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FLY FISHING - 101~ How to get into the sport

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

George Gunn Photography - International Women's Day 5050 Event

Starting or trying a new hobby can feel hugely overwhelming and it’s even worse when you have no-one to reach out to. Fear not! The fishing community is vast and you’ll always have a mass of people willing to help.

In this blog Marina Gibson focuses on beginners and includes some useful information about getting started, one step at a time!

In the beginning all you need to know are the basics and along the way you will ‘add more tools to your toolbox or belt’ as Marina's FFI mentor Chris Hague says...

Find a local instructor

Find a local instructor who can take you out for your first time and give you that one-on-one casting tuition - I advise going with a guide not a friend because they can give you their undivided attention, this way your progression will be quicker. A guide will also have all the right equipment for you to trial.

  • How to find a guide? There are many websites that make this search easy, for example: Orvis UK, The Angling Trust, Fly Fishers International and most fisheries will all have their own instructors and guides they use.

  • You can join one of Orvis UK's FREE Learn to Fly Fish 101 and 201 sessions, look for your local store on Google and call them to see when the next one will be.

  • How to find a fishery? Use Google Maps or a website like FishPal, The Angling Trust, Rods on Rivers, you can see local fisheries in your area, availability and prices.

There are 3 fishery options

o Lake

o River

o Sea

"I would advise honing in on your skills on a local Stillwater, after a few sessions you’ll have enough knowledge and experience needed for you to be able to confidently go fishing by yourself."

Fishing licence

Whether you are fishing for an hour or a week you need to buy a fishing licence, the booking process is fairly straightforward.


  • · One-day

  • · 8-month

  • · 12-month

  • · Children under 13 do not need a licence

  • · 13 – 16 years old need a licence but do not need to pay.


You'll need some protective eyewear; Polaroid’s are strongly advised, as they will remove surface glare and enable you to see more fish. A cap will protect your head/ face from the fly if it happens to end up in the wrong place! If you haven’t heard of the bald man who got a fly stuck in his head and when he went to the hospital he got it stuck in the roof of his car when he went over a bump!

Tackle selection

What is tackle, how does it work? If you’ve never fished before I understand it can be very intimidating.

Let’s start from scratch:

1. Rod – this is the centrepiece of your kit, most modern rods are made from carbon fibre or fibreglass.

2. Reel – This attaches to rod at the cork handle end, it can be a left hand or right hand wind.

3. Fly line – Is coiled within the reel and delivers the fly to the targeted fish.

4. Leaders – Most leaders are tapered monofilament nylon, one end has a larger diameter that attaches to fly line and has a smaller diameter tip which is attached to the tippet or it can be tied directly to the fly.

5. Tippet – is specific fluorocarbon, monofilament line that is attached to the end of the leader, to which you tie the fly.

6. Flies – These are made from fur, feathers, hair or other materials, both natural and synthetic and can replicate real flies, bait fish, fish, eggs, or nothing at all. They can come in different shapes, sizes, hooks and weights.

7. Fly floatant – This can be a wax or liquid that keeps your dry flies floating on the surface.

"Don’t buy any kit before you've given it a go, I’m almost 100% sure that you will love it but there’s no point in investing any money in the sport if you’re only going to try it and then decide it’s not for you."

Setting up

When you book your lesson make sure to ask if they can show you how to set up your kit. The amount of times my clients have said they’ve never been shown this is beyond me, what happens when you don’t have anyone to help you, what will you do then? If you really are motivated to give it 100% you will get more enjoyment out of it if you know how your fishing tackle works. It’s all part of the process.

Make sure to ask them what you’ll need for the session, here are items I would advise to take with you:

  • Sunglasses

  • Cap

  • Fishing licence for the day, 8 days or 12 months

  • Warms clothes

  • Waterproofs

  • Wellies

Fly selection

Anyone who is at the start of his or her fishing journey has a lot to learn about entomology and fly selection. Entomology is the scientific study of insects, and it’s important to know about ‘Matching the Hatch’: right flies, right places, right times, right weather, right months: if you're presenting a replica of a fly to a fish it needs to behave like the real thing, otherwise the fish, feeding or not will not be tricked if it is smart, and the smart ones are usually the bigger ones! Anglers who have been fishing all their lives continue to learn new things.

I would advise a beginner to get a couple of books on flies and entomology. Here are a couple to get you started:

How to tie a couple of essential basic knots

Two knots that will enable you to go fishing by yourself no problem: the blood knot and the perfection loop.

Learning two basic casts before heading to the river to practice everything you’ve learnt

You’ll learn two types of casts to get your started:

How to hook, play and land your first fish

Until you really get to do this yourself you won’t really be able to imagine what it feels like, remember the tug is the drug, it's highly addictive!

  • When a trout takes your fly you'll need to strike up to set the hook.

  • The most important thing I tell beginners is to make sure that the tip of the rod is bent at all times whilst playing the fish. If you have any slack in your line the hook will dislodge and you'll be fish-less!

  • If the fish is going right, point your rod tip left and vice versa, so you put pressure on the fish so it tires out, if you're releasing the fish you'll need to get it in as quickly as possible so it has as much energy as possible when you release it.

  • When you're learning make sure you have someone to help you net your fish.

Fish welfare covering how to handle and release your catch as efficiently as possible

Fish welfare on how to kill or release your prized catch as quickly and efficiently as possible. I've heard many people say that they don’t want to go fishing because they don’t know what to do with the fish when they catch one.

You have two options:

  • Catch and Kill

  • Catch and Release

***Some Stillwater fisheries are 'Catch and Kill' only, make sure you call before you visit and see what the T&Cs are as you might want to release all your fish.***

Catch and Kill or Catch and Release Blog coming soon!

When you know you’re fully hooked, now’s the time to go looking for your first rod setup, this will be the first of many!

The exciting part is that when you’ve got your own setup you can practice your casting anywhere, the garden for a start, even just for 20 minutes a day just to get you up to speed. This way each time you go fishing you’ll really notice the difference.

Good Luck and Tight Lines!!!

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