Step-by-Step Flyfishing

Every fly fishing class or school focuses on how to cast a fly rod, but the student often goes away without good information on how to actually fish with it. So, here's a series of steps that will help you to know how to put the fly on the water, what to do with the line, how to set the hook, and how to play and land a fish on a fly rod. Try it, and let me know how it works for you. Here are the steps:


  • Cast to a spot up-river of the location where you believe the fish to be.
  • Use the "stop-drop-drop" method of laying your fly on the water.
  • When the fly hits the water, loop the fly line over the second and third finger of your rod hand and hold it loosely next to the cork handle. Then take hold of the line with your line hand just in front of the reel so you can strip (pull in) line as needed.
  • If you’re fishing on a river, make one or two up-stream "mends" (rolls) in your line to get the line and leader floating behind your fly.
  • Point your rod tip right at the fly and follow it down the river.
  • Strip in line as needed to keep a straight line between the fly and the rod tip.
  • When the fish hits, tighten your fingers around the line and the rod handle and raise the rod sharply to set the hook.
  • Keeping your rod tip high, let the fish run as the line slides out over your fingers.
  • Palm your reel to slow the fish down and gain control over it, but don’t try to completely stop it. (Remember to keep your palm flat to avoid being hit by the wind knob).
  • When the fish rests, reel in quickly. When the fish runs again, palm the reel. Continue this palm/reel cycle until the fish tires and is ready to come in.
  • If the fish runs toward you, stand on your tip-toes, raise your rod as high over your head as possible, and put the line back over the second and third fingers of your rod hand. Then strip in line as fast as possible to take up slack. If the fish then turns and runs away from you, keep your rod tip high, let the line slowly slide through your fingers, and prepare to palm the reel when all the slack is gone.
  • When landing your fish, keep it in the water and practice proper catch and release techniques.