Tips on Fly Fishing for Trout


It’s springtime once again and summer isn’t too far away. We’re getting to that time of year when outdoor activities are king and everyone wants go get out and enjoy nature in all its glory. If you happen to be a lover of seafood as well as the great outdoors, there’s nothing better than fly fishing. There’s pretty much no better combination of those two elements than this age-old activity.

Now we just mentioned in the opening paragraph that fly fishing is a time-honored tradition, but did you know that it traces its roots back at least as far as the 1400s1? Fly fishing was already a beloved pastime before Christopher Columbus ever set sail for the new world.

Fly fishing can be conducted in saltwater, but is much more commonly practiced in freshwater areas. There’s also cold water fly fishing vs warm water fly fishing and some of the fish that are targeted include salmon, bass, trout, and steelhead trout (not a true trout, that’s why we’ve made the distinction). This article will mainly focus on cold freshwater fly fishing for trout as well as Steelhead trout.

Before you’re ready to go fly fishing, you’re going to need a set of tools to do it correctly and some familiarity with them. First off, you’ll need a fly fishing rod, which is a completely different entity than the typical fishing rods you’re most likely used to seeing. Fly fishing rods are generally made of one of three different materials – bamboo, fiberglass, and graphite composites. While the bamboo rods have an artistic appeal, they are very fragile and can be expensive2. Fiberglass rods are generally the most affordable and are best used in small brooks and streams. Graphite rods are the most popular and most widely used, thanks to their durability and light weight.

In addition to the difference in their composing materials, there are also three different styles of rods which operate in their own unique ways. These are single-handed, two-handed, and switch rods. Most professionals recommend that you start out with the single as it’s the easiest one to use when first learning the rudiments of fly fishing. There’s one additional kind of rod known as a Spey. This is a rod that’s about 14 feet long and is mainly used for fly fishing in large rivers2.

Once you have your rod selected, you’re going to need some fishing line to go with it. The line used in fly fishing is much thicker and heavier than that used in most other types of fishing and it is imperative that you pick a line that is compatible with your rod. Generally the line will be marked within a weight class that is based on the weight of 30 extended feet2. The reason for this is that it helps in creating a standard system to help match the weight of line with the rod that best fits it.

There are four main kinds of line for fishing rods, each with their own distinct features. A double-tapered line is tapered on both ends and comes in handy when one side wears out, as the other end can then be used. Shooting lines generally will have a 30 foot long heavily tapered section and are good for long casts but are hard to manipulate in the water. Weight-forward line features a thick and  heavily tapered section followed by a much thinner strip for the rest of the line. Level lines feature no tapering at all. For most anglers, double-tapered line is preferred.

The line categories break down even further in regard to their buoyancy or lack thereof. This is usually referred to as the line’s “sink rate”2. Floating line will stay very close to the surface of the water and is easy to move about. Fully sinking line is good if you’re fly fishing in deeper waters with powerful currents. The most popular class is interchangeable floating line. This offers a 10-15 foot long attachable piece of line that can be added to the floating line. It can be altered as needed to fit one’s needs at any given time.

Next up are the reels. Again, reels must also be compatible with the rod and therefore with the line as well. As you’ll learn when you gain experience in fly fishing, all of the different tools you’ll be using are very synergistic in nature. Normally when you go to buy your reel, the packaging will specify what kind of rod and line it should go with. If it doesn’t, you can ask one of the workers at the store, as they will likely know the answer. As is the case with rods and lines, there are different varieties of reels.

The three main reel varieties that you’ll encounter are automatic, multiplier, and single action. With an automatic reel, the line is brought back in when the person using it pulls on a trigger. While it has its moments, it isn’t always helpful as it leads to one having very little control in regard to reeling speed. Multiplier reels allow for speedy reeling and are good when catching larger trout that put up a heavy fight. These are more complicated reels and require a greater combination of motions. The most popular reels are single action reels. They allow for an easy change of line spools and a more user-controlled reeling speed. They’re also the most ambidextrous variety and are the easiest to maintain.

At this point you may be asking (or maybe you aren’t), “When are they going to get to the point when they tell us why it’s called fly fishing?” If you’re curious to know about that little morsel of trivia, we’ll explain it for you now. The “fly” in fly fishing comes from the lure used to catch the fish, which is referred to as a “fly”. The lure is called this because many types of salmon and trout tend to feed on aquatic insects and flies are designed to look and move like these insects in order to attract the fish. In order to get your fly on the line, you connect it with a device known as a leader, which will be sold in the same places where you go to buy your lines, reels etc.

As you may have guessed, there are several varieties of flies. Dry flies (which we’ll focus on) look and move much

like aquatic insects do when they touch the surface of the water to release their eggs. Nymph flies imitate aquatic insects in their larval stage as well as smaller insects which are just about to break through the surface of the water. Streamers look and move much like minnows, crayfish, and other small fish/crustaceans that fall prey to trout. The fourth kind of flies are known as attractors1 and have a form and appearance that is unlike any natural animal, but sometimes get the trout biting anyway.

