry-fly developments.
F. M. Halford
F. M. Halford was a major exponent and is
generally accepted as "The Father of Modern Dry Fly Fishing."
However, there was nothing to prevent the successful employment of wet
flies on these chalk streams, as
G. E. M. Skues
G. E. M. Skues proved with his nymph
and wet fly techniques. To the horror of dry-fly purists, Skues later
wrote two books, Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream, and The Way of a
Trout with a Fly, which greatly influenced the development of wet fly
fishing. In northern England and Scotland, many anglers also favored
wet-fly fishing, where the technique was more popular and widely
practiced than in southern England. One of Scotland’s leading
proponents of the wet fly in the early-to-mid 19th century was W.C.
Stewart, who published "The Practical Angler" in 1857.
From The Speckled Brook
Louis Rhead (1902)
In the United States, attitudes toward methods of fly fishing were not
nearly as rigidly defined, and both dry- and wet-fly fishing were soon
adapted to the conditions of the country. Fly anglers there are
thought to be the first anglers to have used artificial lures for bass
fishing. After pressing into service the fly patterns and tackle
designed for trout and salmon to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass,
they began to adapt these patterns into specific bass flies. Fly
anglers seeking bass developed the spinner/fly lure and bass popper
fly, which are still used today.
In the late 19th century, American anglers, such as
Theodore Gordon in
Catskill Mountains of New York, began using fly tackle to fish the
region’s brook trout-rich streams such as the Beaverkill and
Willowemoc Creek. Many of these early American fly anglers also
developed new fly patterns and wrote extensively about their sport,
increasing the popularity of fly fishing in the region and in the
United States as a whole. Albert Bigelow Paine, a New England
author, wrote about fly fishing in The Tent Dwellers, a book about a
three-week trip he and a friend took to central
Nova Scotia in 1908.
Participation in fly fishing peaked in the early 1920s in the eastern
Vermont and in the Midwest in the spring creeks of
Wisconsin. Along with deep sea fishing,
Ernest Hemingway did much to
popularize fly fishing through his works of fiction, including The Sun
Fly fishing in
Australia took off when brown trout were first
introduced by the efforts of Edward Wilson's Acclimatisation Society
of Victoria with the aim to "provide for manly sport which will lead
Australian youth to seek recreation on the river's bank and
mountainside rather than in the Cafe and Casino. " The first
successful transfer of Brown
Trout ova (from the Itchen and Wye) was
accomplished by James Arndell Youl, with a consignment aboard The
Norfolk in 1864. Rainbow
Trout were not introduced until 1894.
It was the development of inexpensive fiberglass rods, synthetic fly
lines, and monofilament leaders, however, in the early 1950s, that
revived the popularity of fly fishing. In recent years, interest in
fly fishing has surged as baby boomers have discovered the sport.
Movies such as Robert Redford's film A
River Runs Through It, starring
Craig Sheffer and Brad Pitt, cable fishing shows, and the emergence of
a competitive fly casting circuit have added to the sport's
Maramec Spring Branch, Missouri
Unlike other casting methods, fly fishing can be thought of as a
method of casting line rather than lure. Non-flyfishing methods rely
on a lure's weight to pull line from the reel during the forward
motion of a cast. By design, a fly is too light to be cast, and thus
simply follows the unfurling of a properly cast fly line, which is
heavier and tapered and therefore more castable than lines used in
other types of fishing.
The physics of flycasting can be described by the transfer of impulse,
the product of mass and speed through the rod from base to top and
from the transfer of impulse through the fly line all the way to the
tip of the leader. Because both the rod and the fly line are tapered
the smaller amount of mass will reach high speeds as the waves in rod
and line unfurl. The waves that travel through the fly line are
called loops. Determining factors in reaching the highest speeds are
the basal frequency of a rod and the transfer of the speed from the
tip of the rod to the fly line. At the moment the rod tip reaches its
highest velocity the direction of the cast is determined.
Fly angler circa 1970s
The type of cast used when fishing varies according to the conditions.
