What Is Fly Fishing

Fly fishing or fly fishing is also known as rat tail fishing, whip fishing, or fly fishing. It is a form of sport fishing with a rod in which an imitation of an artificial “fly” is used to track and catch different species of fish.

This type of sport fishing that gains followers every day. Its spectacularity, sportiness, beauty, and complexity are the keys to its success. Do you want to know more about it?


Did you know that the first writings in which fly fishing is mentioned are from 2,000 years before Christ? That’s right, the first writings that talk about the use of artificial flies to catch fish correspond to the Shang dynasty, 2000 BC. But the origins proper are located in Macedonia, where a writer named Claudio Eliano narrated between the years 230 and 170 how the speckled fish of the Astracus River feed on insects and the fishermen make imitations of these animals by tying threads and feathers on hooks.

Historically, various quotes and methods have been collected that also contributed to creating the fishing modality that we know today as fly fishing:

  • In Japan, traditional fly fishing is called “TenKara” (which in Japanese means from the sky. Fly fishing became very popular in Japan in the 12th century among peasants.
  • Germany: in the 13th century various writings speak of fishing for trout and grayling using hooks covered with feathers.
  • Great Britain: several manuscripts speak of fly fishing between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, they describe the complexity and effectiveness of this type of fishing.
  • In Spain, we have the Astorga Manuscript, a document published in 1624 by Juan de Bergara. It explains how flies had to be made using the famous kidney feathers of lion roosters.


There is no worldwide data on the number of people who fly fish. Regarding general fishing, it is estimated that in the world there are more than 100 million sport fishermen, of which 25 million are in Europe, 33.1 million are in the US and there are only 700 thousand in Spain.

The only existing studies regarding the number of fishermen and economic figures for the fly fishing sector correspond to the United States and England.

The example of the United States:

  • It is estimated, according to license data from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, that the number of fly fishermen is 3.83 million (Approximately 1 in 10 American fishermen fish at the fly). On the other hand, the Association of American Fly Fishermen gives other data and estimates that there are 5 million regular fly fishermen and another 13 million have practiced the modality sporadically.
  • According to AFFTA data, women represent 25% (1,287,450), which highlights that it is still a sport to be too “masculine” but less so than general fishing. One in four fly fishermen is a woman.
  • Fly fishing product sales generate $ 750 million annually.
  • Of the 759 million dollars a year, it is estimated that 12.8% corresponds to the hiring of fishing guides and the purchase of fishing trips, which represents an expense of 90 million euros per year.
  • Of the 3.8 million fly fishermen in the United States, 36% are freshwater and 64% are saltwater. The data indicates that the world of fly fishing revolves around trout fishing.
  • 80% of the sales that occur around fly fishing are made in stores and 20% online.
  • The average fishing day for an American fisherman is 18 trips.
  • Most fly fishermen are found in the western United States and the central regions. This is due to the quality of the waters in the rivers of these regions and the existence of mountain ranges.


To cast the fly you need a rod, reel, and heavy line. Unlike casting or spinning fishing in which the lure is propelled thanks to its weight in fly fishing, it is cast thanks to a refined casting technique and the movement of the heavy line in the air, since the imitation of the fly is almost “weightless.”

Fly casting is possible because the weight of the line in the air bends the rod. The reed then returns to its original shape, propelling the line in the process. It is the line that bends the cane. It unfolds when it stops. A good stop is the most important fly throw.

Working the stop is the first secret to getting a good cast. There are positive, forced, tip, wrist tap stops….

To learn to throw, many aspects must be taken into account such as the grip, the shot of the line, the energy hit, the traction, the shape of the loop, the wind … there are also different types of casts such as the roll, Spey, Tuck, stacked, streamers …

If you are interested in getting started in fly fishing, the most correct and recommended thing is that you hire the services of a casting instructor or fishing guide company.

Example of the dynamics of a specific type of cast, the rolling cast:

This is a very practical cast in situations where we don’t have little space behind us.

