Fly fishing is a method of fishing. It differs from other methods mainly by the fact that the lure, generally called a fly, is too light to cast, so the weight of the line is used as casting weight. This requires a special casting technique and special fishing tackle, especially a special line. The name fly fishing comes from the original way of baiting. John Horrocks is regarded as its founder in Europe.
The natural prey animals such as flying, land and water insects are imitated, as well as other creatures such as prey fish, smaller mammals or amphibians. Freely invented, colourful irritant flies are also frequently used. These so-called flies are made using materials such as fur, bird feathers (panting) and plastic and a hook of various sizes. Tying these flies represents an independent and time-consuming additional hobby in fly fishing circles. Sometimes fly fishers make fly tying their profession.
Fly fishing is not based on the casting principle of other fishing techniques: instead of accelerating a lead weight with a leader (as in bottom fishing) or using the dead weight of a spoon (as in spin fishing), only the weight of the line is used here to carry the dry or wet flies, nymphs or streamers to the target.
The rod arm is angled at the beginning and the rod tip points to the water surface. Then the rod tip is lifted in a flowing movement and moved forward and backward to the viewing direction. It is important that the wrist – if at all – is not opened before stopping. Compared to a dial, the back cast is stopped at approx. 1h and the final cast between 10 and 11h. Then the rod is slowly lowered to 9 o’clock. It is essential to give sufficient resistance so that the line unrolls completely and the fly can be placed in the correct position.
To achieve greater distances, additional line is kept ready in the line basket or in large loops in the line hand. Then the line is extended in the air until the rod is well loaded, and then, after stopping, the loops in the line hand are released during the final cast. Due to the accelerated mass of the line, these additional meters of line are torn out of the hand, which makes it possible to lengthen the cast considerably. This allows casts of up to 30 m to be achieved with conventional equipment. Professionals and casting sportsmen reach even considerably larger distances.
Of course there are other techniques that can be learned to counteract certain local casting obstacles or simply to enjoy the aesthetics of an artistic cast. In Europe, which is considered the motherland of fly fishing and modern casting, a distinction is made primarily between the Old English style, the Gebetsroither casting style, the TLT technique and the underhand casting style. Various other variations are considered offshoots of these.
Fly lines are available in different cross-sectional shapes, which are marked by special abbreviations. The usual shapes are:
L (level, the line cross section remains the same over the entire length)
DT (double taper, tapered on both sides)
ST (shooting taper, gunshot head)
WF (weight forward, also called club line, the line becomes thicker towards the front like a club)
TT (triangle taper, similar to the WF with longer front taper)
LB (Long Belly, long belly)
The most widespread use of WF lines today. These can be thrown more easily and farther, especially for beginners, and have differently shaped clubs depending on the intended use.
TT-Taper lines differ from club lines in that the line diameter (and thus the line weight) increases continuously over the first 12 meters. Therefore, this shape is extremely suitable for roll casts in the near and middle range. It does not matter whether the use is for dry fly fishing or nymph fishing. Due to the special line shape (TT = Triangle Taper) the line rolls out easily and evenly.
DT-lines are mostly used for rods with a fully parabolic action. They also allow the line to be laid gently on the water, which can be advantageous for small waters and shy fish. The lines are further divided into floating (F, floating) and sinking (S, sinking) lines according to their buoyancy behaviour. For sinking lines, different sinking speeds are offered. In addition, there are also so-called sink tip (the first few meters sink in) and intermediate (lines floating in a defined water depth) lines. Floating lines are the most common, because they are easier to handle than sinking lines and most conditions on the water can be mastered with a floating line. The lines are divided according to their weight into so-called AFTMA classes, which have been defined as standards by the AFTMA (American Fishing Tackle Manufactures Association). New: “ASA”.
