Is Fly Fishing Hard? [Tips & Tricks]

Fly fishing is one of the most popular types of fishing in the US. Millions of people love relaxing on the water trying to land that big catch. But a lot of beginners get overwhelmed and start to wonder how difficult fly fishing is. 

In short, fly fishing is pretty tough for several reasons. But, the more your practice, the more natural it will come. Once you learn the basics about knots, casting, and finding locations, you will quickly start to get better at the sport. 

With that in mind, we put together this article on the difficulties of fly fishing. We will talk about why fly fishing is difficult and tips for beginners starting to learn. We will also cover several common fly fishing mistakes that newbies often make. 

How Difficult is Fly Fishing?

In short, yes, fly fishing is difficult, or at least, it is more difficult than several other types of fishing. The main difficulty with fly fishing is learning the proper technique to cast a line and catch fish. Additionally, fly fishing equipment can be a bit difficult to get a handle on initially. 

However, like any sport, once you get some practice in, things get easier if you make an effort to learn the techniques, you’ll soon be fly fishing with little difficulty.

Everyone is different so there is no determinate answer as to how long learning to fly fish will take you. However, you should start to feel the technique click after a few sessions out on the water, if you have the right instruction. 

That being said, it takes many years to master the art of fly fishing. Expert fly fishers have an encyclopedic knowledge of the different types of flies to us, as well as different water conditions and different species of fish. As with any craft, you never really stop learning how to fly fish, no matter how long you’ve been doing it. 

Tips for Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is tough to start but there are small steps to take at the beginning to take things easier. Here are some tips for beginners approaching fly fishing. These tips will aim you in the right direction for your fly fishing journey. 

Find a Mentor

While there is no rule preventing you from teaching yourself, you will be best served finding a mentor or someone who has more experience with fly fishing.

If you have the money, you can buy an expert guide to show you the ropes, or you can just go with a friend. Having a fishing buddy is a good idea as they can show you the right methods and also give you feedback on your performance. 

Equipment Is Not as Important as Technique

Having fancy fly fishing equipment is fun and can help make it easier to catch fish. But it’s not 100% necessary to have the top-notch gear to be a successful fly fisher. The most important part is learning the right technique.

You can have the most expensive carbon fiber rod in the world, but if you don’t know how to use it, it won’t help you that much. So don’t worry about getting all the fancy equipment and top brand name rods until you have a thorough grasp of the core techniques. 

Learn About the Water

You are more likely to find fish in certain parts of the water. Many beginners get out on the water and just choose a random place to fish, so they get disappointed when they don’t get any bites.

Bodies of water like lakes and rivers have different parts where water depth and temperature are different. Fish like to congregate in areas where there is a lot of food, such as near bottom structures on the lake or river floor. Also, different water depths have different temperatures during the day, so fish will move around from morning to night. 

Get a Book on Insects

One key feature of fly fishing is the type of lures that you use. The best fly fishing lures mimic the appearance of common insects that fish feed on near the surface of the water. 

It’s in your best interest to learn as much as you can about the types of bait and which fish they are best suited for. If you know about the types of insects that fish in the area eat, you can choose a fly that matches their appearance and movement. The more you learn about insect developmental stages, the better you can match flies for types of fish. 

Learn Dry and Nymph Fishing

The two main angling techniques used are dry and nymph fly fishing. With dry fishing, the fly lure sits on top of the surface of the water, drawing fish upwards to the top.

With nymph fishing, the lure sinks below the surface of the water. Nymph lures and dry lures are made differently, so make sure you can tell the difference between the two. For example, nymph lures often are weighted to pull them under the surface of the water. 


As with any sport, true mastery can only come through practice and repetition. The more you practice, the easier things will get over in the long run.

Fly fishing is tough and many newcomers are put off by the steep learning curve. However, taking the time to hone your technique is worth it because, at the end of the day, there is nothing quite like fly fishing. Don’t let the initial difficulty turn you off of this wonderful sport. 

Common Beginner Fly Fishing Mistakes

Too Much False Casting

One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is too much false casting. FAlse casting is useful to make sure your cast is going the proper distance. However, too much false casting can spook the fish and make it more difficult to catch anything.

Experts recommend doing no more than two false casts before throwing the line out. Let the rod fully handle your backcasting so you can get the maximum distance with your motion., 

Bad Knots

Another common problem beginners make is poor knots. If you have bad knots, then your hooks may fall off the line at the slightest tug from the fish. So when starting with fly fishing, make sure that you know your knots and practice.

You can find several guides online with the most useful knots for fishing. The most important knots for a beginner to learn are the surgeon’s knot and the improved clinch knot for the hooks and lures. 

Aggressive Mending

Mending is the practice of moving the line across the water so it flows naturally. However, many people wait too long to start mending, which means they have to move the line more forcefully.

Aggressive mending will spook the fish and scare them away. The trick is to start mending as soon as your line hits the water. Quickly lift the line off the water and weep it up and down. The better your mending technique, the less likely you are to scare off the fish. 

Using the Wrong Flies

If you want to be a successful fly fisher, then you need to learn what kinds of lures to use for which fish. For example, trout requires different lures than bass and other saltwater fish.

Different flies are better suited to specific areas during specific times of the year. One way to determine the best flies to use is to note the water temperature, water patterns, and tide schedules. 

Fishing in the Wrong Spot

Another common slip-up is fishing in the wrong spots. Part of good fly fishing is having the instinct and knowledge to find optimal fishing spots. Fish will occupy different parts of the water based on the time of day, their feeding habits, and water oxygen content.

For example, trout like to hang out in the shallow riffles near the shore during the morning and day for feeding. You need to learn how to read the water, which includes identifying different types of water formations and knowing water conditions at different times of the year. If you find the right spot, you can significantly increase your chances of making that big catch. 

Setting the Hook Poorly

Many people simply lift the rod to set the hook when they get a bite. While this technique can work, you are more likely to accidentally yank the line out of the fish’s mouth instead. The proper technique is to slightly pull back and sideways on the line so the fish has more time to eat and get the hook in its mouth.  

Final Words

Fly fishing is tough, but don’t let that put you off trying. The more you practice, the easier fishing will get. Before you know it, you’ll be casting expert lines with the best of them.

You just have to be willing to approach the learning curve slowly, and take the time to practice without getting discouraged. Even when fishing comes easily, there is always room to learn more. The important thing is to have fun, no matter your experience level.

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