I was introduced to fly fishing for trout fishing at a relative late age and it was only during my university years that I decided to acquire fly fishing equipment. This inspiration came in a sudden burst after watching that iconic movie “A River Runs Through It”, originally written my Norman McLean and brilliantly directed by Robert Redford in the 1992 silver screen adaption.
Although I only took it up at that time, my interest has always been piqued by this weird form of fishing; throwing loops of strangely coloured line with a ridiculously tiny artificial fly tied at the end of it in a rhythmic, kind of hypnotic, fashion. When I eventually mastered this technique, I could spend literally hours going through the motions, each time trying to improve slightly on my previous effort.
Of course casting a fly line is only one aspect of this fascinating pursuit. Some of the others are hunting a very graceful, wily and (at times) extremely elusive quarry as well getting out into some of the most beautiful places, especially when visiting pristine mountain streams. When I eventually moved onto tying my own trout flies, I entered into a completely new realm with near endless opportunities of trying to create the most perfect insect imitations.
Having said all that, one of the most enchanting aspects of fly fishing is actually the simplicity of it all. From the rod, reel and line as well as the casting technique a novice angler does not need to study an elaborate course or obtain a very high degree of knowledge or skills to obtain moderate success from the outset.
I would suggest you read up a bit on the topic, get someone to show you the basics in casting a line (I would show you in less than 20 minutes) and then it’s simply a matter of practice. After reading this article you should also be adequately kitted in order to approach the trout waters with a high level of confidence in your own gear and abilities.
#1 – The Rod
#2 – The Reel
#3 – The Flies
Best of the Best – Dry/Wet Flies Assortment
#4 – The Clothes
Best of the Best – Fly Vest
#5 – The Extras
Best of the Best – Waders
What Do I Need to Fly Fish for Trout?
#1 – The Rod
I would suggest that an angler new to fly fishing should get a medium-action fly rod between 8 and 9 feet to start with, unless you intend to fish exclusively for small fish. In that case you should opt for a shorter rod. A medium-action fly rod are pretty versatile and a good choice to learn the art of casting a fly line.
Different fly rods have different weights, depending on the fish you are going to hunt. If you are going trout fishing, rods of 4-, 5- and 6-weight are ideal. Again, for versatility, I would suggest a beginner should by a 5-weight rod.
#2 – The Reel
It is of the utmost importance that the weight of the fly rod matches the line weight you plan on using. You also have to make sure that the weight of the fly rod matches the weight of the fly reel you are planning to buy.
To make sure that your whole outfit is balanced, you simply place the rod on top of your index fingers next to, and just in front, of your reel which must be filled with fly line and backing. If the rod stabilizes in a horizontal position, you know the balance is correct.
As you will notice, there are various kinds of different brands all producing high quality reels and eventually choosing one will also eventually be a matter of personal choice.
#3 – The Flies
This is an area which can become very confusing pretty quickly for the novice angler due to the vast array of flies one can choose from. Let’s then try to keep it simple for purposes of this article.
Broadly speaking there are four different types of flies: 1) dry flies, 2) emergers, 3) nymphs and 4) streamers. Your fly choice will mostly depend on which kind of fishing you will be doing whether it’s a small pond, big lake, big river or small stream.
As a rule of thumb I would use smaller sizes (10-18) flies on rivers and the bigger, bulkier types in sizes 2-8 on lakes and dams. This is, however, not cast in stone and you will experience times when big lake trout zoom in on tiny emerger patterns, so be prepared for that eventuality as well.
#4 – The Clothes
If you plan to fish rivers and streams you must make sure you have the correct footwear to negotiate smooth, mossy and slippery stones on the riverbed as well as river bank. Remember, quite often it will be expected of you to enter the water in order to get into the best position for a cast. These boots must also be able to do a bit of serious hiking through dense undergrowth and rough terrain.
Another important piece of clothing for abovementioned conditions is a pair of durable pants. In warm, summer conditions some people may think that shorts are the way to go, but they lack the necessary protection for bare legs. Therefore, choose something that is lightweight enough to keep you cool, but also made of strong, durable material to protect your legs against harmful UV rays and, insect bites and random streamside vegetation.
A good quality fly vest with multiple pockets is definitely one piece of garment no serious fly fisher can leave home without. The various pockets provide ample space to store all the essential equipment required for a day’s fly fishing within easy reach.
#5 – The Extras
For anglers hunting trout on still water impoundments (ponds, lakes, etc.) a good pair of waders can be of great benefit. Sometimes the ability to enter the water in order to get into a better position for casting or to land a trophy trout can make the difference between a highly successful outing or utter disappointment.
You can also acquire a landing net if you deem this to be important. I always fancied the tear drop net which is light weight and not too bulky to carry around.
Trout Fly Fishing Tips
#1 – Read the Water
In order to be a successful fly fisherman you have to understand a bit of the underwater world trout inhabit. This is true on both still waters and streams, but especially so on the latter. In running water trout will always choose holding areas where they are protected from the main current, but also close enough to said current in order to snatch up any type of food that is trapped in the current.
