New to Fly Fishing


We have all been there. You decide you want to try fly fishing so you walk into a fly shop or pick up a catalog and immediately you are overwhelmed by the vast selection of rods and reels not to mention lines, flies, and other paraphernalia. This article is meant as a guide to lead you through the maze of equipment to get you off on the right start. However, nothing compares to face-to-face, one-on-one instruction and guidance. You should seek a knowledgeable person for help. DCFF can offer such help and so can most fly shops. You should get with other fly fishers for advice because most have made mistakes and can help you to avoid doing the same.

To begin you have to start at the end. Confused already? Actually the first thing you should ask yourself is, “What fish will I primarily be pursuing?” The size of the fish you will be catching most will determine the fly size you will be using which will determine the leader size, line size, reel, rod and so forth.

Conventional fishing methods (spin, spin cast, and casting) all have a weighted lure or bait that causes the rod to bend (load) in the back cast. This “loading” of the rod propels the weighted lure forward during the forward stroke of the cast as the rod springs forward. The nearly weightless line follows the lure in the cast. Fly casting uses the same physics except for the lure or fly is nearly weightless and the line is weighted. During the back cast, the weighted line “loads” the rod and as the rod springs forward, the weighted line is propelled forward and the weightless fly goes along for ride.

Just as conventional casting equipment has heavier rods and lines for heavier lures, fly casting equipment has heavier rods and lines for larger and less aerodynamic flies. Many larger flies have greater “drag” in the air and a heavier line is required to transport this wind resistant fly and then a heavier rod is required to handle the heavier lines.

For example, if you will be catching mostly pan fish and small trout, the hook size will probably be 12 or so and smaller. 3 or 4 weight lines present small flies well and will make playing smaller fish more enjoyable than say a 5 or 6 weight which will “horse” the small fish. But if you are after large trout and smallmouth bass, a 5 to 6 weight line may be the ticket for larger flies often associated with large trout and smallmouth. Bigger flies such as largemouth bass flies are quite large and have a lot of drag. 7 and 8 weight lines are needed to handle these flies.

Matching Rod and Line Weight
to Fly Size

Rod/Line Weight


Fly Size Range

1/0 – 12
2/0 – 10
3/0 – 8
4/0 – 6
6/0 – 4

Does that mean you need a different rod for every size fly you use? No. There are differences of opinion of course, but if you want a rod primarily for fishing streams and ponds, a 5-weight rod and line will do. But if you are going to fish gin-clear spring creeks with tiny, dry flies, a 3-weight rod and line would produce a more delicate presentation.

Remember, you can cast a smaller fly with a larger line but you cannot cast a larger fly with too small a line.

There are many good resources. So, rather than try to re-invent the wheel, one of the very best sites on the web is . Try this link to some of the best beginner information on the web.

Good Luck and Tight Lines!

Come see us at the next DCFF meeting for one-on-one advice and instruction.

Fly fishing in and around Louisville Kentucky