Published On: Fri, May 31st, 2019

10 Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners – Fooling That Elusive Trout

10 Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners – Fooling That Elusive Trout by Andrew Padlie

This rainbow trout was caught on the author's favourite fly, an Olive Woolly Bugger. Fly Fishing Beginners Guide.

This rainbow trout was caught on the author’s favourite fly, an Olive Woolly Bugger.

When it comes to trout fishing, most people think to catch a trout little is involved. Well, you are wrong if you think that. Sure enough, trolling and spinning for trout are easy methods to catch fish. It is the art of fly fishing which seems to sort out the devoted from the not so devoted. Here are my 10 fly fishing tips for beginners.

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Tip Number 1. Get Casting Lessons – 10 Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners

There is a lot more to fly fishing than just tying on a fly and casting in the water. First, you have to master the art of casting. Even to this day, there are still times when I can not get it together and end up with wind knots in my leader. It just seems to happen, even the best of fly fishers suffer from wind knots. You just have to put up with them.

The casting itself takes time to learn, but the more you practice the better you become. It is best to get lessons from someone who has been doing it for some time. These people can easily find faults in your casting and help you improve on them. If you don’t know any fly fishing experts ask at some of the leading tackle stores or fly fishing clubs.

Tip Number 2. Get the Right Fly Rod – 10 Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners

The right fly rod will also help in your casting ability but this can be a hard choice to make. When beginning you are unsure of what you will need to help your casting. So if you do happen to have casting lessons the tutor will help you chose the right fly rod for your style. Also, do not be fooled into buying an expensive rod. It may be a good rod, but for you, it could be the worst thing ever put in your hands. My rod only set me back $300 dollars. I believe I can cast with my rod as far as most people with the same experience as myself. Even if their rod is worth a $1000 dollars or more!

Most of my casting lessons came from friends who were very patient with me. In fact, I never would have taken up fly fishing if it wasn’t for them. All the stories I had heard got me interested in trying it. If you can get past the first and most important part of fly fishing you are well on your way to becoming an addict like me. Trout Flyrod Selecting – tips for choosing a fly-rod that suits your needs.

Tip Number 3. Go with Someone Who has Fished the Area Before – 10 Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners

Next comes finding a place to fish and what to use when there. I can hear it already: ”oh my god there are hundreds of rivers, lakes and streams in New Zealand”. It is going to take me long. It is the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind. Then how hard it is going to be.

Tip number three is to always go with someone else who has been to the area you have picked. Obviously, they will know more about the area than you. You could almost call them an expert even if they have only been there once before. I still go with another person who has fished the chosen area before. It improves your chances of catching a fish. 

If you happen to not know anyone with this knowledge run into the local tackle store and befriend a salesman. Offer to take them fishing in their favourite spot. Sometimes they will take up your offer, but the only set back is it may hurt your back pocket a bit. He has to make a dollar for the boss to get some time off you know. Anyway, he will sell the right gear needed for the trip. 

Again, fly fishing clubs are a great place to learn and meet experienced anglers who are willing to help beginners get started. Many clubs have casting days, and the members go on fly fishing trips together. Some New Zealand fly fishing clubs are listed on this page

Tip Number 4. Choosing the Right Fly – 10 Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners

When it comes to flies, again ask your fishing guru. He will have flies hidden in his box that would have caught fish in that particular area before. If he is a really good mate, he will even lend you one of his weapons. One thing I have noticed is they all seem to put a different fly on than what they gave you, weird! Watch them closely because they do know what they are doing, sometimes.

Glen Limmer with an 11 lb rainbow trout caught night fishing at his favourite winter possie.

Glen Limmer with an 11 lb rainbow trout caught night fishing at his favourite winter possie.

Tip Number 5. Observe Your Guru Very Closely – 10 Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners

Most of the time the guru will out fish you even if you are using the same line, leader and fly as them. If so watch where he is putting his fly and watch his retrieve. Just little things can improve your catch rate. It took me ages to get my first trout on the fly rod, even then it was only a small fish but also a start of things to come.

Tip Number 6. Fishing Lakes – 10 Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners

Fishing lakes is very different to streams and rivers. In lakes, distance is at times very important when it comes to catching fish. Rivers and streams require stealth and short casts for results. Most of the trout in streams are very easy to spot but remember if you can see them they can just as easily see you. At times even your fly line will spook the fish. I enjoy rivers and streams, it’s more challenging and more enjoyable when you hook a trout in running water. You will not get as many large fish as in the lake, but the fish you do catch use the flowing water to their advantage.

