Fly-Fishing is one of
the fastest growing segments of the sport of angling.
Many people currently pursuing the sport are long time anglers
looking for new challenges, while many others are people who had never
considered taking up fishing with conventional tackle, but were
intrigued by the grace and aesthetic quality of fly -fishing.
Whatever may drive a persons interest in fly-fishing, it is a
sport that can offer a lifetime of challenges and rewards.
In this course, you
will be introduced to the different items that make up fly-fishing
tackle, and hopefully brought to understand the different types of fly
fishing tackle used for different applications.
You will also be shown a few basic knots, and given materials
with which you can learn how to tie these knots, and their application
within different rigging systems.
We will begin with a
basic overview of the elements of a fly fishing set up or combo, and
then proceed to refine the discussion to the differences in specific
tackle designed for different purposes.
A fly is a collection of materials, either natural or synthetic
attached to a hook that is cast, lobbed, or thrown at an unsuspecting
fish in the na´ve hope that it will be dumb enough
to think it is a natural food item and eat it.
Flies can range from the nearly microscopic gnats and midges
often used to attempt to catch picky trout on technical spring creeks,
to creations of gargantuan proportions used to pursue blue water fish,
that often require an entire generation of chickens and heard of deer to
provide materials for.
While many patterns and combinations of materials can fall within the
definition of a fly, and indeed there is often much debate as to what
actually constitutes a fly, particularly with the recent introduction of
many synthetic materials. One
thing that is always a
constant in defining a fly is that it must be castable with a fly rod
and line by forming a loop. When
fishing with conventional tackle, the weight of the bait or lure carries
the line when cast. In
fly-fishing, the weight of the fly line carries the fly, therefore once
a certain weight is exceeded, the line can no longer carry the fly, and
it is thus no longer a fly, but a lure.
Flies are produced
commercially and can be purchased in shops and on line, however most fly
fishermen eventually begin
tying their own flies. Both
because it allows them to more effectively match their local conditions,
and because there is a sense of personal satisfaction that comes from
catching fish on a fly you made yourself.
Fly line is a line designed specifically for use on a fly rod.
Since most flys have very little mass or weight of their own,
they cannot provide the energy required to produce and effective cast.
To provide the ability to cast a fly, fly line has a considerable
mass and weight on its own as compared to standard monofilament or gel
spun fishing line.
When you examine a fly line it is obviously much thicker than standard
fishing lines. Most fly
lines consist of a core of material such as braided Dacron, or braided
monofilament, coated with a pvc type material.
When the coating for a fly line is extruded, it is done with one
of several tapers. The
different types of tapers of fly lines are level lines, meaning the line
is the same diameter from one end to another, double taper, meaning the
fly line tapers to a smaller diameter at each end.
And the most popular and perhaps most useful taper weight
forward. Weight forward
lines usually consist of a long fairly narrow diameter section of line
that grows thicker toward the last 30 to 40 feet of line towards the end
with which you will cast your fly, then tapers down to a finer diameter
the last few feet. Many
manufacturers also make species or application specific lines within
these types of tapers featuring different core materials that make lines
more supple or stiffer, as well as differences as to how much of the
weight of the line is carried in which portion of the taper.
addition to different diameters and tapers, fly lines are made with
different characteristics in regard to whether they float or sink, and
at what rate they sink.
Something else you will see
indicated on a fly line box is the line weight.
Fly lines are assigned weights of 1 up to 15 based on the number
of grains the first 30 feet of the casting end of the line weighs.
For almost all purposes the line weight should be matched to a
rod designed for that line weight to cast properly.
As important however, line weight, and thus rod weight, needs to
be matched to the size of the fly you intend to cast at a given time, as
well as to suite casting conditions such as wind.
For example, if you are going to be trout fishing with pretty
small flies, a rod weight of 2 to 5 will get the job done in most
situations depending on the size of the river, and hence the length of
the cast required, as well as wind conditions.
If you know you will
be fishing a particularly large river requiring long cast, you may want
to lean to the heavier end of that spectrum.
If you are going to be fishing small creaks, you may wish to lean
to the lighter end. If you
were to use a heavy rod, say an 8 weight, for this application, you
would not be able to deliver the fly with a particularly delicate
presentation , as the heavier line hits the water harder with a larger
splash. On the other end of
the spectrum, if you were going to be using large flies for either
saltwater species, or say bass, lower line weights would not have the
mass to carry that large of a fly, particularly in windy conditions.
