We Know Fly Fishing
Welcome to Fly Fishing Atlas, your source for information on all manner of fly fishing techniques, rods & reels, effective fly selection, and other gear that will help you to successfully land the big one. Whether you are just learning how to cast a fly to picky trout, or if you want to lock onto a monster bass – we’re here to help. Fly Fishing Atlas offers general information on all aspects of fly fishing, so that you can find a greater sense of enjoyment in this incredibly exciting sport. And we provide detailed product reviews and comparisons, so that you can make an informed decision when you decide to make a purchase.
Anglers don’t need to spend top dollar on fly fishing gear and selecting a fly rod is no exception. Nonetheless, as with all cheap gear, cheap fly rods simply do not perform well and can lead to frustration.
Thankfully, mid-priced fly rods are readily available and still provide exceptional performance. Reputable fly rod makers such as Orvis and TFO, Winston or Sage will ensure great performance that will remain practical as an angler gains experience and builds skill.
Manufacturers rate their rods by their weight, which is decidedly a confusing term. The rod weight does not refer to how much the rod actually weighs. Rather to what weight of fly fishing line it is meant to be paired with. Very small trout or panfish are well suited for rods in 1-3 weight. Rods in 4 weight are also effective for panfish and medium size trout. General purpose rods are those in the 5 and 6 weight varieties. Rods in 7-8 weight are popular for large bass fishing, steelhead, and salmon fishing. But the capability takes the fun out of even medium size fish. Fly rods in 8 weight as well as 10-12 weight rods are practical for larger species and salt water fishing.
Rods also come in a variety of lengths, but most are 8.5–9 feet long. If you plan on hiking or traveling, a four piece rod will break down much smaller than a 2 piece rod. Read more about how to set up your fly rod here.
Fly Fishing Lines
The fly fishing line carries the fly through the air as we cast and presents the fly to the fish. Unlike spin casting, flies do not weigh enough by themselves to carry any momentum. Flies cannot shoot through the air like a heavy lure can. When we cast a fly, we are really casting the fly line. The momentum of the fly line is what carries the fly. Fly line companies produce three main types of fly lines: floating, sinking, and sinking-tip. Read more here for the full-blown guide on fly fishing lines.
Floating lines help to keep the fly on or near the surface. Whether in rivers and lakes, or the saltwater and surf, floating lines are probably the most dynamic and widely applied of the fly line varieties.
Sinking lines are designed to sink and carry the fly to a desired depth. These lines sink at specific rates as indicated on the manufacturer packaging, and measured in inches per second, or ips. When fish are feeding at a specific depth this fly fishing line proves very effective. Lakes and ponds are where this type of line is most often used, and with great success.
Sinking-tip lines have a section at the tip of the line that sinks while the rest of the line floats. The tip section usually measures somewhere between 8-20 feet. Like full sinking line, the sinking-tip sinks at a rate given in inches per second. These lines are used frequently in rivers and moving water, but also in lakes and ponds, and are particularly effective when paired with the right streamer fly.
Fly Fishing Reels
The fly fishing reel holds our fly line and includes a drag system that helps us slow a fish that wants to make a run. A good fly reel will properly balance the fly rod and line, have a sealed drag system, and low start-up inertia. Take a look at our fly fishing reel recommendations here.
Matching the rod and line weight should be the primary objective in choosing a fly reel. A light 2/3 weight reel placed on a 7 weight rod is going to feel cumbersome and heavy toward the tip of the rod. Conversely, a heavy 7/8 weight reel attached to a 3 weight rod will feel heavy toward the reel. The most enjoyable and best performing arrangements will strike the balance. For example, pairing a 5/6 weight reel on a 5 weight rod and line will balance nicely, while providing optimal performance.
The sealed drag system is what sets apart the best from the rest, and will keep grit and muck sealed out. Without a sealed drag, foreign bits of dirt can work their way into critical areas and lock up the drag. For new anglers, it may seem simple enough to keep an unsealed reel up out of the sand and dirt. But at some point every fly caster lets their reel descend to the bottom of the stream while untangling their rod tip, tying on a new fly, or trying to net a nice fish. One way or the other, an unsealed drag will begin to collect foreign material. It may last a few seasons, but the fragility of an unsealed drag system can manifest through catastrophic failure at the worst moment.
Start-up inertia is much less important for most applications. This simply means the energy required to have the drag system let line out, instead of in. This really only becomes essential if an angler was fishing with very lightweight leader or tippet. Due to the low breaking strength of light tippet, the reel needs to provide consistent resistance if the fish makes a big run.
Most reels of any quality are reversible to accommodate both left and right handed casters, but make sure you check for this feature. A right handed caster will want to retrieve line with their left hand and vice versa.
Beware of cheap reels. There are some great looking inexpensive fly reels out there, and some are decent quality. But the drag systems of most cheap reels consist of vastly inferior components that will not perform like a good drag system, which could cost you a trophy fish. If you’re looking for a fly fishing reel, don’t be misled by the flashy external appearance of an inexpensive reel.
There are endless oceans of fly patterns to choose from. The vast majority are tiny works of art in their own right. But one thing many of them have in common is that they seem to catch more fishermen than fish. What pattern to choose, and how to effectively utilize it, is the never-ending pursuit of the die hard fly caster. After all, doing that right means catching more fish, right? If you fly fish for trout take a look at our in-depth suggestions for the best flies for trout.
Dry flies in their strictest sense float on or near the surface of the water. Fly tiers design some dry flies to mimic the look of hatching aquatic insects. Their life cycle consists of being in or near the water. Terrestrial fly patterns, like ants and grasshoppers, imitate land borne insects. Fish are attracted to certain fly fishing patterns even though they don’t appear to imitate anything. Anglers have classified these flies as attractors.
Streamers, or wet flies, are probably some of the most ornate and visually attractive flies. Atlantic Salmon streamer flies, in particular, have an unrivaled aesthetic appeal. Streamer flies imitate bait fish in one sense. But many also have an uncertain association that parallels the attractor patterns of dry flies. Retrieving wet flies and streamers at varying speeds and depths can effectively coerce a strike.
Nymph patterns imitate the early life stage of various aquatic insects. Rocks and streambed sediments provide a safe environment that aquatic insects can avoid being swept downstream. Some species are capable of swimming about at a surprisingly brisk pace. Lakes and ponds provide the ideal environment for this behavior due to the lack of current. As with dry flies and streamers, some nymphs are imitations of a living insect, and others are not.
We review all the fly fishing gear you could ever need and more. From whitewater fishing rafts to waterproof fishing backpacks. With all the fly fishing gear choices out there, this is the gear that we like the most. We try to narrow down the good from the bad, and the over priced from the cheap and flimsy.
The variety of fishing gear out there is staggering. And with all those gear choices come even more accessories. We cover all the must-have accessories like sunglasses, landing nets and fly boxes. But we also review everything from waders and boots, to float tubes and reels. We want to save you some cash by pointing you toward solid gear choices that you’ll only need to buy once.
You’ll notice our gear selections are not all big-ticket, top-shelf items. That’s because you don’t need to surrender your bank routing numbers to have a great time fly fishing. Good gear is good gear, regardless of price. Whether you are trying to decide which pontoon boat will suit you best, or find the best flies for trout, we want to help you make an informed decision.
We aren’t looking to throw a pile of gear at you and leave it up to you to sort it all out. That wouldn’t be very helpful in making your decision any easier. What makes a particular piece of equipment perform well is important to us. We want to help by passing that info along.
We do our best to dig into the details of what we consider to be the most reliable and best performing fly fishing gear out there. And while we are at it, provide a sense for why other gear didn’t make the cut.