When most non-fly fishermen think of fly fishing, their first thought is of big skies and big water with anglers in waders battling huge Bull Trout in a Western trout stream or, envision anglers idly casting tiny May Fly imitations to wary Brown Trout rising to a hatch on a crystal clear tail water.
However, fly fishing is not just for trout fishing at all. In fact, any species of freshwater fish that will take a lure will also take a fly. With the right gear any angler can fly fish for Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Carp, Sunfish, and even Catfish! Yes, I did say Catfish; on a fly rod!
Plus, if you happen to live near the ocean, the same is true of saltwater fish species. In fact, surf fishing with a fly rod is fast gaining popularity and many anglers have discovered that a fly rod is the ultimate tool for fishing flats.
There is a group of intrepid offshore fly fishermen who regularly pursue, catch, and land large tuna, billfish, and sharks with their fly rods. Consequently, for those of you who don’t live in Trout country, the art of fly fishing has evolved drastically over the last few years to enable you to pursue this exciting sport on the type of water that is available to you and the fish species that inhabit them.
Although a fly fisherman may identify himself as a Trout fisherman or a Tarpon fisherman or even a Carp fisherman, we classify the different types of fly fishing according to the many different environments we commonly encounter.
Fly fishing is divided into two distinct main categories which consist of freshwater fly fishing and saltwater fly fishing. Furthermore, each main category consists of several sub-categories.
Freshwater fly fishing is divided into fishing on moving water or fishing on still water and fly fishing on moving water is further sub-divided into fly fishing on “big water” (large streams and rivers) and fly fishing on small streams.
Saltwater fly fishing is divided into fly fishing in the surf zone, fly fishing on the flats, and offshore fly fishing.
Last, it should be noted that because each of these environments differs drastically, they harbor different fish species and require different equipment and different techniques to catch the fish that inhabit them. Fly fishing manufactures have risen to the challenge by providing anglers with specialized fly rods, fly reels, and fly lines needed to pursue certain fish species wherever they live.
Freshwater Fly Fishing
As mentioned above, freshwater fly fishing can be clearly divided into two main categories which consist of fly fishing on moving water and fly fishing on still water. The reason that fly fishermen make this distinction is because the two environments are very different and require different gear and different techniques to catch the fish species that inhabit them. Lets look a little deeper in to the both of them.
Fly Fishing on Moving Water
According to the earliest written accounts of fly fishing, the sport began as a means of catching Trout in streams and rivers. Consequently, when most people think of fly fishing today, they tend to automatically think of the fly fishermen wading in a stream of moving water. However, to the avid fly fishermen, fly fishing on moving water encompasses many different types of fly fishing ranging from pursuing miniature Brook Trout in tiny mountain trickles to doing battle with mighty Salmon in huge rivers as they return from the sea to spawn.
- Small stream fly fishing is a highly specialize art that requires the right gear, the right techniques, and both the mindset and the skills of a hunter. Consequently, slow action rods, light weight fly lines, and short leaders are the favored gear for fishing these hidden treasures.
- Big water fly fishing differs from small stream fly fishing in that it requires long range casts and long range casting techniques such as the Double Haul to cover the distances needed. Most anglers use a long, medium to fast action, fly rod and heavier fly lines.
Fly Fishing on Still Water
The practice of fly fishing on still water has gained a tremendous following in recent years as fly anglers have discovered that their favorite fish species will often gobble a fly as readily as they will a lure. Also, fly tackle manufacturers have made tremendous strides in recent years by introducing both fly rods and fly lines that are specifically tailored to the many different freshwater fish species that inhabit still waters. Fly fishermen who want to fish still waters are no longer limited to casting tiny dry flies to wary Trout in clear, mountain lakes. Instead, they can now target such species as Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Carp, Pike, Muskie, or just about any other scaly torpedo that you can name.
- Surface fly fishing with dry flies on still water, be they May Flies or Bass Bugs is undoubtedly an exciting way to catch your favorite fish species as their violent rise to strike your fly inevitably sets your heart to racing and your adrenalin pumping. Fortunately, there are some excellent graphite fly rods on the market today that, when combined with the right fly line, will delicately deliver a tiny May Fly to a wary Trout or a huge, hairy, Bass Bug to an aggressive Largemouth with equal ease.
- Sub-surface fly fishing beneath the surface on still water with nymphs, wet flies, and/or streamers can be a very productive method of reaching the fish where they live. Consequently, there is now a plethora of sink-tip and full sinking fly lines on the market that are specifically designed to enable you to do just that. In fact, between fly lines with slow-sinking tips ranging from five feet to fifteen feet and full-sinking lines with sink rates ranging from one to two inches per second to as much as six inches per second, the fly angler can now cause his fly to hover just under the surface or sink to depths of thirty feet or more to target fish where they are holding at any given time of day or time of year.
Saltwater Fly Fishing
As mentioned above, saltwater fly fishing can be divided into three main categories which consist of fly fishing in the surf zone, fly fishing on the flats, and offshore fly fishing. The reason that fly fishermen make this distinction is because the habitats of these three environments differ greatly from each other and thus, they harbor different fish species which require different gear and different techniques.
Fly Fishing in the Surf Zone
Fishing in the surf zone has long been a popular means of wresting fish from the sea for many indigenous peoples around the globe. Not only is the surf zone a rich environment teeming with aquatic life, it’s also easily accessible from land and does not require a boat to harvest fish from its waters.
Fly fishermen have turned their attention to the surf zone in recent years with great success. However, in the early years of exploring this new environment, fly fishermen encountered the same hurtles as other surf fishermen, such as the need to cast over extremely long distances as well as the need to deal with strong currents.
Fly rod and fly line manufacturers have responded to the new demand for surf specific fly fishing gear by providing fly fishermen with exactly what they need in the form of switch and surf fly rods with extremely powerful tapers combined with both floating and sinking shooting head fly lines.
Fly Fishing the Flats
While fly fishing in the surf zone can be a very exciting experience, fly fishing the flats holds a different type of appeal for many fly fishermen. For instance, although some flats can be reached by wading out from shore, the most productive flats tend to be those that are the most remote and usually require a boat of some sort to reach them. Fly anglers have adopted both Flats Boats and Kayaks as a means of reaching the fish species that inhabit these waters.
Regardless of how you choose to get there, once you arrive armed with the right fly rod and an appropriate selection of flies, you could arguably have the ultimate means of delivering an enticing imitation of a natural foods to ultra wary fish in clear, shallow, water.
Offshore Fly Fishing
Contrary to what you might imagine, offshore fly fishing is really very similar to offshore fishing with trolling rigs in that it essentially employs the same techniques but requires much stronger fly rods, fly reels, and fly lines than any other type of fly fishing.
When pursuing this type of fly fishing, multiple teasers are trolled behind the boat until they attract the interest of the quarry and draw it to within casting range, then the fly fishermen lands his fly in front of the fish as the teaser is suddenly pulled away; thus causing the fish to transfer his interest to the streamer.
Once the fish is on, it is fought similar to any other large game fish by employing the reel’s drag system and palming the spool’s rim to stop runs and then either reeling or stripping the line in to land the fish.