Fly fishing can be incredibly confusing when you start out. Line weight, tippet, stripping, dry flies, streamers, wet flies, floating line, sinking line and hundreds of other terms are associated with fly fishing. What does it have to do with catching fish, though?
Fly fishing isn't as simple as chucking a nightcrawler and waiting for a bite. It entails strategy. Fly fishing is matching the hatch and outsmarting the fish. There is a higher learning curve with fly fishing, but it is much more rewarding when you finally do start to catch fish in any conditions.
Fly fishing requires more strategy than simply throwing a heavy lure and retrieving it. Many fly fishermen will silently stalk the banks of a creek, picking their spot. Trout have excellent eyesight. They will see you on the bank. Carefully approaching the bank can help reduce the chances of spooking a fish. Knowing where the fish are at is the next part of a fly fishing strategy. Each stream has a gradient, or pattern that it follows. Waterfalls, riffles, runs, pools and tailwaters are all components of this gradient, with fish holding in different locations depending on current, temperature and availability of food. As the water flows downstream, it brings with it all types of tasty treats. Trout know this, and will pick a comfortable location and will often camp behind a rock or obstruction, waiting for a snack to pass by. Only when food passes by will a trout dart into the current to eat. With this knowledge, it becomes easier to know where trout will be located, allowing a fly fisherman to place a fly near a fish's field of view.
Fly fishing is more expensive than other forms of fishing, but you can get started in fly fishing with decent quality equipment and basic flies for under $200. Just like with spinning gear, fly rods are designed to cast a certain size line. Lighter weights such as 0-3 are ideal for smaller fish and/or small streams with lots of obstructions. Medium weights such as 4-6 are able to handle moderate size fish such as larger trout, bass, panfish and most fish in the 5-8 pound range. 7 weight and higher outfits are optimal for larger fish such as steelhead, redfish and other ocean dwellers. Fly fishing may be associated with trout, but catching a 20lb bull redfish on a 7 weight fly rod will be a life changing experience.
~Matching the Hatch~
Fly fishing is, well, fishing with flies. There are possibly thousands of different types of flies you may use when fly fishing. Some will catch fish, some won't. The easiest way to catch fish when fly fishing is to "match the hatch." Watch the water before you start fly fishing, and see what is on top of the water, just below the water's surface or crawling across the surface below the water. When you start fly fishing, match your offering to what you previously observed. Size, shape and color are the key factors in matching your artificial fly to the live bugs that the fish are accustomed to eating. When fly fishing, remember to present your fly so it appears to the trout as a live insect would. Limited drag, appropriate movements and correct placement in the water column are all factors that will help you catch more fish when you go fly fishing.