Fly Fishing Beginner Guide + Checklist [2022 Update]

Updated on August 30, 2022 by

Fly fishing is a very popular sport throughout the world, particularly in North America and Europe. It is normally separated because warm and cold water fishing depends on the species of fish you are looking to catch.

What is Fly Fishing?

Fly fishing is a form of angling using a weighted line, specialized reel, and a dry fly lure. It is particularly common in North America targeting trout, salmon, and bass.

Wikipedia defines fly fishing as:

Fly fishing is an angling method that uses a light-weight lure—called an artificial fly—to catch fish

The learning curve for fly fishing is large and can take a lifetime to master, particularly casting. The technique can change depending on the type of water environment you are fishing in – lakes, fast-flowing rivers, streams, and saltwater. 

How to Fly Fish?
Bass Fishing Tackle Essentials [202...
Bass Fishing Tackle Essentials [2022 Update]

The method of learning how to cast your fly with a fly fishing rod and reel setup can be difficult over text, so please have a look at the video below to get some tips:

Casting when fly fishing is better described as casting line rather than casting a lyre – this is due to the specialized weighted fishing line.

For beginners, it is certainly a new experience, but not one that will take you too long to learn. Start by practicing in an open space and you will be ready to take it to the water in no time.

What Specifies are Targeted Fly Fishing?

While many species can be caught when fly fishing, there are a few common fish based on their feeding behavior and the environments in that they are often found.

Some of the most popular fly fishing species in North America include:

  • Bass
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Pike
  • Redfish
  • Tarpon

There are also plenty of non-targeted species that are often caught when fly fishing such as chub, bream, and rudd. If you are lucky you can even be successful using flies for carp fishing.

In theory, any fish that eats fly-shaped prey can be targeted and caught by fly fishing.

All fish have different behaviors, favorite food, hiding places, and temperature preferences. Learn, learn, and keep learning. Locals and experts are the best places to start, particularly if you intend to target a particular species.

Learn everything you can about the fish’s preferences and behavior and you will have a better understanding of where they are likely to be and what they are likely to do.

This also changes depending on the time of year – fish behave differently during winter than they do during the spawning season. Grab a fly fishing book or dive into youtube to find out what happens to fish in your area at this time of year.

What is Fly Fishing?

Fly Fishing Equipment

Fly fishing requires specialized equipment that is different from standard spinning reels or baitcasting reels. They require weighted fishing lines to cast the extremely light artificial fly lure.

We have put together a checklist for all of the equipment you will need to get started fly fishing:

There are dozens of good brands that make high-quality fly fishing gear. We always recommend taking advice from professionals to make sure the equipment you select will suit your needs and last for years.

The last thing you want is to have tackle failure when you have hooked that big bass, so make sure all of your terminal tackle, fishing line, and knots are of the highest quality you can find.

Fly Fishing Reel

Fly fishing is often done in winter or in cold water, so make sure you consider warmth when selecting equipment such as fly fishing waders and fishing gloves. Removable fingerless gloves are a good option as they give a good combination of warmth and dexterity.

I would also recommend a good-quality fly fishing vest so that you can keep all your tools at arm’s length. Being able to change tackle or flies without needing to walk back to the bank can be the difference between scaring the fish away and getting a catch.

Top Tip

“Learn your local bugs – Every River and Lake has its own insects and hatchlings that the fish will be looking for. Find what lives nearby and use a fly that imitates that source of food.”

Fly Line Weight

Different sized fly line is required depending on the fish species and size that you are targeting:

  • 1wt – 3wt – small stream trout.
  • 4wt – medium freshwater trout.
  • 5wt – 6wt – larger freshwater lake trout and bass.
  • 7wt – 8wt – larger freshwater species in open water requiring casting long distances.
  • 9wt – 16wt – large saltwater species.

Popular Fly Fishing Locations

Forbes has a great article highlighting some of the best and most popular fly fishing states in the USA. If you want more details then read their article but I will just give a short summary of the Top 10 States for fly fishing:

  • Florida – The Florida Keys have large bonefish and tarpon. The Florida everglades have redfish and largemouth bass.
  • New York – Long Island Sound and its southern beaches have striped bass, bluefish, and false albacore.
  • Montana – Yellowstone National Park has the best bass fishing rivers in the nation.
  • Pennsylvania – Elk, and Walnut creeks have some steelhead and salmon rivers.
  • Michigan – The Great Lakes offer salmon and steelhead.
  • Oregon – The Clackamas, Deschutes, Klamath, and Umpqua rivers have steelhead and wild salmon.
  • Alaska – Salmon, steelhead, resident rainbows, grayling, and northern pike all within a few short months.
  • Idaho – Silver Creek and Snake River offer some of the most challenging trout fishing in the country.
  • North Carolina – The Roanoke River gets an unbelievable run of striped bass every year.
  • Colorado – More than 9,000 miles of trout rivers

I’m sure Californians and Mainers will feel like they deserve to be on this list too, but it is just a starting point to fire up your imagination. Leave a comment at the end of this article if you have any suggestions for good fly fishing locations that folks should try.


Fly fishing is a very popular form of angling throughout North America and the world. It can take a lifetime to master but only a single fish to fall in love with. Make sure you purchase quality equipment to ensure a successful fishing adventure – the last thing you want after hooking that horse is to lose it due to a low-quality fly fishing line, or terminal tackle.

If you have any more advice for beginners to fly fishing or even experienced anglers, then please leave a comment below so that everyone can learn.

I hope this has helped to explain what is fly fishing.

Happy fishing!

Photo of author

Captain Russ Egan

Captain Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.