The most common cast is the forward cast, where the angler whisks the
fly into the air, back over the shoulder until the line is nearly
straight, then forward, using primarily the forearm. The objective of
this motion is to "load" (bend) the rod tip with stored energy, then
transmit that energy to the line, resulting in the fly line (and the
attached fly) being cast for an appreciable distance. However, just
bending the rod and releasing it to jerk the fly line forward (like a
bowstring or a catapult) will not propel the fly line and fly very
far. More important is the movement of the rod through an arc acting
as a lever, magnifying the hand movement of the caster (of about a
foot) to an arc at the rod tip of several feet. Here the rod acts as a
lever. In fact, one of the Class 3 types of lever, where The force is
applied between the fulcrum and the load (like tweezers). The fulcrum
in the fly cast is below the caster's hand gripping the rod; the load
is at the rod tip; between the hand exerts the force. The caster's
"stroke" backwards and forwards, for the backcast and the forward
cast, operates the rod as a (slightly flexible) lever. Casting without
landing the fly on the water is known as 'false casting', and may be
used to pay out line, to dry a soaked fly, or to reposition a cast.
Other casts are the roll cast, the single- or double-haul, the tuck
cast, and the side- or curve-cast.
Dropping the fly onto the water and its subsequent movement on or
beneath the surface is one of fly fishing's most difficult aspects;
the angler is attempting to cast in such a way that the line lands
smoothly on the water and the fly appears as natural as possible. At a
certain point, if a fish does not strike, depending upon the action of
the fly in the wind or current, the angler picks up the line to make
another presentation. On the other hand, if a fish strikes, the angler
pulls in line while raising the rod tip. This "sets" the hook in the
fish's mouth. The fish is played either by hand, where the angler
continues to hold the fly line in one hand to control the tension
applied to the fish, or by reeling up any slack in the line and then
using the hand to act as a drag on the reel. Most modern fly reels
have an adjustable, mechanical drag system to control line tension
during a fish's run.
Beginners tend to point with the rod to where they want to throw, but
the movement of the hand has to be a controlled speed-up and then come
to an abrupt stop. The rod will then start to unfurl and the tip of
the rod will reach a high speed in the required direction. The high
speed of the rod tip toward the target gives the impulse to make the
cast, the abrupt stop and retreat of the rod tip is essential for the
formation of a loop. Experienced fishermen also improve the speed of
the line leaving the rod tip by a technique called hauling, applying a
quick fast pull with the hand holding the line. At the end of the cast
when the line is stretched the line as a whole will still have speed
and the fisherman can let some extra line through their fingers making
a false throw, either forward or backward or to finish the cast and
There are a great number of special casts meant to evade problems like
trees behind the angler (roll cast), the pulling of the line on the
fly by the action of the stream, or to make the fly land more softly.
Spey casting is a casting technique used in fly fishing. Spey casting
requires a longer, heavier two-handed fly rod, referred to as a "Spey
Spey casting is essentially a large roll cast, developed on
River Spey where high banks do not allow space for the
usual back cast.
Spey casting is used for fishing large rivers for salmon and large
trout such as steelhead and sea trout. Spey technique is also used in
saltwater surf casting. All of these situations require the angler to
cast larger flies long distances. The two-handed Spey technique allows
more powerful casts and avoids obstacles on the shore by keeping most
of the line in front of the angler.
Fly fishing for trout
Fly angler on the Firehole River, USA
Fly fishing for trout is a very popular sport, which can be done using
any of the various methods and any of the general types of flies. Many
of the techniques and presentations of fly fishing were first
developed in fishing for trout. There is a misconception that all fly
fishing for trout is done on the surface of the water with "dry
flies." In most places, especially heavily fished trout areas, success
usually comes from fly fishing using flies called "nymphs" that are
designed to drift close to the riverbed, also called "nymphing". A
trout feeds below the water's surface nearly 90 percent of the time.
Trout usually only come to the surface when there is a large bug hatch
(when aquatic insects grow wings and leave the water to mate and lay
eggs). There are exceptions to this rule, however, particularly during
the summer months and on smaller mountain streams, when trout often
feed on terrestrial insects such as ants, beetles and
Fishing in cold water
In order to deceive wary trout, or to reach deep runs where salmon may
lie, the fly angler often needs to wade to the right casting position.
He therefore requires sure footing and insulation from cold water,
both provided by hip boots or chest-high waders. The latter are of two
main types, one-piece "boot foot" waders and "stocking foot" waders,
which require external boots.
Formerly of latex rubber, "stocking foot" waders are now made of
neoprene, usually 3 mm thick, which provide additional warmth. In
the mid-20th century, American anglers developed felt boot soles for a
better grip in rocky rivers: but felt is now prohibited in some US
states, as a vector of fish and plant diseases that damage sport
fisheries. Manufacturers now offer wading boots with special rubber
treads or metal studs. Breathable
Gore-Tex waders provide ventilation
when hiking along the water, but do not provide flotation in the event
of slipping or falling into deep water. In deep water streams, an
inflatable personal flotation device (PFD), or a Type III Kayak
fishing vest, adds a degree of safety.