  • We slide the line towards us until it is positioned close and to one side of the body.
  • We wait until the end of the line is motionless above the water and in front of us.
  • We form a D-shaped loop between the reed and the line.
  • We bring the tip of the reed forward, flexing it against the weight of the line that forms the loop.
  • We stop the rod so that it unloads and casts the line.
  • As the line settles in the water we lower the tip of the reed


Fly fishing consists of catching a fish with the imitation of a “fly”. Depending on the fly that we use or the type of lure and the situation of the fish (if it is close to the surface, in the middle of the water or near the bottom) we differentiate the following fishing techniques in a simplified way:

Dry fly fishing: in this fishing technique we imitate insects in their adult state when they can fly and perch in the water. Therefore imitations of insects floating on the water are used as the fish feed on the surface. For this, the flies are made with feathers, hair, and high buoyancy synthetic materials. Some of the most famous dry flies are the Royal Wulff, Elk Hair Caddis, and Adams.

Nymph fishing: it is the technique used when the fish are on the bottom. For this, we imitate the larvae of different types of insects. These larvae are called nymphs and are made with hair, feathers, threads, synthetic materials that are placed on the hook on a tungsten or lead base, materials that help deepen the imitation.

Within nymph fishing, we differentiate various sub techniques such as “Polish fishing”, “line fishing”, “nymph fishing with bite indicators”, “pier fishing”, “nymph fishing with seen fish” …

The most popular nymphs are the buckshot, gasoline, pheasant nymph, hare’s ear nymph, or nymphs with golden tungsten heads.

Fishing with drowned flies: it is the technique used when the fish are in mid-water. In countries like England, this technique is very popular, which consists of weighing downstream making a crescent with the line. It is also used for lake fishing with intermediate lines.

Fishing with streamers: 

One of the most famous streamers is the Wooly Bugger. Streamers are imitations of small fish, crustaceans, amphibians. They are made with materials such as Zonker, marabou …

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There are two types of fly fishing, fishing with death and fishing without death. Fly fishing is a type of fishing that has always been closely associated with conservation, which is why the vast majority of fishermen practice this modality.

Fishing without death consists of quickly releasing the caught fish into the water so that it continues to live and can be caught by another fisherman.

In Spain, more and more Autonomous Communities collect regulations in their Orders of Vedas that restrict fishing with death and favor fishing with death. These policies have been very well received by the vast majority of the fishing community who value the future impact on the resource in a very positive way.


Fly fishing is practiced in different settings. Spanish speakers differentiate between freshwater and saltwater fishing, North Americans between cold water “Freshwater Fly Fishing” and saltwater “Saltwater Fly Fishing”. Depending on the type of waters, setting, time of year, and species to fish, there are various techniques and “flies” for the practice of fly fishing.


For the practice of fly fishing, there are a series of basic materials to carry out the activity and a multitude of accessories. The basic and essential materials are:

  • Fly fishing rods: Fly fishing rods are classified by their length, line to be used, and action. As a general rule, they are characterized by their lightness since they are manufactured with materials such as carbon fiber, fiberglass, and graphite.

The choice of the rod depends on the technique to be used, the size of the river, and the fish. As an example:

– For dry fly trout fishing in medium rivers, rods of 9 feet in length, line # 4, and fast action are usually used.

– For nymph trout fishing, rods with a length of 11 feet are used, if the catches are small, line 3 is used and the action is usually medium or slow.

– For tarpon fishing in saltwater, # 12 line rods are used due to the size of the catches.