Therefore, always be on the lookout for potential holding areas which may take the form of sand banks, logs and branches as well as rocks. These are all obstructions to the current and create pockets of relative calm water, no matter how small.
Once you have identified such an area, try to place your fly as close as possible to the structure in a patch of calm water. Also try to keep the fly there for a few seconds at least and make sure to lift your line before the current gets hold of either the fly or the line. If you get no reaction on the first cast, repeat the performance at least twice more.
#2 – Trust Your Fly
As you have noticed, there are a myriad of artificial flies out there imitating a vast range of real insects, small invertebrates and other kinds of life forms. Some of them are pure attractor patterns resembling nothing in particular, but designed to attract a hungry trout’s attention.
I trust you will do a bit of reading on the subject, or talk to an old pro, before you venture onto trout waters for the first time in order to be able to make a reasonable choice of fly pattern once you start fishing.
However, after you made your choice, try and stick to it as far as possible. In my experience it is often not the fly that makes the difference, but rather the angler’s technique and strategy. Keep focussing on well-executed casts and the placement of your fly as well as avoiding drag as much as possible. The more natural the artificial looks the better chance of it fooling a wily trout.
#3 – Think like a Trout
The more time you spend on the water the more you will become familiar with trout behaviour, their feeding patterns and where to expect them. In the wild survival is based upon three major components; how to procure enough food, how to avoid your enemies and how to procreate successfully.
Trout inhabiting streams and rivers have to balance these three aspects of their lives continuously and all their behavourial patterns can be linked to these three instinctive forces, so to speak. Therefore, the earlier a trout angler gets to understand how these forces regulate a trout’s movements the better chance of success.
Even when not actively fishing, take time to observe a trout in its natural environment and make mental notes of the ways in which it patrols its section of a pool or rapid. This will definitely pay dividends in years to come.
#4 – Be Patient
It goes without saying that to be a successful angler, no matter which fish species you are targeting, one needs to have lots and lots of patience. Although fly fishing for trout differs somewhat from normal bait fishing in that it is a more active pursuit, you can find yourself fishing a promising stretch of water diligently and with high precision for an hour or two with not so much as a rise.
Remember that a fish may appear out of seemingly nowhere within a split second, so be on the alert at all times. Also, if you have risen a good fish, but missed the strike retreat discreetly, let the fish “settle down” for four of minutes and try again; this time maybe with a different fly. The one activity where patience will be rewarded more often than not is definitely fishing!
Trout Fly Fishing FAQs
Do Trout Only Appear at Certain Times of Year?
Although trout and salmon are from the same family, they only share habitats for a certain time of year when salmon enter fresh water rivers and lakes in regions of the Northern Hemisphere to breed.
Also, some family members of wild trout leave the river at some stage to forage in the coastal areas. They do not head for the open ocean like salmon, however. To breed they also return to their natal rivers and are then called steelheads in the USA/Canada and sea trout in other parts.
The bulk of the trout populations remain in their respective areas, but may migrate up and down a river system either for breeding purposes or feeding patterns.
Can a Trout Break My Line?
Yes, a big, healthy trout is very much able to break your tippet, especially if it is assisted by strong river currents. Be aware of this fact all the time you are fighting your fish and use the flexibility of your fly rod to counter any sudden pull or jerk from the fish.
Also remember to palm your reel lightly in your hand to allow the fish to take as much line as is needed in order to avoid a line break making sure, at the same time, that you apply enough tension to avoid a slack line. Failing this may enable the hook to become unstuck thereby allowing the fish to escape.
How Long Should I Wait for a Trout to Bite?
Quite a difficult question to answer, because there are so many conditions that may play a role in determining when and how often trout will bite.
The best advice I can give is, firstly, make sure there are trout in the area, try to read the water to the best of your ability and then proceed in a focussed manner by casting into the right areas with an appropriate fly at the end of your line. If you stick to these basics success is bound to follow soon.
Should the Gear I Bring Vary Depending on the Season?
Firstly, if we talk about weather conditions I think it is quite obvious that you will have to dress appropriately for the occasion, especially regarding your upper body. However, as mentioned earlier, do not compromise on wearing long pants no matter how hot or cold it is.
The biggest variation will probably be choosing the right fly for the occasion and that depends quite heavily on what specific insects are abundant that specific time of the year. “Match the hatch” is a common phrase amongst fly fishing folk, literally meaning see what flies, crawls or swims around you and see if you have something close resembling that in your fly box.
What Conditions Are Best for Trout Fly Fishing?
If the water levels are very low or high it may not be the best times to be on a trout river. Also, in the middle of a hot, summer day can prove to be quite challenging to entice a trout to take a fly. Rather focus your efforts on the early morning hours or late afternoon and early evening.
Overcast conditions also improve your chances in my opinion and so does a bit of wind to ruffle the surface water thereby making it more difficult for a fish to detect someone on the bank stalking it. If a cold front has passed an area, but there is still a light rain falling, fishing can be quite good too.
So there you have it, everything you could possibly want to know about trout fly fishing… and probably a lot you didnt want to know. Thanks for sticking around and please feel free to comment below.