Some "catch and release" anglers flatten the barb of their hook. Such
"barbless hooks" are much easier to remove from the fish (and from the
angler, in the event of mishap). Many rivers with special regulations
mandate that fishermen use barbless hooks in an effort to conserve a
healthy fish population.
Dry fly trout fishing
Main article: Dry fly fishing
Dry fly fishing
Dry fly fishing is done with line and flies that float, joined by a
leader, usually made of fine polyamide monofilament line. The tapered
leader is 3 to 5 meters long, thus nearly invisible where the fly is
knotted, and the angler can replace the last meter of nylon as
required. Unlike sinking fly (nymph) fishing, the "take" on dry flies
is visible, explosive and exciting. While trout typically consume
about 90% of their diet from below-water sources, the 10% of
surface-level consumption by trout is more than enough to keep most
anglers busy. Additionally, beginning fly anglers generally prefer dry
fly fishing because of the relative ease of detecting a strike and the
instant gratification of seeing a trout strike their fly. Nymph
fishing may be more productive, but dry fly anglers soon become
addicted to the surface strike.
An Adams dry fly
Dry flies may be "attractors", such as the Royal Wulff, or "natural
imitators", such as the elk hair caddis, a caddisfly imitation A
beginner may wish to begin with a fly that is easy to see such as a
Royal Wulff attractor or a mayfly imitation such as a parachute adams.
The "parachute" on the parachute adams makes the fly land as softly as
a natural on the water and has the added benefit of making the fly
very visible from the surface. Being able to see the fly is especially
helpful to the beginner. The fly should land softly, as if dropped
onto the water, with the leader fully extended from the fly line. Due
to rivers having faster and slower currents often running side by
side, the fly can over take or be overtaken by the line, thus
disturbing the fly's drift.
Mending is a technique whereby one lifts
and moves the part of the line that requires re-aligning with the
fly's drift, thus extending the drag free drift. The mend can be
upstream or down stream depending on the currents carrying the line or
fly. To be effective, any mending of the fly line should not disturb
the natural drift of the fly. Learning to mend is often much easier if
the angler can see the fly.
Once a fish has been caught and landed, the fly may no longer float
well. A fly can sometimes be dried and made to float again by "false"
casting, casting the fly back and forth in the air. In some cases, the
fly can be dried with a small piece of reusable absorbent towel, an
amadou patch or chamois and after drying placed and shaken in a
container full of fly "dressing"; a hydrophobic solution. A popular
solution to a dry fly which refuses to float is simply to replace it
with another, similar or identical fly until the original can fully
dry, rotating through a set of flies.
Fly fishing on the Gardner
River in Yellowstone National Park, USA
Dry fly fishing
Dry fly fishing on small, clear-water streams can be especially
productive if the angler stays as low to the ground and as far from
the bank as possible, moving upstream with stealth.
Trout tend to face
upstream and most of their food is carried to them on the current. For
this reason, the fish's attention is normally focused into the
current; most anglers move and fish "into the current", fishing from a
position downstream of the fish's suspected lie.
Trout tend to strike
their food at current "edges", where faster- and slower-moving waters
mix. Obstructions to the stream flow, such as large rocks or nearby
pools, provide a "low energy" environment where fish sit and wait for
food without expending much energy. Casting upstream to the "edge" of
the slower water, the angler can see the fly land and drift slowly
back downstream. The challenge in stream fishing is placing the fly
with deadly accuracy, within inches of a protective rock for instance,
not long range casting. Done properly, the fly seems to be just
floating along in the current with a "perfect drift" as if not
connected to the fly line. The angler must remain vigilant for the
"take" in order to be ready to raise the rod tip and set the hook.
