Learning how to fly fish is a true lifetime endeavor that will lead to many incredible adventures on the water. I first began learning the art of fly fishing in high school but still have so much to learn. I am very proud of how far I’ve come since my high school fishing club days. I have filled my freezer with some of the highest quality meat available on this earth with the satisfaction that I caught it all myself!
What is Fly-Fishing?
Fly-fishing is a style of fishing made popular in Europe and brought over to Canada as this beautiful country was founded. The idea is that you are trying to replicate both the behavior and appearance of a fish’s food with your hook ending in that fish taking a bite. A fish’s diet consists mostly of insects, through several stages as they hatch from the bottom of the lake/river and rise to the surface, where they spread their wings and take off from the surface. There are other food sources like: shrimp, leeches, scuds, etc… but for the purposes of this article let’s stick with their primary food source: insects.
How to begin?
You may be thinking, “I’d love to give it a try but I don’t know anyone who fly fishes and where do I even start?” The setup can be relatively simple and is available at nearly every major outdoors store you can find in North America (Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, etc). The rod/reel setup that I use almost every time I’m out on the water is a 4 to 6 weight fly rod with a decent reel. For an explanation on what the weight categories indicate, check out our blog on Canadian Products that we know and love.
When you are just starting out, it’s arguably best to start with floating line pre-spooled into the reel of your choosing, but there is a lot of detail in what comes next. At the end of your floating line is a specific length of translucent line that sinks below your floating line or strike indicator (if you’re using one). Anywhere along the translucent line, you can place a strike indicator. These are commonly called bobbers in the tackle fishing world. In fly fishing the strike indicators are smaller and simpler, made from just colored Styrofoam surrounding a long and skinny black plastic bead.
Once you have knotted your translucent line to your floating line, you’ll want to thread your strike indicator BEFORE you knot your swivel onto the line. One too many times we have skipped this step and had to re-tie the line. The next step is the swivel, which is crucial to avoiding knots when you’re casting and helping your fly to sink to the appropriate level in the water. Below the swivel, another strand of clear line is knotted on, called either tippet or leader line which doesn’t need to be very long, a few feet is plenty. This line connects to your fly and then you’re all set!
So to recap – starting from the bottom I like to have my hook (fly) about 6-8 feet of clear leader to a swivel, anywhere from 6-20 feet of leader again to my floating line. Somewhere along the leader knotted to your floating line while be your strike indicator. In order to control the depth of your fly (and to alert you when you’ve got a bite!) use a strike indicator that you can slide up and down your line above the swivel. Trust me, there is almost nothing more exciting than watching that indicator sink!
Stay tuned for our blog that dives into the different types of fishing line, swivels and strike indicators you can choose from!
Where to go?
Generally speaking, fish like to hang out in deeper water where the temperature is cooler and they’re safer from predators. They will come in to feed closer to shore occasionally throughout the day. Knowledgeable anglers will commonly fish the drop-off – the areas in the lake where the shallows break into the deeper waters. This is a great place to start and either a depth finder or a good map will be of great help in finding these prime locations. Try to cast your line along the edges of these spots, perhaps a foot or two from the bottom and you should be on the right track. Obviously there are no hard and fast rules in fishing, and you certainly can cast in shallower water and be successful for sure but for today, we are focusing on where to start.
You absolutely cannot go wrong with a Fishing Mapbook from Backroads Mapbooks. While they don’t include every single body of water you may want to try fishing on, but they will certainly help get you started. They include some seriously valuable information about fish quantity, quality, maps of the lakes and how to get there. An absolute must for any beginner or angler traveling to fish BC’s stillwaters. Available at many gas stations, outdoors stores and online at
Why does this work?
If you’re an avid tackle angler you may be curious how or why fly fishing is even an effective way to catch fish. Fish are predators and need to eat a lot of insects in order to grow to be 2 lbs all the way up to 20 lbs or more. The closer you can match your fly to what the fish are eating, where in the water they’re feeding and at what depth – the more successful you will be. This is a very big challenge but the journey is so much fun and tying flies all winter of different varieties can be a great hobby with rewards coming every spring and summer.
Get out there!
Don’t be intimidated by the complexity of this sport as everyone always has a ton to learn. Even your buddy who claims he always catches big fish and is a better fisherman than anyone he knows, still has much to learn about the sport and has days when he’s skunked out on the water. We all start somewhere and it doesn’t matter how much you know but how much you go! Grab whatever rod/reel combo you can afford and tie yourself some flies. You will have a hobby that lasts a lifetime and eat better, healthier fish than most of your friends. Especially if fly fishing for trout is the gateway to getting out on the ocean every year to catch big salmon! But more on that later.