Fly Fishing Basics | Part 1

These fly fishing basics are part 1 of a series which I will do my best to update as often as possible.  In the video below, I give you some basic tips on rods and reels and I also talk a little about fly fishing vests. In this post, however, I will go into a little more detail about your basic fly fishing outfit.

I’m putting these basic tips together really for anyone contemplating taking up fly fishing and who might be wondering what outfit to buy.

I know it can be very confusing wading through catalogues and browsing the Internet for the vast array of outfits offered by the numerous retailers out there. However, my advice is to avoid buying anything at all until you have at least spoken to, or preferably had a lesson or two with, a qualified game angling instructor.

If they know their stuff, your instructor should be able to offer you excellent, nonbiased recommendations just to get you started. They could save you a fortune in the long run.

As most people start by fishing for trout I tend to recommend the following

Basic Fly Fishing Equipment:

  • Fishing Rod:  this should be 9’ long with a #6 line rating – (don’t worry I will explain the rating in a minute).
  • A Reel, with spare spools.
  • Floating weight forward line, to match the rod; in this case a 6 weight forward.
  • Tapered nylon leaders or a spool of 10lb nylon
  • Wool – to tie on the end of the leader instead of a hook
  • Hat – head protection whilst practicing casting
  • Sunglasses – to protect your eyes whilst you are practicing
  • Sun cream  – even in winter, this is a good idea to help protect yourself from skin cancer.

How To Put  Your Fishing Gear Together
The Fishing Rod:

Most rods these days come in either 3 or 4 sections packed in a rod bag inside a cordura tube. Take the sections out of the rod bag and join them to each other as follows:

Starting with the butt section (the bit with the cork handle) to the next bigger section, push the two sections together with the rings off centre, then twist so that the rings are in line. Repeat this with all the sections. Check after the final section is fitted that all the rings are in line. If not, adjust accordingly. Don’t forget to put your rod bag in the rod tube so you won’t lose it!

Next, attach the reel to the rod. This is fixed to the reel seat found at the bottom of the handle.  I would suggest that if you are right handed you should set up the reel to wind in with your left hand.

Pull off, about 15ft of line and double the end line over to from a loop, take this through each ring in turn to the top of the rod and pull all the slack out of the top ring. The end of the line will have a braided loop attached to it and all you need to do now is fasten your nylon leader to this with a loop-to-loop connection. At the end of the nylon leader, you need to tie on a small bunch of wool.

It is very important to have a balanced outfit: the balance is at the front of the cork handle and this should be level. If it tips either way, up or down, it won’t help your casting at all. See diagram and images below:

When balanced on the hand at the front of the cork handle the rod should not tip up or down, it should remain level.

A this rod is perfectly BALANCED

B this rod has too light a reel; the rod tip drops down    – UNBALANCED

C this rod has too heavy a reel; the rod tip is forced up – UNBALANCED

How your fishing rod should be balanced.
How your fishing rod should be balanced.

Perfectly Balanced Rod
Perfectly Balanced Rod

Unbalanced! - Reel Too Light
Unbalanced! - Reel Too Light.
Unbalanced! Reel Too Heavy.
Unbalanced! - Reel Too Heavy.
What Do All Those Numbers Mean?

On your rod butt you will see numbers such as these:  SwiftMk2, 9’ or #6, sometimes AFTM or perhaps Hardy UNIQUA 15′ #10 as in the image below.  But what does it all mean?

Hardey Uniqua 15' £10
Hardy Uniqua 15' #10


  • Swift Mk2 is the name of the rod.
  • 9’ is the length of the rod.
  • #6 is the line rating for the rod.
  • AFTM (see lines/ratings below)

However, there are some variations to these markings: sometimes you will get a line rating just like this: # 5/6, which means it will take a # 5 double taper line or 6wt weight forward line (see line profiles below).

You may also find, mainly on the budget end of the market: 5/6/7

Personally, I would avoid these as they may prove to be confusing to use;

the length of the rod may be in metric, for example: 2.70 meters or 3 meters.

Line Profiles

There are several different line profiles used in fly fishing. For now, I will cover three of these as they are the most widely used.

  • Double Taper lines: These have a taper at each end and thick line in between.
  • Weight Forward lines: These have a taper at the front followed by a thick line that thins down to a thinner running line after approximately 30 to 40 ft.
  • Shooting Head lines: These have a heavy short tapered line of about 20ft  attached to thin running line.

Line Ratings/Weights

All lines come in different ratings/weights to suit a wide range of different fly fishing activities. They range from 0 weight to 17 weight and higher in some circumstances. What does this mean in simple terms?

Quite simply, it is the weight of line outside the rod tip that loads the rod on both the forward and back cast most efficiently.

The international standard for this loading was set by the Association of Fishing Tackle Manufacturers (AFTM).

This standard was set when the modern coated lines were introduced. It is based on two parameters: the length of line outside the rod tip, 9.1 meters (30ft) and the weight of that length which is weighed in grains.

Final Cunning Tip For Now

When you get your outfit set up, pull off 30ft of line measured from the tip of the rod to where the line joins the nylon leader. Next, mark around 4 inches of the line with an indelible marker. That way, when you are casting you will be able to judge how the rod is loading by using the marker in or about the rod tip.

I do hope this information is useful to you. As usual, your comments or questions are most welcome.

Until next time.

Enjoy your fishing.

4 thoughts on “Fly Fishing Basics | Part 1”

  1. I’ve just started to fly fish and this post was by far the best; getting to the point, making things simple and relaxed!
    Had a problem finding it again when I wanted my son in law to see it. Very professional! Well done! Thank you!

  2. Mr. Gaunt-Baker, thanks for doing such a fine job with your video presentations. I am advancing towards my “Beginner Card” and learn something new, every time you speak on the subject. Much obliged! Fish on!

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