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From The Pioneer Blog | March 2021

Beginners Guide to Fly Fishing

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If you’re one of the many to get bitten by the fly fishing bug, welcome to the club. You are in for an adventure. Fly fishing is fun, rewarding, and just downright cool. You get to become one with the outdoors, setting aside the worries of everyday life as you hone your craft in a relaxing environment.

Before you jump in feet-first, though, there are some things you’re going to need to know. If you feel a bit intimidated by what lies ahead, fear not. In this intro to fly fishing, we’re going to walk you through the basics so you can get started with confidence.


Fly Fishing for Beginners

Fly fishing is simply one of many different styles of fishing. It’s a centuries-old casting technique that is far different from most others. The goal is to use an artificial fly, typically made of animal components, to fool fish into biting.

Trout are perhaps the most common species of fish to be caught using the fly fishing method, but truth told, you can catch a wide range of fish with this style. Most fly fishermen enjoy the challenge that fly fishing presents while trying to catch as many fish as they possibly can in one trip.

Make no mistake, fly fishing has a steep learning curve. However, you don’t necessarily have to master it to enjoy its rewards. In this guide, we’re going to discuss what you’ll need to get started, as well as other fly fishing basics.

Our goal is to provide you with everything you need to know to tackle fly fishing on your own. So with that, let’s begin by talking about necessary fly fishing gear.


Beginner’s Guide to Fly Fishing Equipment

Rod and Reel

Like any fishing style, you’re going to need a trusty rod and reel. In fact, it’s fair to say that this equipment is the most important component of any fly fishing effort. As you explore various fly rods, it’s essential to keep in mind that they are designated by weight. However, it’s not the rod’s weight that “weight” is referring to – it’s the fly line’s.


Fly Line

Furthermore, you need to make sure that your accompanying reel is made to support the line weight of your rod. When selecting a fly line, it’s important to understand the weight scale that they are based on. Many fly lines use a scale of 1 to 12, where 1 is the lightest and 12 is the heaviest. However, some fly lines utilize a grain-weight scale, just like the one used for gunpowder.

You will find that most fly lines come in 90-foot lengths, with three main sections making up their composition. Let’s take a moment to explore each of these sections.


Head

This is the heaviest part of a fly line. It is also the thickest. The head is responsible for turning over your flies and leader (more on that in a moment).


Running Line

Usually the longest section of a fly line, the running line is always the thinnest part and isn’t something you will need to touch when casting.


Taper

The taper is simply the section of a fly line that lies between the head and running line, varying in thickness from one to the other.


Backing

Without a fly line, you won’t be able to fly fish. As its name suggests, the fly line is a line that your rod and reel use to cast your fly out into the water to catch fish. Additionally, there is a section of line known as “backing.” This is an essential part of fly fishing, as it provides assistance in the event that a fish swims away at a distance that is greater than your fly line’s total length.

Thanks to backing, you can effectively fight those fish that struggle away. Most fly fishing reels can accommodate around 250 yards of backing, so you needn’t worry about losing your gear.


Leader

Made of either monofilament or fluorocarbon, the leader serves to connect the fly to your fly line. Just like fly lines, leaders are designed to taper from thickest to thinnest. It’s important to note that leaders come in various lengths, with each length designated for different species of fish. That said, the average length of a leader is anywhere from 7 ½ to 12 feet.

What’s more, you can buy pre-tied leaders of varying sizes for your convenience. These leader sizes range from 0x to 8x, with 0x having the most strength and rigidity. As you have likely already surmised, 8x is the lightest and most flexible of leader sizes.

As a beginner, you may want to start out with pre-tied leaders. When you become more comfortable with fly fishing, you can graduate to tying your own leader so that you can customize it to your liking.


Additional Gear

Let’s look at some of the other essentials that you will need to fly fish successfully.


Tippet

A piece of fluorocarbon or monofilament that ties to the end of a leader. Tippets allow you to repair sections of your leader that you may have cut off during rigging.


Waders and Boots

Since you’re going to be knee-deep in water, you’re going to need a reliable pair of waders and boots. Depending on the climate, you may need to invest in waders made of neoprene to help fight the cold. Wading boots are designed to make traversing water easier.


Flies

Dry flies are the most common choice of fly and are made to emulate the appearance of various insects. These flies rest on the water’s surface to entice fish to take a bite. There are also streamers and nymphs, additional fly options that act differently on the water to help you lure fish to your line.


Best Locations for Fly Fishing

White River, Arkansas

The pristine waters of Arkansas’ White River are widely considered to be among the best fly fishing locations in the world. The river stretches more than 700 miles, winding its way through central Arkansas and feeding into popular fisheries like Bull Shoals Lake and other waterways.

The White River is relatively calm throughout much of its length, but what truly makes it an outstanding fly fishing destination is the huge variety of fish species that can be found in its waters. The Natural State is known for having massive trout in its waterways, including the world record brown trout—a 40 lb, 4 oz behemoth—that was caught in the nearby Little Red River.

Henry’s Fork, Idaho

The Snake River’s picturesque scenery is almost as renowned as its fishing opportunities for fly anglers. This river is home to a tributary that’s named after legendary mountain man and trapper, Andrew Henry. The sprawling grasslands and lush forests surrounding the river are teeming with various types of flies and other tiny insects that are a favorite meal for trout.

The calm waters of Henry’s Ford is an excellent location for novice fly fishermen and is home to giant rainbow trout. The summer months are easily the best time for fly fishing along this beautiful fishery and it’s easy to understand why so many anglers have this location listed as one of their top destinations when it comes to fly fishing.


Bighorn River, Montana

Before it was tamed by the Yellowtail Dam, the Bighorn River was one of the most turbulent waterways in Montana. In the 50 years since the dam was built, the river has developed a reputation as one of the most popular fly fishing destinations in the world.

The Bighorn River is home to massive numbers of rainbow, brown, and other trout species that are among the most popular targets of fly anglers. The river is filled with a number of different native fish species and winds its way through lush grasslands and other picturesque landscapes that combine for a truly exceptional fly fishing experience.


Wrap Up

Now that you know what you need to get started, you’re ready to advance to fly fishing techniques. Join us in the continuation of this guide, where we cover casting basics and show you how to get the most from your rod and reel.

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