The thick, yellow fishing line goes “whoosh!” as it zips past you before gently landing on the lake in front of you. A small lure (called a “fly”) that looks like an insect floats across the surface of the water. Then a ripple appears in the same spot as your lure, and a fish tail flashes above the water. You set the hook and the fight is on!
Whether you’re chasing 6-inch brook trout, picture-worthy cutthroat, or 15-pound striped bass, fly fishing is a unique and exciting way to experience our national parks! It offers serenity and views that are unmatched by almost any other form of recreation.
What is fly fishing?
Fly fishing is one of the most adventurous ways to enjoy National Park Service (NPS) lands and waterways. It often involves walking or hiking to your fishing spot, which can sometimes be a dozen miles in to the backcountry. Although not all fly fishing happens in high-alpine lakes, it can be done almost anywhere from the seashore to streams and everywhere in between.
While fly fishing is both a fun and relaxing way to fish, it also requires the most patience and skill. That’s mostly because of the equipment involved - long, thin, flexible rods, two different types of fishing line, and small, delicate flies - is different than most fishing gear and can be difficult to use at times. It takes time, practice, and patience to become skilled with a fly rod.
Fly fishing gets its name from the lures used. They’re referred to as “flies” because they’re made to imitate small insects or prey items that a fish may want to eat. Flies are usually made out of materials like yarn, sewing thread, feathers, fur, and a single hook. Flies also range in size from as small as a grain of rice to the size of a 10-inch fish.
How to fly fish
Fly fishing is all about rhythm. Finding the right rhythm and movement is the key to casting a fly rod. The mechanics of casting can be broken down into several steps. Remember that the best way to learn is through practice.
An easy way to learn how to cast a fly rod is to picture the movements of your arm on a clock. When your arm is in the neutral position (when it’s up and directly in line with your body), it’s at 12 o’clock. When your arm is forward during your cast, it should be at 10 o’clock. During your back cast, your arm should be at 2 o’clock. By keeping you arm in this small window of movement, you’ll be able to have both control and power in your casts.
To start your cast, let out about one rod length of the colored fly line. You only need to hold the rod with one hand - keep the other hand free to help manage your line. Start your cast by slowly swinging the rod behind you, in the 2 o’clock position. Keep the rod tip up, and once the rod tip gets just past your shoulder, at 10 o’clock, make your forward cast in one smooth, continuous motion letting the line rest on top of the water