Flyfishing – getting started
  |  First Published: December 2004

Flyfishing is one of those fascinating pastimes that captures your imagination even before you capture a fish. This satisfying and graceful art keeps you active the whole time you’re fishing, and for a beginner there’s often as much satisfaction from executing a good cast as there is when catching a fish.


When starting out you don’t have to spend a fortune on tackle; the most important thing is that you get the right tackle for the job. Fishing gear needs to balance nicely, and this is especially the case with fly tackle where the rod, fly line and reel must all work together or not at all.

Fly rods come in a designated power rating referred to as a ‘weight’ rather than the more familiar breaking strain rating. The fly line the rod throws is rated at a specific weight, in accordance with a complicated system, and the rod and line must match each other for best casting results.

Here’s how the system works. A look at a 3wt rod will reveal it to be a really gentle, ultra-light rod. It’s suited to gar, spangled perch, smaller trout and other small fish. The fly line also feels feather-light when you cast. Casting into a bit of breeze can be hard because of the lightness of the line.

At the top end of the scale are rods like the 13-wt and 15-wt, which are powerful brutes designed specifically for big fish. These big rods demand a bit of strength on the angler’s part to cast the substantial line, which is quite heavy.

Naturally, because the fly line must match the rod’s designated weight, fly lines are available from the lowest denominations to over 15wt.

A close look at a fly line shows that it’s made from a super slick plastic-like material over a woven core. The line is ultra flexible, comes in diverse colours, and is tapered like a whip. The taper carries the fly forward as it is propelled away from the caster by the rod’s action.

The right gear for the job

Here in Queensland we can pretty easily categorise tackle and fish into a few specific groups. For instance, if your hit-list contains bream, pike, smaller flathead and bay tailor, a 6wt outfit is a good choice. The same rod is great for trout fishing when you’re travelling south in the high country.

If you want to target fish like impoundment bass or yellowbelly, bigger flathead, some mack tuna, trevally in the local canal or saratoga in Borumba Dam, you’ll need to move up the scale a little. A good option for targeting these fish is an 8wt outfit, the reel having capacity for a fair amount of backing (usually 30lb braid) plus a reliable drag.

Moving right up to the pointy end of the scale, to line-burners like mackerel, tuna and really large trevally, you’ll want a 10wt rod. It’s a good all rounder and needs to be matched with a reel that has plenty of capacity for backing (300m of 50lb braid) behind the 30m fly line. Serious gear? You bet! But for beginners and kids I reckon it’s wise to target smaller, more easily managed fish before moving on to the really strong sort of fish that place huge demands on angler skill and tackle integrity.

Buying your first fly rod

Not surprisingly, many would-be fly anglers just don’t know where to start or, for that matter, how much they should be spending on tackle. My advice is to seek out the beginners combos at a reputable tackle store and make one of these outfits your starting point. Remember this: the more fly gear on the racks the better. A big range of fly gear gives you more choice, and it also means there’s a good chance the staff will be familiar with the products.

Some examples of suitable start-up packages are the likes of the Abu Garcia/Fenwick combo, those from Innovator and from G.Loomis. Abu Garcia combos are available in line weights from 5wt through to 8wt and can be bought for under $200. Moving up a little, the Innovator combinations of rod, reel and line are a bit more expensive, with Innovator’s 6/7wt outfits being around $280 while the 8/9wt outfits are around the $320 mark. G.Loomis has some useful combinations as well, and their 6-wt Rainbrook and 8-wt Pescado are also good value at around the $380 mark.

Your local tackle store may have different combos from the ones I’ve mentioned, and that’s fine – just bear in mind those prices as a guide to quality gear.

Once you’ve selected a rod, the tackle store staff can provide you with advice on suitable flies for the various fish species. There is a useful overlap of many flies used for taking saltwater fish and a fair bit of overlap in flies suited to freshwater fish as well (and, basically, a whole new ball game for trout).


So now that you’ve got your rod, reel, line and flies, what comes next? Casting, of course! Part of my income comes from teaching folk to cast, and with absolute beginners I always start with the same basic idea: treat the rod as a long lever and make it work for you!

First things first. Your fly line needs a leader, which is the section of monofilament line to which the fly is attached. Tapered leaders, to match the taper of a fly line, are available in tackle stores and can be attached to the fly line with a store-bought joiner, a nail knot (see the sheet that comes with the fly line for this one) or one of the little connectors that are also popular. Whichever method you chose, a drop of Selleys Quick Tite superglue will see the leader join a permanent fixture.

Back to the casting. A good forward cast can only occur after a good back cast, and the timing needs to be just right for both actions. One way of getting it right is to use only the top half of the rod and tie around 3m of wool to it and then watch how the casting business gets going. A quick flick back and a sudden stop at around 2 o’clock should see the wool extended straight back, and then a flick forward will see it going straight forward. Repeat this process and you’ll have the basic casting action.

Once this is going well, put the reel on the assembled rod, feed the fly line through the runners, peel off around 5m of fly line and start casting for real. With the fly line going straight back and then forward correctly, a bit more fly line can be pulled off the reel to extend the casting distance. Remember to slow down enough to allow the fly line to extend rearwards correctly before commencing the forward cast or the rod’s power won’t be transmitted as it should be. The rod should be kept in the horizontal plane for the initial casting procedure to ensure the line’s progress back and forwards can be easily monitored.

And that’s it. Getting started on casting is as easy as that!

Once things are going smoothly the rod can be moved from the horizontal plane to the vertical, with the line then moving in a ‘normal’ casting stroke as we see the fishing gurus doing on TV.

A last hint to mums and dads. Youngsters often show a strong interest in flyfishing, and their awesome co-ordination and dedication to a new concept can see them taking all sorts of fish on the fly in record time. If your child is keen to take up flyfishing, start them off with one of the combos, maybe buy a instructional casting video with it, and just sit back and watch their skill develop. Next thing you know you’ll want a go with the rod yourself!

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