Learn the essential fly fishing techniques that apply to trout whether you are on a lake, small stream or river.

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Slow Down & Observe

After covering the principles of fly fishing, how to get started fly fishing, what you need to fly fish and practiced casting you are ready to go fly fishing.

Before looking at the other fly fishing tips you must slow down and take a moment to observe what is going on around you.

On a recent steelhead trip a friend of mine asked if I saw the summer steelhead in the last pool. The truth was I walked right by them.

Come Prepared

A good hat and polarized sunglasses will make it easier to see the trout. You also need to pay close attention to any bugs that may be in the water or flying around. This tells you what may be on the menu for today.

Our Essential Fly Boxes will prepare you to match the hatch for a variety of Caddis, May, and Stonefly hatches.

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Consider What a Trout Needs?

Think of sitting near the food table, out of sight from the “big bully” and you are on your way to understanding the needs of a trout. Find a place that provides good access to a meal and at the same time provides protection and you've got it made (as a trout).

Search for these areas on the water, and plan your strategy.

General Fly Fishing Tips

There are some fly fishing tips and techniques that are a main part of fly fishing basics. They are true whether you are fly fishing a lake or a stream.

  • Sound travels faster in water, so your wading can spook the trout. If you must wade, wade softly and fish the water close in first. Learn to stalk the trout.
  • Learn to fish with nymphs. Dry fly fishing is fun but keep in mind that 80% of the trout’s diet is below the waters surface. Learn more from our detailed nymphing guides.
Nymphing Guide Tiny Nymph Guide Nymphing with Indicators Guide
  • Always keep your hooks sharp.
  • Examine your fly and tippet every five or six casts. Check them for wind knots. These can weaken the line by 50%.
  • Are you wondering what color fly to use? If you still can’t tell after spending time observing the area, then use lighter colors in the summer, darker in the spring and fall.
  • Don’t “line” the fish. This is where your line lands over the fish, spooking it. Start with casting closer to you and then working your way farther out.

Fly Fishing Tips for Streams

Stay low and stalk the trout.Try to get in a good position for a natural drift of the fly. A drag-free presentation is important for dries, nymphs and emergers.

Fish the seams. A seam is the division between the fast and slower moving water. Trout rest in these waters, then dart out into the current for a meal.

Learn more in our Small Stream Fly Fishing Guide

Small Stream Guide

Fish the Flies

Different types of flies require different techniques.

  • If fly fishing nymphs, make sure the fly gets down in the water, even if you need to add a split shot.
  • When using dry flies try to present the fly how a fly would float if it wasn’t attached to a line. I know, easier said than done. Proper casting can help with this.
  • Learn to swing a wet fly. By casting across and downstream you then let the fly “swing” across the stream. This imitates emergers or a darting minnow.

Our streamers guide will explain the basics for you. This is an often overlooked method of fly fishing for trout.

Streamers Fly Fishing Guide

Fly Fishing Tips for Lakes

Fish near the bank; this is where the food is.

If possible, boat out from shore and cast toward the bank. See Fly Fishing Boats.

Look for areas that have good vegetation and structure such as logs and rocks. These areas serve as both a source of food and protection for the trout.

Do not think you need a boat to fly fish lakes and ponds.

  • Some insects like the dragonfly nymph are headed for shore, which gives the bank fisher the advantage.

See Fly Fishing a Dragonfly Nymph for Trout.

  • Fish areas that are shaded, or fish just after the sun has set. Many insects hatch during this time.
  • You will need a longer leader because the trout have a longer look at the fly than in a stream.
  • If possible, fish areas where streams are flowing in or out of the lake. They provide a good source of food, protection and added oxygen.
Lake Fly Fishing Guide

More Fly Fishing Tips

Yes, there are a lot of fly fishing basics to learn. There are times when you would want to “skate” a dry fly across the water. This sounds unnatural doesn’t it?

Our goal here has been to get you started with the basic fly fishing tips and techniques.

Master them and you are well on your way to an enjoyable day of fly fishing on the water.


What Next?

Our guide to catching rainbow trout explains more techniques.

You can stock up on Essential Flies in our store.

You can also research for an epic fly fishing trip with our destination guides!

Catching Rainbow Trout Guide Shop Our Essential Fly Boxes Fly Fishing Destination Guides