Rods are generally the most expensive part of a fly fishing
outfit, and as such are generally given the most attention.
For most applications the bulk of your budget for a fly fishing
set up should be spent on the rod, even if it means getting a reel of
somewhat lesser quality. Fly
rods will vary in length from 7' up to 10' or 12' foot spey or 2 handed
models. The most common
lengths for fly rods are 81/2' to 9'.
Fly rods will also vary in the number of separate sections of
which they are composed for 2 to 4 or even 5 piece models.
Multi piece rods used to be considered a liability because the
ferruls where the sections were joined were considered to be weak points
in the rod, however modern materials and techniques have eliminated
almost all problems with multi piece rods.
Fly Rods are rated for a specific line weight they are designed
to cast. On the blank of
the rod you may see a designation like 9' 8wt.
This would be a 9 foot rod designed to cast and 8 weight line.
Another consideration in
selecting a rod is the rods Action.
Many rod makers will designate a rod as having either a slow,
medium, or fast action, or full, mid, or tip flex.
These terms relate to the way the rod bends or flexs when loading
under the weight of the line during a cast.
Rods described as Slow or Full Flex bend throughout most of their
length during a cast. Rods
designated as Medium or Mid Flex bend roughly halfway down their length
during a cast. Rods
designated as Fast Action or Tip Flex will bend only at the tip during
the cast. There are pros
and cons to each type of rod action.
Full Flex, or Slow action rods tend to be very forgiving and
provide a very delicate presentation and light touch, however they often
lack the ability to make long cast, or to deliver bushy flies in the
wind. Medium Action or Mid
Flex rods have a little more ability to cast at distance although they
can still be stifled by strong winds or particularly heavy flies.
The suffer little in the way of a delicate presentation.
Fast Action or Tip Flex rods are able to develop great line speed
and throw tight loops. Recent
studies have shown line and fly speeds approaching 135mph.
They are however a little less forgiving of errors, and don't
provide the most subtle presentation.
Which action you choose depends largely on application, and what
fits your style.
Here is a very general
outline of what rod weights and actions you may wish to use for
different species and applications.
This is meant only to be a representation of what types of tackle
are typically used. Your
casting style and fishing preferences may well lead you to use rod for
applications other than as they are listed here.
8.5 -9 ft slow
(full flex) to medium (mid flex )
1 to 4wt
8.5 -9 ft
slow (full flex) to medium (mid flex)
Streams - 4 to
8.5 to 9ft* medium
(mid flex) to fast (tip flex)
and - 5 to
medium (mid flex) to fast (tip flex)
Fast (tip flex)
6wt to 8wt 9ft
fast (tip flex)
to 8 wt
fast (tip flex)
8 or 9wt
8 or 9wt
fast (tip flex)
10 to 12 wt
fast (tip flex)
longer rod allows an angler to more easily make larger mends often
required on bigger rivers
For most freshwater applications a fly reel is little more than a
place to store your fly line. For
many saltwater applications however a reel with a good smooth operating
drag is essential for controlling fish on long runs.
Fly reels come in 2 basic
designs, direct drive, and anti reverse.
Direct drive reels are most common.
These are reels with the handle mounted directly to the spool
that holds the line, so that when you turn the handle one revolution,
the spool turns once, so you retrieve line with a 1 to 1 ratio, and when
a fish takes line off of the spool, the spool and handle rotate
backwards as the line is played out.
Anti reverse model reels can vary in ratio at which they retrieve
line. Some maintain the 1
to 1 ratio, while others are multipliers
rotating the spool at a rate greater than the handle is rotated.
In anti reverse reels, when line is stripped from the spool by a
fish, the handle does not rotate.
Reels are now made with many
different types and designs of drags, from a simple pawl clicker design,
to draw bar disc, offset disc, cone drags, viscosity drags and more.
A drag is an apparatus by which a reel applies various amounts of
pressure or tension against a fish in amounts usually determined by the
angler. The drag allows the
fish to take line without over running the reel or breaking the line.
The essentials are that you want a drag
that can provide adequate pressure to slow and stop the species
of fish you are fishing for, and that has a very smooth start up and
Reels are generally rated by
capacity, as being sized for a small range of fly lines, and should
balance with the rod you intend to use them with.
Backing is simply line that is used to fill
the reel behind the fly line.
