Fly Fishing Basics (Beginners Guide)

We are always attempting to improve and learn more about fly fishing. Fly fishing techniques are varied with time tested and proven strategies combined with attempts at fooling fish using new ideas.

Learn the basics, expand to learn advanced techniques and experiment along the way to form your own techniques for your gear. There is always something new to learn and someone new to learn it from.

Learning how to Fly Cast

In this section, you will find articles about a variety of techniques that are effective. Some are fundamental while others are new and exciting. If you are learning how to fly cast, the fly casting technique is best spent watching a video by Orvis.  We have put together advanced techniques, location recommendation, fly tying and also gear tips as well.

Nymph Fishing Basics

Nymph fishing basics includes the act of imitating the subsurface form of insects and crustaceans. Numerous styles and techniques exist with some being very simple and others requiring advanced skills. In this article, I will cover the basic concepts, bugs, popular flies and techniques to get you started. When you are ready for a more advanced approach, there are great inexpensive advanced fly fishing books available like the “Orvis Fly Fishing Guide“.

The rigging possibilities for nymphing are endless. You can rig a single fly, two flies, three flies and so on. In many states and countries, 1-2 flies is legal and anything more is illegal. In some states, there is no limit and three flies is a common option. Fishing three or more flies allows you to fish at a variety of depths but the numerous flies also lead to more tangles, more lost flies and more damage to the fish when they wrap on the line. Your best rigging options include two flies and some simple knots.

This nymph fishing basics rigging option uses a large fly followed by a smaller fly. Tie two feet of tippet off the bend of the large fly and a second clinch knot to the smaller fly. This setup is easy to use, easy to adjust and difficult to tangle. The large fly will sink the rig quickly and the small fly will ride just off the river bottom. While there are numerous other rigging options, this a great one to start with for your nymph fishing basics.

Fly Selection

Choosing flies is one of the most difficult propositions for a beginning nympher. You are always skeptical about what you cannot see. Starting with some very general attractor patterns is the best way to go. Once you gain a grasp on the specific insects and timing, you can make some adjustments to meet the specific insect profiles.

Rubberlegs – This fly is simple, available in numerous colors and it sinks quickly. It is great for weighting your nymph rigs and it is a proven fish catcher. If you are tying flies, it is a very easy pattern to produce.

Kauffman Stone – This is a more specific stonefly imitation but it works well as a general fly for trout. It works especially well where stoneflies are prolific but will also get the job done other situations. Ultimately, it is a large meal that trout love.

Stonedaddy – Doug Ouellette’s Stonedaddy is my favorite stonefly/baby crayfish/weighted fly for nymphing. It sinks like a rock and fish love it. It is the perfect point fly for freestone rivers.

Prince Nymph – This is a great pattern that will catch trout just about anywhere. You can use a #12 or larger as your primary weight or you can go smaller for a trailing fly. Using the Prince as a trailer is the most common option. The Peacock Body is very attractive and this thing will often work even when your technique isn’t quite right.

Pheasant Tail – The PT Nymph works well in a beadhead, flashback or plain version. It is a great trailing fly and will work in general and insect specific situations. It is a great mayfly impression with the slender abdomen and short thorax. It works great as a March Brown, BWO, Gray Drake and just about any mayfly nymph.

Hare’s Ear – Like the Pheasant Tail, this fly is a great for general and specific use. The pattern is very buggy and it works great as a fatter mayfly or even a small stonefly.

Other Patterns – There are thousands of other patterns available. These are some of the most proven standards that will catch fish anywhere.

Indicator Nymphing

Nymph fishing with an indicator is a good place to start. The advantages are depth control and visual strike detection. The indicator is especially useful in slower water where tight line nymphing is difficult to control. They also help in areas with limited space for casting and runs that require a longer drift. The basic approach is to lob the indicator rig upstream, mend line to compensate for different current speeds and achieve a drag free drift through the desired lie. Ultimately, your ability to read water will have a great impact on the success of your indicator nymph fishing.

High Sticking

Tight line, high sticking style nymphing is a great way to catch trout. The technique is feel based and does not require any visual aid. Using this approach requires some practice but it can greatly improve your success. Indicator fishing often results in missed strikes. Feeling the subtle takes really makes the difference in some scenarios. The basic tight line approach requires a long leader (15 ft.) for sensitivity. Lob the rig upstream, allow it to sink for several seconds and maintain light contact through the lie. Set the hook on any change of pressure that may be a fish. As with any fishing, your success is greatly impacted by your ability to read water.

Moving Forward

Go out and work on the basics. These simple techniques can really produce beneath the surface. When you are ready to advance to the next level, pick up my eBook and read through the material. It will really give you a deep look into the techniques that produce big fish.


Types of Flys

Mayfly – Slender, sexy and a common food source in freshwater.

Caddis – Abundant and very important to trout in cold water environments.

Stonefly – Several important subspecies that provide a mouthful for freshwater fish.

Midge – Midges are everywhere and fish love them.

Cranefly – They look like a giant midge and the larva provides an occasional meal for fish.

Terrestrials – They live on land and often find their way to the water.

Damselflies – Common in stillwaters, they are both beautiful and tasty for fish.

Dragonflies – These big bugs are a common food source for many fish.


Fly Fishing Gear Talk

Fly Fishing Rods

We have a guide to fly fishing rod page because the fly rod market provides a huge range of rod styles, materials and price ranges. Many anglers will find a company that they like and stick with them but some prefer to collect a variety of different rods.

Choosing a fly rod for the first time may seem overwhelming but you can break down your needs, test a few models and make a purchase without much headache. It becomes more difficult as you gain experience and begin to realize the value of a good rod.

Fly Fishing Nets

Fly fishing nets serve a specific and utterly important purpose. There are many different types of nets available on the market with some being much better than others. The net must be capable of holding the largest fish you catch and it must be durable.

Fly Fishing Tackle Boxes

The fly box seems less than significant in the big picture but it serves an essential purpose. A quality box will hold your bugs securely and keep them dry while you are tramping around. The best boxes do not crush your flies and they store a great number of flies in a portable fashion. Fly boxes come in variety of shapes and sizes, with some being superior to others.