Nymphing for trout
Trout tend mostly to feed underwater. When fishing deeper waters such
as rivers or lakes, putting a fly down to the trout may be more
successful than fishing on the surface, especially in the absence of
any surface insect activity or hatch. The nymph itself can be
weighted, as is the popular bead headed hare's ear nymph or bead
headed pheasant tail nymph. Alternatively, the angler can use an
attractor pattern such as a prince nymph. Weights can be added to the
leader. Probably the best weight to use is twist on lead or other
metal strips because it has a much less detrimental effect on the
casting ability. A sinking tip fly line can also serve to sink the
fly. A common nymphing and general overall fly fishing technique that
even beginners can master is a "dead drift" or tight line fishing
technique, casting directly across the river, letting the fly line
drift downriver while keeping any slack out of the line. If the Nymph
is drifting too fast, then you should perform an upstream mend. If the
nymph is drifting too slowly, you should mend downstream. A beginner
need simply to point the rod at the fly, lifting the rod in the event
of a strike. This is a "downstream technique" where the angler moves
in a downstream direction. More advanced techniques make use of a
highly visible strike indicator attached to the leader above the
In New Zealand, nymphing has become the dominant form of fishing in
rivers such as the Tongariro River. A technique involving a high
visibility indicator, and 2 nymphs tied in short succession (a
weighted nymph and a 2nd often un-weighted nymph) means the chances of
getting a fly into deeper water with a fly that still moves naturally
It is also possible to use standard sinking fly lines, especially if
the current is strong and if it is difficult to get down to the
correct level to catch the trout.
Still water trout fishing
A rainbow trout taken on an articulated leech pattern, Bristol Bay
Fishing for trout in lakes requires different tactics. A canoe,
pontoon boat or a float tube allows an angler to cover a lot more
water than waders.
Trout may congregate in cooler water near an
inflowing stream or an underwater spring and may be lured to bite on a
streamer fly. An often successful tactic is to pull a streamer such as
a woolly bugger using clear sinking line, behind the watercraft. The
somewhat erratic motion of the oars or fins tends to give the streamer
an enticing action.
Trout also tend to "cruise" transitional areas
(e.g. dropoffs, weed bed edges, subsurface river flow at inlets, etc.)
Watching for cruising trout and casting well ahead of any visible fish
is often successful.
Once hooked, a small trout can be easily retrieved "on the reel" or by
simply pulling in the fly line with the reel hand while pinching the
line between the rod handle and the index finger of the rod hand. It
is important to keep the rod tip high, allowing the bend of the rod to
absorb the force of the fish's struggles against the line. Larger
trout will often take line in powerful runs before they can be landed.
Unlike spin fishing where the line is already on the reel, playing a
large fish with fly line and a fly reel can present a special
challenge. Usually, when a fish is hooked, there will be extra fly
line coiled between the reel and the index finger of the rod hand. The
challenge is to reel up the loose fly line onto the reel without
breaking off a large fish (or getting the line wrapped up around the
rod handle, one's foot, a stick or anything else in the way). With
experience, really large trout can be put on the reel simply by
applying light pressure on the outgoing line using the fisher's
fingers. Once the extra line is on the reel, an angler can use the
reel's drag system to tire the fish. It is important to use heavier
tippet material if it won't spook the fish. The reason why this is
important is an exhausted fish can easily die if released too soon.
Heavier tippet material enables the angler to land the fish while not
over exhausting it.
Main article: Catch and release
Releasing wild trout helps preserve the quality of a fishery. Trout
are more delicate than most fish and require careful handling. When a
trout has been caught but the hook is still embedded, wet your hands
before handling the fish. Dry hands stick to the adhesive slime
coating the fish and can pull off its scales. It is preferred for the
fish to remain in the water when removing the hook, but holding the
trout out of the water will not be lethal, provided the hook is
removed quickly and the trout is returned immediately.
Small trout caught on a barb-less hook can be released simply by:
grasping the eyelet of the fly, and rotating the eyelet toward the
bend (the U-bend). This pulls the point backwards, back through the
way it entered. Push the eyelet directly toward the bend until the
point is removed from the fish. Large trout can be grasped gently and
forceps can be used to grip the bend and push backwards, away from the
direction the hook currently points. If necessary, squirming trout can
be held on their backs. This often subdues the fish and provides
enough time to remove the hook.
Once the hook has been removed, return the trout into the water.
Support the trout until it stabilizes. This includes holding the fish
in water deep enough to submerge its gills. After long fights, it may
be necessary to manually move water past its gills. This can be done
either by holding the trout in moving water with its head facing
upstream, or, in calm water, moving the trout backwards and forwards
repeatedly. Once stabilized, the trout will swim off on its own. If
released prematurely, the trout, not having enough energy to move,
will sink to the bottom of the river and suffocate. Take however long
is necessary to revive a trout.