Backing is usually a braided material such as Dacron or Spectra.
Backing is generally connected to the butt end of a fly line with
a nail knot or loop to loop connection.
Backing also provides additional running line for long running
species such as bonefish.
A leader is a length of clear, tapered monofilament used to serve
as a transition from the fly line to the fly that may vary in length
from about 6 to 12 feet, with 9 feet being about average.
Leaders can be purchased as tapered leaders
which are continuous lengths of monofilament extruded to taper
from a larger diameter butt section, to a fine tip section over its
length, and leaders can also be hand tied by joining different lengths
of different diameters of monofilament together with knots.
A leader must taper over its
length or it will not turn over the fly at the end of the cast.
If you try simply using a level piece of monofilament as a
leader, it will more than likely pile up at the end of the cast.
When starting out fly fishing, I strongly recommend buying
knotless tapered leaders, and appropriate tippet to attach to the end of
it as needed. As your
skills develop, it may be worthwhile to begin tying your own leaders.
A formula for tying leaders is included in the knots section that
Tippet is the section of the leader that attaches directly to the
fly. There are generally 2
categories of tippet, Class Tippet and Bite or Shock tippet.
Class tippet is defined as the part of the leader with the
lightest breaking strength. Since
leaders taper from the heaviest line at the butt section to the lightest
line forward, the class tippet is generally at the very front of the
leader system. The
exception to this rule is when a Bite or Shock tippet is used.
A bite or shock tippet is a short section of heavy monofilament
or light wire between the class tippet and fly that is generally used
when pursuing large toothy fish, or strong fish in an environment where
there are many objects the tippet may rub against or get broken off on.
While I recommend Knotless tapered leaders when
first learning to fly
fish, you may eventually want to start
tying your own leaders, either to customize the lengths and
weights, or just to keep cost down.
The basic formula for tying leaders is called the rule of halves.
First, decide what length you want your leader.
For trout in large tail waters you may want a leader as long as 10 or 12
feet, while for some warm water applications, you may only want 6 ft.
A good average length leader for many applications is
9ft. Once you have decided on the length of your leader, take a
piece of heavy monofilament about half the
length of the total
length you want your leader to be for the butt section.
For a saltwater leader that you will use to cast large flies
you should probably
use line of around 40lb test for the butt section, for a trout leader 25 or 30 pound test should suffice.
You would then take a piece of mono that is a little lighter,
and about half as long
as the butt section, and attach it to the butt section with a blood
knot. Then take a
of mono, still a little lighter and about half the length of the
second section, and attach it to the second section with a blood knot.
Then take your class tipped of about a foot and a half to 2
feet long and attach
it to the 3rd section with a blood knot
Using this formula, if you started with a butt section of 4.5 feet
of 40 pound test, added a second section of about 2 feet of 30 pound
test, then a 3rd section of a foot of 20 pound test, and
finally about a foot and a half of 12 to 15 pound test tippet, you would
have a good 9 ft leader for inshore saltwater, or bass applications.
Don't worry about being too precise on your measurements, as long
as you are in the ball park, your leader should turn over a fly nicely.
One aspect of fly fishing that tends to intimidate many people
are the knots that it is necessary to master in order to fly fish
with a knowledge of only 3 or 4 simple knots, you can fly fish for
virtually any species in almost any environment.
Following are a few knots that are essential.
The Nail Knot is a knot
that every fly fisherman needs to have in his repertoire. It is
essential for connecting leaders to fly line. The Tube Nail Knot
produces the same end result, however most people find it considerably
easier to tie with a tube instead of a nail. I find that coffee
stirrer straws cut into about 11/2 inch lengths make the perfect tool
for this knot.
a hollow tube (1 1/2 inch section of coffee stirrer straw works
well) against the end of your fly line. Lay the butt section
of your leader and the tube, leaving about a 10 to 12 inch overhang
of the tag end of the leader butt.
Hold all 3 pieces
together with left thumb and forefinger and make six to 8 close
wraps back around the leader, fly line, and tube working left to
Pass the tag end of the
leader butt through the tube, gently pull the two ends of the leader
to snug the coils slightly, remove the tube by sliding it to the
left, off of the tag end of leader.
Moisten knot with saliva
then pull standing and tag ends of leader at the same time to seat
knot firmly on fly line. Trim the tag end close to knot, trim
any excess fly line hanging out of knot.