10 Tips to Learn Fly Fishing as a Beginner

When some people think about fly fishing they think of a technical, elitist, and expensive sport. In some ways, it can be, but if you take it to step by step it can be as easy as learning how to ride a bike.

Here are ten easy steps that I have used for myself and to help others get started in this great sport we call fly fishing.

By any means, I am not a professional and have probably left out some good stuff, so if any that read this have anything else to add please leave a comment and I will add it to the list. Or if you had something that helped you learn please let me know.

Here are 10 tips to learn fly fishing as a beginner:

1. Make sure you are legal.

Have an up-to-date fishing license and know the regulations to the waters you are planning to fish. Once you are sure that you comply with all the rules & regulations move ahead with the next step of fly fishing. Remember every lake, the river has its own set of guidelines for fishing which are protected by law, so it is vital that you learn them in order to avoid any confrontations or fines by the authority.

2. Find a Mentor

If you know someone that fly fishes use them to help you along the way. (Most will be more than happy to help) If you don’t, visit your local fly shop and seek their advice. It is crucial and a very important part of learning the sport, plus you will gain a fishing partner or two along the way. (Also you can get information from internet sites and books)

3. Get the Basic Fishing Gear

When getting started this might feel overwhelming with all the different fly rods, reels, and lines. But use your friend or local fly shop for advice and support. I personally would start with a cheaper rod and reel (under $50-$100) and if you get addicted like most of us than get a nice brand named to set up later on. The perfect set up for Utah and most trout waters is a 9 ft-5 weight rod, 5 weight floating line with 100 yards of 20lb backing, and 9ft-3x leader. Have the fly shop install the backing, line, and leader.

4. Practice Casting

Now that you have your Rod, Reel, and Leader. Go out in your yard or park and practice casting. Start casting short (10ft) and as you feel comfortable strip out more line and practice longer casts. Casting is one of the most important aspects of fly fishing, if not the most and one that needs to be worked at the most. By getting familiar with the way your rod casts before you hit the river, you will greatly improve your odds of having a better first day on the water. This is the aspect that is hardest for beginners, so work on it!!!!

When I started I used to spend 2 hours every day practicing casting and this helped me improve my skills drastically.

5. Upgrade Your Gear

This is a list of gear that you don’t want to be without on the water. (I never leave home without this stuff, it’s like going to a baseball game and forgetting your uniform)

  • Tippet (3x, 4x, 5x, 6x) – b. Little bb weights – c. Line Snips – d. Forceps – e. Strike Indicators – f. Floatant
  • Fly Vest – b. Waders – c. Wading Boots – d. Net – e. Polarized Glasses – f. Hat

6. Read the Water

One of the aspects that separate a new fly fisherman from a seasoned pro is their ability to read water and know where the fish should be holding. This isn’t a concept one learns overnight, but there are a few tips that will get you off on the right foot.

  • Fish Bubbles-If you find bubbles in a river you know that you are in a place that trout like to feed.
  • Fish Drop Offs- Look for areas that riffles drop into the deeper water, fish will hang out on the drop-off.
  • Fish Cover- Fish are constantly on the lookout for predators and will hang out behind rocks, around fallen trees, and under overgrown banks.
  • Fish Seams- A seam is an area between a fast current and slow water. Usually, you will notice the water swirling around, peeling off the main current, fish love seams.

7. Learn Basic Fly Types

In Fly Fishing, you have 4 basic fly types-

  • Dry Flies- These are the flies that float on the surface imitating an adult insect.
  • Nymphs- These are the flies that are fished subsurface imitating the insects on the bottom of the river.
  • Emergers- These are the flies that are fished just below the surface or deeper to imitate insects emerging to the surface to become adults. (They call this a hatch)
  • Steamers- These flies are used to imitate leeches, minnows, crawfish, and other fish food. They are usually fished with sinking line on lakes and rivers.

8. Understand Your Environment

Before your first outing, you should find out a few important factors that will improve your odds of having a successful day on the water.

  • Where are you going and is it fishable?
  • What are the flies to use during this time of year at that place?
  • What is the easiest way to catch fish at that location? (Nymphing, Dry flies, Streamers, etc…)
  • For example: If I plan on fishing the Provo River, I will check the river flows to make sure they are fishable. Then since it is spring, I know that Midges and Blue Winged Olives are the main flies to use. Then I will try and fish dry flies since it is the most productive when the fish are rising and my favorite type of fly fishing.

9. Think Like A Hunter

The best fishermen I know are the ones that hunt fish. They are very cautious about the way they approach a river and the fish in it. They never walk straight into the middle of a river and start fishing. Instead, they think of the best way to approach a hole without spooking any fish. So don’t ever fish water, hunt it.

If you do it right, the water can be your best friend and will give you all the fish you can catch and if dealt harshly it will send you home empty-handed. Remember, patience is the key here, so take a deep breathe and analyze your surrounding and become one. You need to feel the water and become a part of it. Once you achieve this, there will be no stopping you.

10. Adapt & Improvise

Get out and learn firsthand from your own experiences on the water. The best way to learn fly fishing is to practice it. One thing that I liked doing since I didn’t know anyone who flies fished and didn’t have anyone to go with, was to study others as they fished. A lot of the time I ended up talking with them and finding out what they were doing to catch fish. Those tips were a great help in learning the sport for me. The bottom line is that nothing can take the place of spending time on the water learning on your own the fine art of fly fishing. So get out and worked through the tangles and missed hookups and you will find your reward.


Fly fishing is a lot of fun especially when you learn the nitty-gritty of the art. I hope these tips helped you and you will make me proud by becoming an expert fly fisher. If you have any doubts or questions feel free to enter them in the comments below and I will try my best to answer them accordingly.

I have compiled these tips based on my own experience and what was taught to me by my mentor, who was a pro at fly fishing, I am talking about none other than my father. So thanks to him I am a pro myself and it’s time to pass his teachings on to the world.