A Foray Into Fly Fishing
Basic equipment can get the beginner on the water in no time
Have you ever driven by a Nevada stream or river and seen the fly fisherman knee deep in the swift current thinking, “I would love to learn to fly fish, but it seems intimidating?”
You wouldn’t be alone. Oftentimes fly fishing is viewed as an artform for more-seasoned anglers or for those who have mastered the mind of the often-elusive wild river trout. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, though. There are no requirements to begin fly fishing other than needing a fly rod setup and a few flies.
The first question new fly fishermen often ask is, “What do I need to get started?” Fly fishing can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want to make it. There are only a few pieces of equipment you need to get started: a fly rod, fly reel, fly line plus leader, and a handful of flies.
Let’s start with the more important piece of equipment: the fly rod. For most trout streams in Nevada, a 9 foot, 5 weight, medium-fast action rod is hard to beat. Most general-purpose rods will be nine feet long and the action determines how much the rod bends and loads while casting. A medium-fast action rods allows the rod to load a little easier allowing the new fly caster a bit of forgiveness while learning.
Fly line is a thick coated line that is specific to the rod weight and style of fishing you will be doing. When at the store, it might be overwhelming looking at all the different options, but for the beginner you only need to focus on one. A simple 5 weight, weight-forward floating line is perfect to get started. The weight-forward floating line can do anything you need it to do. This line is often abbreviated as WF5W. With this line you will also need to pick up a tapered leader. These leaders are tapered to help with casting and turning over your rig making the perfect cast. Generally, a 4x or 5x leader will be perfect.
Reels are pretty straight forward, but be sure to find a reel you like that is sized correctly to the line you are getting. Something with the line capacity and a decent drag for those bigger fish that you need to put on the reel.
Going into the fly shop or the sporting good store and see all those flies can be quite confusing. Luckily, there are a few go-to flies that will get you started. Before we talk flies though, we need to talk bugs! Afterall, the flies we use are meant to imitate a trout’s natural food being the bugs in the river. One of the main courses for a Truckee River trout, for example, are various types of mayflies. Throughout the year different types of mayflies hatch and they can generally be imitated by the classic pheasant tail nymph or hare’s ear nymph. These flies can have a bead head to help get lower in the water column or unweighted for those slower moving sections of the river. Another important part of fly selection is the size. The size of the fly you use can be determined by grabbing a few rocks off the bottom of the river and looking to see what size the bugs are that scurry around. There are many other bugs to choose from, but these two classics will almost always generate a bite. You can tight line these flies feeling for the bite or float them under a strike indicator that acts like a bobber going under when a fish takes the fly.
When hitting the river there will be certain areas that you will want to focus on. Oftentimes these spots are called soft water, bubble lines, seams, or runs. These spots are where the current is broken creating a feeding lane for the fish. These areas have a much slower flow allowing the fish to stay in place facing up steam letting the food come to them. These runs can be found behind rocks in the river or any other structure that creates a current break. Whether you’re fishing with a dry fly on the surface or floating a nymph under an indicator, you will want to make sure that your flies are drifting at the same speed as the current you are fishing. This will ensure you have the most natural drift as possible.
Fly fishing is not as intimidating as you might think. As President Herbert Hoover put it, “Fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air. It brings meekness and inspiration, reduces our egoism, soothes our troubles, and shames our wickedness. It is discipline in the equality of men—for all men are equal before fish.”
Go get a fly rod setup and start catching fish!