  • Reels: reels in fly fishing do not usually have great importance except for those situations in which we capture large specimens where the brake for the fight of the fish is of great importance. For mountain river fishing there are automatic reels with a small lever that facilitate the collection of the line. The most popular automatic reel is from the Franco Vivarelli brand.
  • Lines: lines are essential for casting in this mode. They are classified according to their thickness, weight, buoyancy, and material of manufacture. Considering the manufacturing material, they can be synthetic or silk, silk lines are floating, require more maintenance, and are used only for dry fly fishing; synthetic lines can be floating, sunken, intermediate … Note that the heavier lines allow longer casts and the handling of larger “flies”, on the contrary, they land in the water with less delicacy. The lines are usually 28 meters long, they are placed on the reel on the backing and at the opposite end, it is joined with a conical or braided low to which the terminal or leader is attached and on which the fly is tied. The lines weigh more than the fly.
  • The flies: initially fly fishing used imitations of insects as artificial lures, hence the general name “flies”. Currently, these lures imitate anything that the fish we are trying to fish can eat (insects in their different states, fish, crustaceans, amphibians, small mice …). They are made manually with threads, feathers, hair … this art of making “flies” is called fly mounting or fly tying. The flies usually weigh less than the line. We can differentiate between mimic and attractor flies.
  • Waders: Waders are used for freshwater fishing when water temperatures are low, they serve as protection for the fisherman with the environment, allowing the fisherman to enter the riverbed and into a lake without getting wet. There are PVC, neoprene, and breathable waders. For the winter we recommend the use of neoprene waders and for the rest of the year the use of breathable waders. Another difference between the waders is that some have boots included and others have a sock and come without boots. The boots are an independent element of the water, some have a rubber sole and others are made of felt.


The assembly of flies as it is called in Europe or the Tying of flies in the case of South America is the action of manufacturing an artificial lure or “fly” used by fishermen to catch various species of fish.

The process consists of catching various materials such as hair, feathers, threads, and synthetic materials on a hook.

Fly mounting becomes true art. There are very elaborate and detailed flies and other less elaborate flies, but sometimes they are as or more effective than the first.

The imitations can be of adult flies, insects in larval stages, fish, mice, crustaceans, amphibians …

For the manufacture of “flies” it is necessary to have a basic equipment:

  • Winch: it is the tool used to catch and immobilize the hook.
  • Reel holder: it is the tool used to carry the reel of silk that is used to tie the various materials to the hook.
  • Hooks: there are different sizes and shapes. There are them with and without burr, the latter are called dead hooks.
  • Hair, feathers, synthetic materials: there is a great variety of materials such as rooster, duck, deer hair, maple, seal, synthetic materials such as foam …

There is a multitude of fly patterns, although imagination and tests are the essences of this beautiful art.


For many fishermen, the dry fly does not “match” the competition. But in Europe, this practice is increasingly widespread among fishermen, which has allowed great technical advances such as line fishing.

The competition requires a lot of discipline, “river hours”, improvement of technique and casting, knowledge of the river and the behavior of the fish, concentration, and “cold blood”.

There are championships at the federative level and masters or private tournaments.

To compete at the federative level, you must first attend the championship of the fishing club for which you federate. Later the provincial championship is attended, after this the regional and national. The best national fishermen compete in a selective league to represent Spain in the European Championship and the World Championship.


Spain in recent years has shown that it is the most complete selection with the best fishermen in the world.

Other teams with a very high World Cup are France, Italy, the Czech Republic and in recent years the United States also stands out.

There are many excellent fishermen who could stand out. Some of them are Jordi Oliveras, Pablo Castro Pinos, David Arcay, David García Ferreras, Iván Verge …

David Arcay has been the youngest angler to win a world championship to date. In his record, he highlights:

  • Individual World Champion
  • 2 times World Team Champion
  • European team runner-up
  • Spain champion
  • 11 assists to international championships


Trout is a fish characterized by its red and black spots, strong ventral fins that allow it to go up rivers and perform movements at high speed. They inhabit estuary waters with a large amount of oxygen and usually have a fondness for the currents where they establish their hunting grounds.

This salmonid locates its prey by sight, but despite this, some species of trout such as the brown one has a great nocturnal activity, at which time it makes use of its night vision and other senses such as smell or lateral line.

Some theories indicate that the nocturnal nature of some species of trout is the consequence of an adaptation to their predators such as herons, cormorants, otters, and human predation.