You now know what fly fishing is and what tools are involved, but we’ve still yet to talk about actually doing anything. We’re getting to that now. The single most important aspect when it comes to your fly fishing technique is known as “presenting”. This is the combination of moves that you pull off with your rod, line, and fly to display your fly to nearby trout.

When using a dry fly, the presentation style you’ll want to go for is a dead drift3. This essentially means that you have your fly floating along with the current of the water and moving at the same speed. This method is heavily preferred since you can see the fish coming up to take the bait and a lot of the guesswork is taken out of the equation. Whether you’re on a boat, a bank, or wading in the water, you’ll want to get as close as possible to the fish without them seeing you. This is true for whatever presentation position you decide to go with.

There are five primary presentation positions, but the one we’ll focus on is called upstream presentation. This is by far the easiest method as it puts you more or less behind the fish so it’s tougher for them to see you. When using this position, the current will be your friend. All you have to do is make a straight cast and the water will do the majority of the rest of the work for you. When using this position, you’ll want to cast your line such that it is behind the fish but the fly is just slightly in front of the fish.

After casting, the line and fly will start drifting toward you. The extra space allowing for this is called slack and you’ll need to eliminate it if you want to catch the trout you’re seeking. (Though in other positions you’ll need some slack as the water won’t be carrying the fly back toward you.) In order to reduce the slack, you must place your index finger of whichever hand is operating the rod just above the line while reaching over with the other hand to strip in the excess line3. With the slack eliminated, you’ll be able to more officially strike and successfully catch the trout you’re pursuing.

The term strike is used to describe the action of pulling back on the rod to move the fly and line out of the water, hopefully with a trout coming along with them. There are two main schools of thought when it comes to striking. Some people prefer yanking, which consists of lifting the rod upward and pulling it back at full force. Others prefer to do it in a more gentle fashion, waiting about three seconds after hooking the fish in hopes that the fly and hook will be solidly inside of the fish so that it’ll be more likely to stay on the line when you pull your rod up. This approach is also helpful because the fish will usually try to swim away, so you’ll be pulling it backward rather than forward – this is key, because it greatly reduces the risk of ripping everything out of the fish’s mouth and coming up empty handed4.

While it might seem a little out of order to explain casting last, it’s actually beneficial to learn the rest of the process first since you’ll need to have this knowledge in order for any of your casts to be productive. We’ll be discussing the overhead casting method, as it is the most popular. There are a few steps to this process that you’ll need to commit to memory. First of all, you’ll want to make sure that everything on the rod is fully connected and ready to go.

After completing this important step, you’ll want to check your rod and make sure that it easily bends both backward and forward. Next, bring the rod back over your shoulder and wait just a moment before casting so that the line can straighten out and then be released in a smooth loop and avoid tangling. Then swing the rod forward in a brisk but careful motion, aiming for a tight, well defined loop of movement before hitting the water. The distance that the fly and line travel from the rod to their final spot in the water is known as the stroke.

Once you’ve cast and gone through the presenting position and method we described earlier, it’s time to focus as completely as possible on the scene that unfolds before you. You won’t feel a tug when the fish gets hooked like you would when engaging in other kinds of fishing. You’ll need the visual cue of the fish coming up and taking the bait in order to know when to reel it in. You’ll want to strip the line in manually a bit before you begin to reel. When you have the fish where you want it, it’s time to pull back on your rod and retrieve it from the water.

What do you do once you catch your trout? Well, after exchanging some high fives with your fishing buddies and gloating for an appropriate period of time, you can take your fish home and clean and prepare it to be cooked up for a delicious meal. One such dish is Broiled Steelhead Trout with Rosemary, Lemon and Garlic. We found this one on and will share it with you now.

Broiled Steelhead Trout with Rosemary, Lemon and Garlic

Ingredients: 1 lb Steelhead trout fillet, 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1/4 tsp of salt, juice from 1/2 lemon, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1.5 tsp of fresh chopped rosemary, 1/2 tsp of ground black pepper, extra olive oil to grease the baking pan5.


1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

2. Grease a baking pan with olive oil.

3. In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients aside from the fish into a paste.

4. Place the fish in to the baking pan and cover the fish with your paste.

5. Cook on the 2nd rack from the heat for 5 minutes.

6. Move the pan down to the 4th rack and cook for another 10 minutes, lowering the heat to 325 degrees5.

Works Cited

1. Author Unavailable
Fly Fishing

2. Author Unavailable
Fly Fishing for Trout

3. Author Unavailable
Fly Fishing for Trout

4. Jorgensen, Martin
The Strike

5. Kitchengrrl
Broiled Steelhead Trout with Rosemary, Lemon and Garlic, Jan 24, 2005

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