Fly Fishing Fundamentals

by Michelle Kelly

November 2009

creel basket

"Fly-fishers are usually brain-workers in society. Along the banks of purling streams, beneath the shadows of umbrageous trees, or in the secluded nooks of charming lakes, they have ever been dound, drinking deep of the invigorating forces of nature - giving the rest and tone to overtaxed brains and wearied nerves - while gracefully wielding the supple rod, the invisible leader, and the fairy-like fly."

~by James A. Hensall, MD, 1855~

Perhaps you are a teacher or youth program leader who is looking to develop respect and admiration for fish and wildlife, and a sense of wonder about the environment fish and wildlife inhabit. If so, then try introducing your young charges to a unique style of fishing that allows an angler to become familiar not only with the fish they seek, but the foods, habitat, and water-quality needs of those fish. Try some fly-fishing!

Tips for purchasing the equipment

The weight of the line will need to match the "weight" specifications of your rod for the most effective casting. We recommend you start with a mid-weight (5 or 6 weight) fly rod, fly-line of the same weight, and a fly reel. You can look for a beginner's package that includes a rod, reel, weight-forward floating line, and leader. Introductory fly-fishing equipment packages are available at sporting goods stores and can work quite well. Specialty fly-shops also offer beginner setups in a range of prices and the store owners and employees are usually very enthusiastic about answering questions and providing helpful advice.

Basic equipment you need to get started:

Fly rodFly rods are longer and more flexible than spinning rods. The fly rod must bend enough to propel the heavy fly-line forward. Look for a mid-weight (5 or 6) fly rod for rod
Fly-line to match rodFly-line is a heavier and thicker than monofilament line. It's covered with plastic so that it floats on the water. The weight of the fly-line propels the light-weight fly forward during the cast.plastic worm
ReelUnlike a spinning reel, a fly reel isn't used for casting; its main purpose is to store extra line. Lengths of line are hand fed through the rod while rod reel
LeaderA piece of clear mono-filament line called leader is a heavier and thicker than monofilament line. It's covered with plastic so that it floats on the water. The weight of the fly-line propels the light-weight fly forward during the fishing leader
Extra tippetThe leader is tapered, thicker where it attaches to the fly-line and thinner where it connects to the fly. The thinner end of the leader is called the tippet. As you tie on new flies the tippet gets shorter. When this happens you can tie on a new tippet fishing tippet
FliesFlies are small, lightweight artificial lures that are too light to cast with spinning tackle. Trying to cast most types of flies with a spinning reel would be something like trying to throw a leaf! Flies can be made from a variety of materials including feathers, yarn, animal hair, tinsel, pieces of rubber and foam, etc. and they are constructed to imitate the foods that various fish eat in size, color, and shape. The type of flies you choose will depend on the types of fish you want to catch, and what they are eating at the time you will be fishing.Backswimmer wet fly
Nippers or fingernail clippersNippers or fingernail clippers come in handy for many occasions while fishing. Cutting the line after you tie on your fly or tippet is a snap with this tool. It also comes in handy if you have to cut your line because a fish swallowed your fly. nail clippers
Glasses or polarized sunglassesWhen fly fishing, the most important piece of equipment is your glasses or sunglasses. The hook on the end of your line is sharp and, with all the line that you need out for casting, that hook may accidentally end up near your eyes. Keep yourself safe by wearing protective eye gear - and having polarized sunglasses will also help as you look into the water.sunglasses
Hat with brimA hat with a brim will help protect you from sunburn. Especially near or in the water, you are at a heightened risk of sunburn. hat with brim


Sharing the Joy of Fly Fishing

With these "fun-damentals," your students will have a great start on a life-long journey of fly-fishing fun. A journey that connects them to the habits and habitat of the fish they try to fool into taking their flies and one that may provide some respite in this ever more complex and harried world in which they are growing up.

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