What is Fly Fishing?

fly fishing

Fly fishing is a form of fishing centered on the art of imitation. The angler disguises the end of their hook with an imitated food source designed to look like the natural prey of the intended fish in a given environment. Fly fishing is done for sport, exercise, or relaxation and can be enjoyed by anyone no matter their level of experience. It is a great way to experience nature and new environments.


Fly Fishing History

Fly fishing is one of the oldest forms of angling dating back to 200 CE in Mesopotamia, followed by its expansion into Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. It did not take long to reach North America, where fly fishing varied to account for the rocky rivers of areas like Newfoundland and Cape Cod. At the turn of the 19th century fly fishing began to gain popularity and grow into what we know it as today, expanding to include different water types and fish.

Playing Surface

Fly Fishing Playing Surface

Depending on the type of fish the angler is seeking, water surfaces can vary. The main difference is whether the water is freshwater or saltwater. Freshwater fly fishing is more popular and generally involves wading in rivers, lakes, or ponds. Saltwater fly fishing commonly occurs on open waters such as estuaries, flats, or bays and may require the usage of a boat.

Fly Fishing Equipment

Fly Fishing Equipment

Fly fishing requires common fishing equipment and can vary depending on the type of fish the angler is seeking. The larger the fish, the larger the angling equipment needed. It is crucial to bring the following to ensure a successful and memorable fly fishing experience.

Here is the essential fly fishing equipment you should have:

  • Boots
  • Fishing Net
  • Flies
  • Fly Box
  • Fly Line (Backing, Leader, and Tippet)
  • Fly Rod
  • Fly Reel
  • Waders


The objective of fly fishing is to successfully use imitation bait to hook and catch the desired fish. For competitive fly fishing, points are rewarded based on quantity, size, and type of fish. Many choose to fly fish just for enjoyment and, for these anglers, their objectives are as simple as having fun and enjoying the surrounding environment.

Rules and Regulations

Fly Fishing Rules and Regulations

Competitive fly fishing rules may change depending on the competition. These are some of the basic rules from TEFF (Team England Fly Fishing):

  • Anglers must remain within their fishing zones
  • Anglers must respect the traditions of the sport
  • Only artificial flies may be used
  • Boats must not obstruct other anglers' boats
  • Buoyancy aids should be worn if fishing from a boat
  • Rod length must be within the specified ranges of the competition


Here are the most important fly fishing strategies you should know:

  • Choose the right fly: Flies should be chosen to match the insects of the environment.
  • Walk Softly: It is important to approach the casting area quietly, as fish are sensitive to sounds.
  • Read and interpret the water speed: Trout usually appear at speeds between 2-6 cubic feet per second.
  • Approach fish by staying outside the "cone of visibility" by staying behind or low.


Fly Fishing Lingo

Here is the common lingo and slang in fly fishing:

  • Break Off: When a hooked fish breaks the fishing line.
  • Spooking Fish: The process of scaring a fish by physical presence or from line contact with the water.
  • Strike: When a fish takes the fly from the line.
  • Sweeper: A downed log or branch.
  • Foul Hook: When a fish is hooked by its fin or body rather than its mouth.


Fly Fishing Anglers

Fly fishing is not the most popular sport when it comes to national attention and athletic fame. However, each of these anglers has put their mark on the sport, either historically or by being at the top of the ranks today.

Here are the most famous fly fishing players you should know.

  • Devin Olsen
  • Michael Bradley
  • Mason Simms
  • Tammy Neal
  • Tom Rosenbauer
  • Perk Perkins
  • Dave Perkins

Events and Competitions

Fly Fishing Events and Competitions

There are many fly fishing competitions held throughout the world, but the most well-known tend to be held in the United States.

Here are the most popular tournaments in Fly Fishing:

  • 2021 World Fly Fishing Championship: 40th FIPS-Mouche World Fly Fishing Championship held in August in the Kuusamo and Taivalkoski regions of Finland.
  • Team USA NC Regional: Two 3-hour loch sessions and two 3-hour river sessions along the Davidson River.
  • Skaneateles Mini: Two 2-hour competitor controlled sessions along the Skaneateles Creek in Elbridge, New York.
  • Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament: Tarpon fly fishing tournament held in June, in Islamorada of the Florida keys.


Do I need a boat for fly fishing?

A boat may be needed for fly fishing when fishing in open area saltwater. Otherwise, most standard fly fishing is conducted by wading into the river shallows and does not require a boat.

Fly fishing can be conducted almost anywhere and there is no specific area where fly fishing is most popular. However, one of the places known for the best fly fishing experience is Rock Creek in Montana.

What is the difference between fly fishing and normal fishing?

Fly fishing is based on the concept of imitation and uses artificial "flies" designed as insects of the surrounding environment to hook fish, whereas standard fishing generally uses live bait. Also, fly fishing rods tend to be lighter and longer than others.

What type of fish is most common in fly fishing?

There are various types of fish that can be caught while fly fishing, but the most common is trout. Freshwater target fish tend to be varieties of trout and salmon, while saltwater target fish tend to be larger fish such as tarpon, striped bass, bonefish, and redfish.