The fly rods are also divided into AFTMA classes according to the lines that can be cast with them. Since the classification of line classes according to AFTMA is based on DT lines, but most of the lines in use today are WF lines, whose club lengths are often less or significantly more than 9.14 m (weight classification according to AFTMA is based on this length), the use of the AFTMA system is no longer up-to-date nowadays and often leads to confusion. Some manufacturers have therefore switched to weight designations in grams (as is common for other fishing tackle).
Fly fishing is possible in every body of water, but it is primarily known from salmon fishing in the Scandinavian, British and North American rivers where these fish were born. Fly fishing is also popular along the coast, especially Northern Germany and Denmark are popular destinations.
With few exceptions, fly fishing is possible for almost all fish. However, the classic fish for fly fishing are salmonids (trout, grayling, char, salmon). The attitude that fly fishing is only useful for these species of fish is still widespread as a prejudice in angling circles. In warm seas, for example, fishing is done for tarpon, bonefish and mackerel. The limits of fly fishing can be found where water conditions or the size of the fish no longer allow the use of fly gear. With special fly gear (class 17-18) and enough strong backing on the reel, fish up to 200 kg can still be landed. The way in which certain fish search for food can also limit the catchability with the fly, although in the canals of Holland even eels, which mainly use their sense of smell to locate food, are caught by specialists with small streamers.
Types of fly fishing
Dry fly fishing
Dry fly fishing is regarded by many anglers as the classic fly fishing. Artificial flies are used, which float on the water surface. This is achieved by greasing the fly and/or using floating material (e.g. roe deer hair).
Dry flies are usually used to imitate adult (water) insects, either those that sit on the surface film of the water to lay their eggs (imagos), those that just emerge from the larval shell and break through the water surface (emergers) or dead insects that float on the water surface with their wings spread after laying their eggs (spents). Dry flies also include replicas of terrestrial insects, such as locusts, ants or beetles.
Dry flies are mainly used to catch fish that “rise” after approaching food, i.e. eat insects from the water surface.
Wet fly fishing
Wet fly fishing is historically the oldest form of fly fishing. Wet flies are artificial flies that do not swim and thus imitate nymphs or dead insects that drift below the water surface to hatch. Nymph Fishing
Nymph fishing refers to fishing with special flies that sink just like wet flies. Unlike wet flies, however, nymphs imitate the larval stages of aquatic insects. Nymphs are often weighted down with lead wire or the like in order to be able to fish deeper water areas. Wet flies of the classic type are light-hearted, but nymphs are usually weighted down with a gold head, tungsten ball or lead wire. One of the more recent developments in nymph fishing is Czech Nymphing (also known as short nymph), which involves fishing with three flies at once at a distance of 1 to 4 metres. However, this technique is no longer considered fly fishing by many fly fishermen, as it is not the fly line that transports the nymph (the core element of fly fishing is the transport of the imitation fish by the weight of the fly line), but mostly the nymph represents the casting weight and the fly line loses its actual meaning as a result.
Streamer fishing is the border between fly fishing and spin fishing. Streamers are artificial baits which imitate small fish, mice or similar (imitation streamers) or which are intended to entice predatory fish to bite by their bright colours (stimulus streamers). “Flies” are these baits only insofar as they are made of fly-tying materials, such as feathers, hair or yarn. Streamer fishing is aimed at predatory fish and is therefore usually done with heavy fly gear.
To protect the fly line, to prevent drifting, or to prevent knotting with water algae, many use a shot or line basket. This also increases the casting distance, as there is no resistance when the line is torn out of the water. In the line basket the line is put down when stripping. These are available in different versions.
To reach the fish, which are fished in flowing waters, lakes or the sea, a wader is useful. These are waterproof trousers made of rubber, neoprene or breathable materials that allow you to enter the water without getting your clothes wet.
Polar goggles are usually used for better identification of the fish.
Another variant is the so-called “Belly-Boat”. It is available in different versions. The round shape as a truck tire, as a U-shape, which makes it easier to get in because it can be done from the front and as a pontoon with which one is faster. You can sit in them with or without waders and thus reach more remote places of a lake or reef in the sea. The drive is done with flippers.