This behavior and vision characteristics of the trout have made it the most coveted fish by lovers of rat tail fishing. The keys to successful fly fishing for trout are:

  • The casting technique awakens feelings and is extremely beautiful.
  • The fisherman makes his lures or flies by hand. So craftsmanship is fused with observation and testing.
  • It is fishing that requires great skill and good physical condition.
  • The bites are spectacular. Dry fly fishing stands out in particular.


Fly fishing in rivers or as it is known in other countries, fly fishing in cold water is the most popular and widespread modality among flycatchers. This is because the rivers inhabit some of the most sporting species for the practice of this modality, such as trout, salmon, taímen, salvelino, dorado, grayling, barbel, pike …

To fly fish in the river it is necessary to master:

  • The currents and drifts of our fly.
  • The places where the fish are hunted, which is colloquially called “knowing how to read or interpret the river”.
  • Know very well the eating habits of trout, sea bream, salmon. As an example when we fish for trout we must know if the fish are feeding on the surface or under the water. This knowledge will allow us to choose the most suitable technique for dry fly fishing or nymph fishing.


Fly fishing in a lake is a very good alternative to enjoy our hobby in the months when river fishing is prohibited. As a result of this need, artificial reservoirs arose.

These artificial lakes have become fashionable in many countries. In them, rainbow trout are released periodically from captive breeding for fishing.

Lake fishing requires a great command of the casting technique since the distance is one of the great keys to success. Other very important conditions are:

  • Collection type.
  • The stratum of the water that is fished. For this, lines with different degrees of sinking are used.
  • Fly to use: chironomids, streamers, roe, boobies, San Juan Worn, shingles, mouse imitations …
  • The equipment: rods with combat heels and lines superior to 5 are used.

Fly fishing is also practiced in mountain lakes. The most elite and wealthy fishermen enjoy heli fishing in mountain lakes. One of the most famous destinations in the Pyrenees where the helipad is practiced in bones.


Fly fishing in sea or saltwater is gaining more followers every day. The sportsmanship and fighting off the captures as well as their spectacularity has contributed significantly to this reality.

Some of the species that are fished the most in the sea are bonefish, palometa, tarpon, barracuda.

The most spectacular destinations for fly fishing in the sea are in the Caribbean, with Cuba being the destination par excellence.


Fly fishing trips are the great desire of many of the lovers of this hobby. We have all dreamed of fishing big Salvelinus in Iceland, bonefish in Cuba, Dorados in Argentina, practicing helipad in the Pyrenees, or going to Mongolia to fish the Taimen.

Fly fishing trips for many are the reward for the long work of the year, either with family, friends, or in organized groups.

We present some of the best fly fishing videos around the world:


Fly fishing fairs are facilities in which products and services are exhibited from time to time (generally on an annual basis) for promotion and sale.

The largest fly fishing fairs are held in England and the United States. In the United States, they are called Fly Fishing Shows and several are held throughout the different states of the country.

In Spain, there is no specific fly fishing fair, although it is true that in Madrid a fair called Cinegética is held annually, in which all stands related to hunting, fishing, and nature are hosted.

We hope that this entry has been useful for you.


Fly fishing videos have become one of the best ways to reach the fishing community.

In this section we present some of the most spectacular fly fishing videos published by Spanish channels:


A few years ago who was going to tell us that fly fishing magazines were going to almost disappear and that fishing blogs would have tremendous value for readers. These sites have become a relevant voice for the fly fishing community.

They talk about tips, stories, news, photos of fishing days, reviews of materials, etc.

Many fishermen are loyal followers of a list of favorite blogs, the good sites on the internet that talk about fly fishing are characterized by:

  • Articles published frequently and routinely.
  • Unpublished and valuable content. Defined personality.
  • Good writing.
  • New content and techniques.
  • New destinations.
  • Accompanied by good photos and videos.
  • Social networks play a very important role in this sector.