Is Fly Fishing Hard? Easy to pick up, but takes years to master

Fishing is a wonderful sport, and with so many methods and ways to fish, it offers something for everyone. From napping on the bank of a river to hauling in a 400-pound grouper, fishing can offer relaxation, excitement, competition, and food. Fly fishing is just one of the ways in which people can learn to fish, and although there are several people who would enjoy this method, one question keeps them from ever trying—is fly fishing hard?

Fly fishing is not hard to learn, but it can take years to master the different casting techniques and learn which flies work best in different situations.

Continue reading to learn more about fly fishing, including what it is, how it differs from other methods, and the skills needed to master this form of fishing.

Fly fishing

What Is Fly-Fishing?

Fly fishing is just one of many forms of fishing. In this method, anglers use a fly rod, fly line, fly reel, and artificial lures (flies) to catch fish who might otherwise avoid a baited hook.

The idea behind fly-fishing is to mimic the natural movements of insects/bugs that fish often eat. Because of this, flies are tied in various shapes, sizes, and colors to resemble different species in several stages of growth. Which fly an angler chooses to use will depend on the species of fish they are trying to catch.

Aside from flies, casting is one of the most important aspects of fly fishing. It is also one of the most intimidating parts of this method. Again, the idea is to mimic the natural movements of the bait you are using, and doing so requires a lot of skill, observation, and technique.

How Does Fly Fishing Differ from Other Methods of Fishing?

When comparing fly-fishing to spin-fishing (or bait-fishing), we find more differences than similarities. In fact, the two methods have little else in common aside from the fact that both are used to catch fish. Although we could spend hours talking about the different gear, bait, and techniques that each method uses, for the sake of space, we will only briefly describe the major differences between the two methods below.


Traditional poles and fly rods look alike in many ways, but fly rods are typically longer, thinner, and more flexible than a traditional poles. Although it may be hard to spot the difference between poles, the difference between a fly reel and a traditional spinning reel is much more noticeable.

Spinning reels (both open and closed-faced) have a spool to hold the line and a bail arm that wraps the line around the spool as the angler turns the handle. In contrast, a fly reel has a spool that rotates on a center pin, and because the fly line is heavier, fly reels are much larger.

Finally, the type of line used in each method varies quite dramatically. Casting relies on the weight of the bait, sinkers, and other gear in traditional fishing, so the traditional fishing line is typically made from a lightweight material such as nylon or fluorocarbon. However, with fly fishing, the distance of your cast will rely on the weight of the line. Therefore, the fly-fishing line is heavier and will utilize a leader and a tippet.


Each method has thousands of varieties when it comes to bait, but the difference is how each one is used. Traditional fishing uses bait that sits below the water to entice fish into grabbing the hook. With fly fishing, anglers use flies, which are designed to be lightweight and sit above the water or just below it.


Casting is perhaps the most intimidating part of fly fishing because it differs quite dramatically from traditional fishing. With traditional fishing, anglers simply unlock the line and “throw” the bait out into the water. With fly-fishing, anglers let out a length of line and then “whip” or “flick” the rod and line in a way that allows the bait to mimic the natural movements of an insect. There are different ways that this can be done, and it is much harder to learn than a traditional cast.


When fishing with traditional gear, anglers often stand on the bank or sit in a boat. However, since fly fishing is a bit more challenging, anglers often find themselves standing in the middle of a river or stream.

DifferenceSpin FishingFly Fishing
RodTraditional rods average seven feet in length. They are typically made from graphite or fiberglass and are more rigid than fly rods.Fly rods average nine feet in length. They are typically made from carbon fiber, glass fiber, or bamboo, and are more flexible than traditional rods.
ReelSpincasting and spinning reels are simple to use, good for beginners, and work well in both shallow and deep water.Fly reels are a bit more complicated to use, are not well suited for deep water, and basically, just hold the line.
LineTraditional monofilament or braided line is lightweight and made from materials such as nylon, Dacron, or polyethylene.Fly line is heavier than traditional fishing line and typically has a nylon core which is then coated with PVC.
LureAnglers may use a variety of live or artificial baits, lures, or spin flies, which tend to be heavier than fly fishing flies.Anglers use flies that have been tied to look like different insect/fly species in various stages of growth.
CastingAnglers use a single-cast method. The reel unlocks and allows the line to be “thrown” out into the water.Anglers use a series of techniques, such as false casting, swinging, tight lining, and others to mimic the natural movement of their bait.
LocationTraditional fishing is typically done on the bank or from a boat and in various depths of water.Fly fishing is typically done while standing in a river or stream and is not suitable for deeper water fishing.

Is Fly Fishing Better Than Spin Fishing?

Ultimately, both methods can be considered “better” depending on what it is you want to get out of the experience. Spin fishing is better for people who want to catch a lot of fish in a short amount of time or who use fishing as an excuse to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. On the other hand, fly fishing is great for people who enjoy a challenge or like the “hunter/gatherer” experience. Either way, fly fishing is not as hard as people think it might be, and while it may take a little longer to master, it can be a rich and rewarding experience.

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John is a writer who combines his personal experience and research to create engaging and informative content on various topics. He writes about Hobbies, careers, travel, luxury watches, and classic cars.

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