5 Steps for Beginning Fly Fishing

By Jackie Badenhorst

This is a guest article originally written by Nelson Oxley, Flylords. Images of Topo Designs co-founder Jedd Rose (and son, Finn) by Preston Hoffman, Flylords.

The hype is real once you see your fly gets eaten or your dry fly taken down by a fish of any size. Fly fishing is one of the most popular outdoor activities people take on, and the best part about it is you can do it anywhere–whether you live in a city, in a rural area, or in another country. In South Africa itself, you will find plenty of fantastic fly fishing destinations.

Fly fishing is the sport of choice for those that love combining the beauty of the outdoors with the excitement of reeling in an impressive catch. Are you ready to get immersed in the fly fishing world? Then continue reading Nelson Oxley’s basic guide explaining 5 steps any beginner should approach before getting on the water.

Step 1: Hold the Fly Rod just like you shake someone’s hand

As simple as this sounds, fly fishing is something that everyone is skeptical and afraid of when first trying. I get it. I see it every day.

While approaching this first step, hold the cork of your fly rod with your dominant hand. When you hold the cork, hold it as you are shaking someone’s hand, with your thumb on top of the cork. There are a few different reasons why we do this, but I will get into this further in my steps.

When you’re holding the fly rod with your dominant hand, you have your trigger finger that can always be locked down on the fly line that comes out of your reel. I believe that this is one of the most important steps in fly fishing. Your trigger finger should be locked on the fly line at all times when your flies are in the water. As there are exceptions to when you cast to allow more line to flow out of the rod tip, always keep your trigger finger locked on the line. This simply allows you to have tension in the line if a fish eats your fly through your drift. If you were to ask my clients a few of my favorite words when I’m guiding, I always say, “trigger, trigger, trigger,” this helps when a fish eats; you can set the hook properly with good tension.

Step 2: Casting

The fun part. Don’t be afraid. Go to the park, somewhere that has nice green grass that won’t mess your fly line up, something I do before I take my clients to the river. There’s a variety of different casts you can make; however, while fishing for trout, you only need two different casts to accomplish catching trout.

Step 3: The Strip

The strip is something we like to do for a few different reasons:

The right equipment is crucial in any activity, no less in fly fishing. Topo Designs has a wide range of accessories like this Mountain hip pack that will elevate your fly fishing experience, keeping all your gadgets organized and your hands free.

Step 4: Set, Set, Set!

The most important to some. If fishing a dry fly, a fly that sits buoyant on top of the water surface, you might have an eager trout that noses up to eat your fly. You physically will see the trout hit the fly on a water surface. Be patient as the fish eats; set your fly rod. This can be achieved by lifting your arm up in the air.

The best way to explain this step, since your thumb is on top of the cork (and hopefully your trigger finger is on the fly line), is to simply raise your thumb up in the air above your head… If you get to this step when fly fishing, don’t hesitate, and don’t drop the fly rod down. You want to keep your fly rod elevated or with a good bend in it. Don’t crank it in right away if it’s pulling hard. Simply create tension with the rod by pointing your thumb up in the air and keeping the rod tip up. In most scenarios, if you dip the rod tip down, most likely it’s game over. Be patient. Keep the rod up, and strip that line in.

A lot of people don’t give fly fishing patience–something I’m still trying to embrace, but anyone will tell you fly fishing isn’t just about catching fish; it’s the journey of where it takes you, the people you meet, and the things you learn while being on the water.

Step 5: Go explore!

When starting fly fishing, it can be frustrating trying to come up with good spots. The best advice is to do more research on your local area or give a local fly shop a call. This will allow you to better your awareness of local water and give you public access points to explore. Don’t forget to get a fishing permit and buy a dozen flies from your local shop.

Walking into a fly shop as a beginner can be intimidating. Any fly shop employee or guide wants to give you the knowledge and share their expertise on their local water to help you get into the sport we all love.

Anyone who chases different species of fish on the fly will tell you new exploration of different bodies of water is the most fun part about fly fishing. Fly fishing isn’t all about catching different species of fish. It’s about learning about your surroundings, adapting to what fish are eating, as well as putting your mind into a happy place. Go explore!

This article was first published on Topo Designs website. The author is a passionate fly fisherman with a lifetime of experience handed down through generations. From being a curious kid in the back of his family’s backpack during weekend fly-fishing trips to exploring Colorado Rivers as a teenager, his love for the sport has grown exponentially and, eventually, made him turn his passion into the profession of a fly-fishing guide and content manager of Fly Lords magazine.