A red drum caught on a fly rod, Louisiana, USA
Saltwater flyfishing is typically done with heavier tackle than that
which is used for freshwater trout fishing, both to handle the larger,
more powerful fish, and to accommodate the casting of larger and
heavier flies. Salt water fly fishing typically employs the use of wet
flies resembling baitfish, crabs, shrimp and other forage. However,
saltwater fish can also be caught with poppers and other surface lure
similar to those used for freshwater bass fishing, though much larger.
Saltwater species sought and caught with fly tackle include: bonefish,
redfish or red drum, permit, snook, spotted sea trout, tuna, dorado
(mahi-mahi), sailfish, tarpon, striped bass, salmon, giant trevally
and marlin. Offshore saltwater species are usually attracted to the
fly by "chumming" with small baitfish, or "teasing" the fish to the
boat by trolling a large hookless lure (
Billfish are most often caught
using this latter method).
Many saltwater species, particularly large, fast and powerful fish,
are not easily slowed down by "palming" the hand on the reel. Instead,
a purpose-made saltwater reel for these species must have a powerful
drag system. Furthermore, saltwater reels purpose-made for larger fish
must be larger, heavier, and corrosion-resistant; a typical
high-quality saltwater reel costs 500.00 USD or more.
Corrosion-resistant equipment is key to durability in all types of
saltwater fishing, regardless of the size and power of the target
Fishing in Louisiana
Saltwater fly fishing is most often done from a boat, either a shallow
draft flat boat is used to pursue species such as bonefish, redfish,
permit and tarpon in shallow waters, or from larger offshore boats for
pursuing sailfish, tuna, dorado, marlin and other pelagics and may be
done from shore, such as wading flats for bonefish or redfish or surf
fishing for striped bass and other assorted fish. Typically, most
trout fly fisherman need to practice new skills to catch saltwater
fish on a fly rod.
Ocean fish are usually harder to catch. They can be
extremely spooky, and much larger.
Trout fisherman need to practice
with at least an 8 weight fly rod and accurately cast the line 30–90
feet if they are going to have success—particularly in the flat
areas fishing for bonefish, redfish, permit, tarpon, jacks and more.
Hooks for saltwater flies must also be extremely durable and corrosion
resistant. Most saltwater hooks are made of stainless steel, but the
strongest (though less corrosion resistant) hooks are of high-carbon
steel. Typically, these hooks vary from size #8 to #2 for bonefish and
smaller nearshore species, to size #3/0 to #5/0 for the larger
Fly fishing tackle
A variety of fly reels on display at a fly fishing show
Fly fishing tackle
Fly fishing tackle comprises the fishing tackle or equipment typically
used by fly anglers.
Fly fishing tackle
Fly fishing tackle includes:
A wide variety of Fly rods of different weights, lengths and material
are used to present artificial flies to target species of fish as well
as fight and land fish being caught.
A wide variety of Fly reels are used to store fly line and provide a
braking mechanism (drag) for fighting heavy or fast moving fish.
A wide variety of general use and specialized fly lines are used to
cast artificial flies under a wide variety of fresh and saltwater
Terminal tackle is used to connect the artificial fly to the fly line
and allow the appropriate presentation of the fly to the fish.
There are a wide variety of accessories—tools, gadgets, clothing and
apparel used by the fly angler for maintenance and preparation of
tackle, dealing the fish being caught as well as personal comfort and
safety while fly fishing. Includes fly boxes used to store and carry
Fly rods are typically between 1.8 m (6 ft) long in
freshwater fishing and up to 4.5 m (15 ft) long for
two-handed fishing for salmon or steelhead, or in tenkara fishing in
small streams. The average rod for fresh and salt water is around 9
feet (2.7 m) in length and weighs from 3 –5 ounces, though
a recent trend has been to lighter, shorter rods for fishing smaller
streams. Another trend is to longer rods for small streams. The choice
of rod lengths and line weights used varies according to local
conditions, types of flies being cast, and/or personal preference.
When actively fishing, the angler may want to keep the fly line
lightly pressed against the rod handle with the index finger of the
casting arm. The free arm is used to pull line from the reel or to
retrieve line from the water. If a fish strikes, the angler can pinch
the line with the index finger against the rod handle and lift the rod
tip, setting the hook.
