What is Fly Fishing? [2021 Update]

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 depending 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.

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?

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 any species can be caught when fly fishing, there are a few common fish based on their feeding behavior, and the environments 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 place 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 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 to standard spinning reels or baitcasting reels. They are 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 who 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 Wild Water Fly Fishing Starter Packageis a great place for beginners to look. It includes a fly rod, hard tube rod case, fly reel, fly box with 18 flies, leader, and nippers. Everything you need to go fishing this weekend.

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 wadders 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 arms 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 their 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.”

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 Californian’s and Mainers will feel like they deserve to be in this list to, 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 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!

Last update on 2021-07-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Russ Egan

Russ is an avid angler. He has fished all over the world, primarily for Saltwater game fish but also for local prize fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Tyrnos for an overhead reel or a Shimano Curado for a baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.