If you happen to be after trophy-sized trout the lakes are the best places to concentrate on catching the big one. Most of the lakes I fish hold good numbers of 10lb plus fish. Remember they didn’t get this big without a reason. They are not dumb you know, it defiantly takes a lot to fool these monsters. I still have not been able to fool a 10lb plus fish. 

When it comes to choosing the right fly to use, the situation becomes a little more difficult. Lakes are relatively easy when it comes to choosing a fly. All you have to do is keep trying something different until you find what the fish are striking. It may take some time but once you have discovered one that will work you tend to use it more often and hence catch more fish on it.

Tip Number 7. Fishing Streams and Rivers – 10 Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners

Now here comes the tricky bit, streams and rivers. Most of the flies used are nymphs and dry flies, there are literally hundreds of different patterns designed to represent the thousands of different insects of the world. For a start, I recommend the good old Hare and Copper as a great all-round fly. Remember that it might not work all the time as streams carry so many different insects. The trout could be feeding on nymphs or grabbing insects from the surface. The later would be more likely to take a dry fly presented on the surface.

To chose which fly to use look at what is flying around and try to match your fly with what you see. When the trout are feeding on nymphs a small butterfly net comes in handy. Simply place the net in the water and disturb the bottom in front of the net. If done properly all the insect life will be caught in the net and
can be examined to determine what fly should be used.

One thing to remember is insect life changes over the seasons so remember to keep checking insect life over the seasons. At times the fish will refuse whatever you cast to them.

On one occasion I was fishing with a friend, we had been casting to a trout which was clearly rising and grabbing food from the surface. We soon worked out that the trout were feeding on caddis. So I tied on a caddis imitation and let a cast go. Well, this trout refused every cast I made with the caddis imitation yet it would still rise and eat the real thing.

To cut a long story short we tried all sorts of dry flies on that fish each having no effect what so ever. I then decided to try a nymph, what the hell I thought what harm could I do. Well I flicked the size 10 hare and copper at the fish, the cast was a little to the fish’s left and I was about to pull it out to cast again when the trout just turned and made a charge for it. It engulfed the fly and I hooked and landed a nice four-pound rainbow trout. What made it grab the Hare and Copper I do not know but it goes to show that the rules can be bent a little bit. This does not mean I recommend that you go and cast nymphs at rising fish. It is just an example: if the normal is not working try something different as it may work.

Tip Number 8. Don’t be Afraid to Experiment – 10 Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners

Experimenting is the next thing you should learn. This can only be taught by yourself. How do you think the gurus got so good. They had to try different things all the time to get results. That’s why you see them tie on a different fly than the one you are using. They give you a fly that has worked before and then try a different one in case it works better than the “special” fly you are using. If you start catching fish they soon change back to their old ways. 

Tip Number 9. Ask Questions – 10 Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners

If a fisherman is gloating about all the fish he caught that day do not think of him as a big head. Instead, approach him and talk to him, he might not tell you exactly where he was fishing but might give some little tip away that may help you catch more fish.

I remember talking to one guy who had done really well the night before I was due to go fishing. He told me he had been using a sinking line at a spot I had only fished with a floating line. I had always done very well with a floating line before but had decided to take his advice. That night I took two fish in the five-pound bracket, whereas my friends caught nothing. They had stuck to their floating lines and had paid the price for not taking notice of this simple bit of advice.

Tip Number 10. Give Fly Tying a Go – 10 Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners

Once you really get into it you will most likely take up fly tying. At first, you think you can’t be bothered with trying to tie a fly as it does look difficult. Though with a little practice it soon becomes easy and is a hell of a lot cheaper than buying them.

I will tell you something, it is a lot more satisfying to fool and catch a fish on a fly you tied yourself. It makes the catch more enjoyable. You are the one that tied, cast, hooked, played and landed the fish. Now that’s what I call enjoyable fishing. It does take a lot of effort to get to that point, but it is worth it. If you do make it past that point you will realise why I and many others enjoy fly fishing. You will probably, like me, fly fish until you die. Until that day comes I’ve got a lot of years ahead to catch that monster 10lb trout that has my name on it.

New Zealand Professional Fishing Guides Association members.

The author with a 8.5 lb brown trout that was caught with the aid of good advice. Fly fishing tips for beginners.

The author with an 8.5 lb brown trout that was caught with the aid of good advice.

About the Author

- Fishingmag.co.nz website editor.