Green Highlander, a classic salmon fly
Main article: Artificial fly
Further information: Fly tying
In broadest terms, flies are categorised as either imitative or
attractive. Imitative flies resemble natural food items. Attractive
flies trigger instinctive strikes by employing a range of
characteristics that do not necessarily mimic prey items. Flies can be
fished floating on the surface (dry flies), partially submerged
(emergers), or below the surface (nymphs, streamers, and wet flies). A
dry fly is typically thought to represent an insect landing on,
falling on (terrestrials), or emerging from, the water's surface as
might a grasshopper, dragonfly, mayfly, ant, beetle, stonefly or
caddisfly. Other surface flies include poppers and hair bugs that
might resemble mice, frogs, etc. Sub-surface flies are designed to
resemble a wide variety of prey including aquatic insect larvae,
nymphs and pupae, baitfish, crayfish, leeches, worms, etc. Wet flies,
known as streamers, are generally thought to imitate minnows, leeches
Throughout history, artificial flies constructed of furs, feathers,
and threads bound on a hook have been created by anglers to imitate
fish prey. The first known mention of an artificial fly was in 200AD
in Macedonia. Most early examples of artificial flies imitated common
aquatic insects and baitfish. Today, artificial flies are tied with a
wide variety of natural and synthetic materials (like mylar and
rubber) to represent all manner of potential freshwater and saltwater
fish prey to include aquatic and terrestrial insects, crustaceans,
worms, baitfish, vegetation, flesh, spawn, small reptiles, amphibians,
mammals and birds, etc.
Further information: Category:
A few knots have become more or less standard for attaching the
various parts of the fly lines and backing, etc., together. A detailed
discussion of most of these knots is available in any good book on fly
fishing. Some of the knots that are in most every fly angler's arsenal
are: the improved clinch knot which is commonly used to attach the fly
to the leader, the overhand slip knot or arbor knot which is used to
attach the backing to the spool, the albright knot which can be used
to attach the fly line to the backing. A loop can also be put in fly
line backing using a bimini twist. Often, a loop is added to the
business end of the fly line to facilitate the connection to the
leader. This loop may take one of several forms. It may be formed by
creating a loop in the end of the fly line itself or by adding a
braided loop or a loop of monofilament nylon (as in Gray's Loop).
Alternatively, a single length of monofilament nylon, or fluorocarbon,
may be tied to the end of the fly line using a nail or tube knot or a
needle knot. A loop can then be tied at the end of this monofilament
butt length or butt section using a double surgeon's knot or a
perfection loop, to which the tapered or untapered leader, also looped
using a double surgeon's knot or a perfection loop, may in turn be
connected via a loop to loop connection. The use of loop to loop
connections between the fly line and the leader provides a quick and
convenient way to change or replace a tapered leader. Many
commercially produced tapered leaders come with a pre-tied loop
Some traditionalists create their own tapered leaders using
progressively smaller-diameter lengths of monofilament line tied
together with the blood, barrel knot or "surgeons knot".
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fly fishing.
American Museum of Fly Fishing
Bibliography of fly fishing
Fishing Center and Museum
Fly Casting Analyzer
List of fly fishing waters in North America
List of fly fishing waters in Europe
Trout memo - a 1939 British Intelligence document comparing deception
of an enemy in wartime with fly fishing
^ William Radcliff
Fishing from Earliest Times London 1921
^ Dr. Hisao Ishigaki, presentation to Catskills Fly
Fishing Center and
Museum, May 2009
^ Herd, Andrew. "The Fly", 2003
^ Jewelry with a Samurai Spirit
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 August 2009.
Retrieved 19 August 2009.
^ C. B. McCully (2000). The Language of Fly-Fishing. Taylor &
Francis. p. 41.
^ a b Andrew N. Herd. "
Fly fishing techniques in the fifteenth
^ Stan L. Ulanski (2003). The Science of Fly-fishing. University of
Virginia Press. p. 4.
^ "Welcome To Great Fly
Fishing Tackle Chapter 3" (PDF).
^ Herd, Andrew Dr (2001). The Fly. Ellesmere, Shropshire: Medlar
Press. ISBN 1-899600-19-1.
^ Schullery, Paul (1996). American Fly Fishing-A History. Norwalk, CT:
The Easton Press. p. 85.
^ Westwood, T.; Satchell W. (1883). Bibliotheca Piscatoria. London: W.
Satchell. pp. 39–40.
^ Herd, Andrew (2010). "Alfred Ronalds—The First Angler
Angling Giants—Anglers Who Made History. Ellesmere,
UK: The Medlar Press. pp. 250–253.
