Beginner Fly Fishing Tips and Advice in Alaska for Travelers

Beginner Fly Fishing Tips and Advice in Alaska for Travelers

You’re trying to learn the fly fishing basics, but you’re overwhelmed by how different it is from spinning and casting, we get it. Fly fishing might seem difficult at first, but with a little research and practice, you’ll realize how simple it is.

There are a lot of misconceptions about fly fishing. Many people think you can only catch trout, or you need to have a lot of experience, or that you need to know how to tie a bunch of knots. These are all false.

It’s simple to learn fly fishing basics, and we think you’ll realize that too.

What Is Fly Fishing?

Fly fishing requires the use of a lightweight rod with a fly at the end of it. When you’re learning the fly fishing basics, you’ll focus on a simple overhead cast (which we’ll get into) with a standard fly on the end of your line.

What Makes Fly Fishing Different?

The main thing that separates fly fishing from all other forms of fishing is the weight you have on the rod and lure. With a spinning rod, you’re line and lures contain a lot of weight which is what allows you to cast across the lake or river.

When you’re fishing with flies, you have next to no weight. The only weight you have is your line, and that is not much.

The lack of weight means you need to power your rod during your cast. That is why fly fishing requires a back cast before your actual cast. We’ll get into the fly fishing basics of casting later on in the article.

Fly Fishing Basics: The Rod

The key to learning fly fishing basics is to understand all the tools you have at your disposal. First, you have your fly fishing rod. The overall build of the rod is not much different from a spinning or casting rod.

The major difference in the design of the rod is the fact that there is no butt on the rod. Your reel is at the end of the rod, and there is no handle beyond that.

Your reel is quite different, as well. Fly reels are usually made of aluminum, and they are also meant to be lightweight. These reels don’t have the advanced gears and technology like their spinning reel brothers.

Lining Your Fly Rod

The area of fly fishing basics where most people start to get concerned is when it comes time to line their rod. Lining a spinning rod is simple because it usually involves two or three steps. With a fly rod, you will have to learn to tie a few different knots so you can secure each part of your line to the next.

To line a fly rod, you need to follow components:


Now, here is a complete step-by-step walk-through on how to line your fly rod. These are the fly fishing basics everyone should know.

STEP 1: Attach Backing To The Reel

The first thing you’ll want to do is attach your backing to your reel. To do this, you’ll want to have around 100 feet of backing around the reel, and you want to secure the line to the reel using an arbor knot.

Once you’ve tied the knot, you’ll line the reel making sure there are no blank spots.

STEP 2: Attach Fly Line To Backing

After your backing, you’ll need to attach your fly line. Some fly lines and backing come with loops built in so that makes this process simple.

If you opt not to use the installed loops, you can cut it off and make your own. If you follow that second option, you’ll want to use a surgeons knot to tie the fly line to your backing.

STEP 3: Attach The Leader To Fly Line

Next, you want to take your fly line and tie that to your leader. For this task, you’ll want to use a nail knot. Don’t get intimidated by the level of expertise involved in tying this knot. Once you do it two or three times, you’ll never worry about it again.

These are fly fishing basics you only have to learn once.

STEP 4: Attach Tippet To The Leader

Now you’ll deploy your surgeon’s knot tying skills again to attach the tippet to your leade

You’ll be attaching the fly to your tippet, and this is the area you will have to learn to tie most frequently so make sure you spend a decent amount of time learning the surgeon’s knot.

STEP 5: Attach Your Fly

Lastly, you’ll have to attach your fly to your tippet using a clinch knot. Unless you want to spend all day losing flies, make sure you learn the clinch knot as well as possible too.

Once you have everything all rigged up, you’ll be ready to learn how to cast.

What About The Flies?

While this might not be one of the necessary fly fishing basics to learn, you want to know the different type of flies to increase your chances of catching a fish. There are three main types of flies that you should learn about.

Dry Flies

Dry flies are the most common, and they float on top of the water to mimic the insects these fish eat. Fishing these flies is an excellent experience because you get to watch the fish come up to the surface and strike the flies with such power.

Dry lures are great for beginners as well because you can see the strike rather than having to wait to feel a nibble.


Next, we have nymphs. These flies sit beneath the surface of the water where most fish do their feeding.

These are meant to look like the larvae stage of insects and fish will eat these all day. The only downside with nymphs is that you cannot see the strike, so you need to use an indicator or prepare to stare at the end of your line all day.


These imitate leeches and minnows, and many people love fly fishing with these. They require a bit more finesse to make them look alive, so we don’t recommend streamers for beginners.

If you are looking to expand your horizons, it doesn’t hurt to have them on you for when you’re feeling daring.

Casting Your Fly Rod

The clear thing that separates fly fishing from traditional fishing is the cast. You can learn everything we already talked about, but if you don’t know how to cast correctly, you’re wasting your time.

First, we have to break down the methodology behind the cast. Your goal is to present your fly in the most natural way possible. Since you have no weight on your line, you have to load the rod.

Loading Your Rod

You load your rod by proceeding with a back cast before you cast forward towards your target. When you throw your rod behind you, you are creating a “whip” motion. When you whip the rod forward, you are getting all of that momentum going in the direction you want to cast.

You can think of fly fishing like a slingshot. You pull the rubber band back to load it, and then you release it.

We talked about the traditional overhead cast, but what do you do if you don’t have enough space to back cast?

Roll Cast

If you’re learning fly fishing basics, this cast will make or break your success on the water. When fly fishing, we don’t always have enough space for a lengthy back cast. If you find yourself in this situation, you can opt for a roll cast instead.

For this cast, there is no back cast. Instead, you cast forward and pull your line back by lifting your rod directly over your head. When your rod is at a 90-degree angle, you whip it forward. This creates a loop with your line and casts it forward again.

This style of casting is more complicated than the traditional overhead cast, but it’s something worth learning for when you need it.

Perfect Your Fly Fishing Basics

At this point, you should have a great understanding of why fly fishing is so different from spinning and casting. This style of fishing requires you to understand knot tying basics, different casting techniques, and various lures.

If you love fishing as much as we do, you’ll love hitting the water with your fly fishing rig for the first time. Once you get the technique down, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to try fly fishing.

If you follow the steps in this article, be sure to leave us a comment and let us know how your trip went. We’d love to hear from you!

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