^ Schwiebert, Ernest (1973). Nymphs. New York: Winchester Press.
p. 8. ISBN 0-87691-074-6.
^ Andrew N. Herd. "Fly
Fishing in the Eighteenth Century".
^ a b c "fishing". Encyclopædia Britannica.
^ Brown, Jim. A Treasury of Reels: The
Fishing Reel Collection of The
American Museum of Fly Fishing. Manchester, Vermont: The American
Museum of Fly Fishing, 1990.
^ Schullery, Paul. The
Orvis Story: 150 Years of an American Sporting
Tradition. Manchester, Vermont, The
Orvis Company, Inc., 2006
^ a b Andrew N. Herd. "Fly
Fishing in the Years 1800 - 1850".
^ Hayter, Tony (2002). F.M. Halford and the Dry-Fly Revolution.
London: Rober Hale. p. 98. ISBN 0-7090-6773-9.
^ Schullery, Paul, ed. (2007). "Introduction". Halford and the Dry
Fly. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. pp. ix–xv.
^ a b Waterman, Charles F., Black Bass and the Fly Rod, Stackpole
^ The Argus newspaper 14 April 1864
^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 July
2011. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
^ Cook, Jack. "Spey Fly
Fishing - Demystifying the Two Handed Rod".
^ Erickson, Jeff (2 June 2014). "Extraterrestrials: 12 Best
Terrestrial Flies for
Trout Fishing". Outdoor Life. Bonnier
Corporation. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 December 2010.
Retrieved 6 August 2010.
^ Jardine, Charles, Flies, Ties, and Techniques, Ivy Press, East
Sussex, p. 6, p. 56, p.60, 2008
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 April 2009.
Retrieved 7 April 2009.
^ Flycatcher, www.flycatcherinc.com/flywiki/index.php?title=Rigging
^ Rosenbauer, Tom, The
Fishing Guide, The Lyons Press,
Connecticut, pp.41-43, 2007
Berenbaum, May R. (1995). Bugs in the System:
Insects and Their Impact
on Human Affairs. Perseus Publishing. pp. 264–268.
Hughes, Dave (1995). Wet Flies: Tying and
Fishing Soft-Hackles, Winged
and Wingless Wets, and Fuzzy Nymphs. Stackpole Books.
Radcliffe, William (1974).
Fishing from the Earliest Times. Ares
Ulnitz, Steve et al., (1998). The Complete Book of Flyfishing. Stoeger
Schullery, Paul (1999). Royal Coachman-The Lore and Legends of
Fly-Fishing. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Schullery, Paul (1996). American Fly Fishing-A History. Norwalk, CT:
The Easton Press.
Rosenbauer, Tom (2007). The
Fishing Guide. Connecticut: The
Lyons Press. ISBN 978-1-59228-818-2.
Dietsch, John; Garyy Hubbell (1999). Shadow Casting An Introduction To
The Art Of FlyFishing. Clinetop Press.
Hodgson, W. Earl (1906).
Salmon Fishing. A. & C. Black, Ltd.
Lawton, Terry (2010). Marryat, Prince of Fly Fishers. Medlar Press
Ltd. ISBN 978-1-899600-48-9.
Angling and game fishing
Jet ski fishing
Traditional fishing boats
Confédération Internationale de la Pêche Sportive
Land-based game fishing
Fly target species
Catch and release
Minimum landing size
Tag and release
Fly fishing tackle
Bamboo fly rod
Fly rod building
Fly Casting Analyzer
Bibliography of fly fishing
Clouser Deep Minnow
Cul De Canard
Egg sucking leech
Elk Hair Caddis
Grey Ghost Streamer
Partridge and Orange
Pheasant Tail Nymph
Trolling tandem streamer fly
American Museum of Fly Fishing
Fishing Center and Museum
Federation of Fly Fishers
Blacker's Art of Fly Making
A Book on Angling
Treatise on the Art of Angling
Fishing in Theory and Practice
Favorite Flies and Their Histories
Floating Flies and How to Dress Them
The Fly-fisher's Entomology
A History of Fly
Fishing for Trout
Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream
Pseudonyms of notable angling authors
The American Angler's Book
The Way of a
Trout with the Fly
Fisheries and fishing topic areas
Diversity of fish
Fish diseases and parasites
Individual fishing quota
History of fishing
List of harvested aquatic animals by weight
Catch and release
Gathering seafood by hand