Best Way to Start Fly Fishing

Best way to start fly fishing? Get out there and nymph.
Nymphing is a great way to start fly fishing. This 22″ brown fell for a nymph.

The best way to start fly fishing: keep things simple! I think learning how to indicator nymph is ideal and autumn is a great time to do so. In this post, I’ll share ideas for affordable gear, flies, easy knots, online and free resources, and some DIY spots on specific rivers.

So, if you or a friend has been thinking about starting, go for it!

Here are my suggestions:


  • Boots-on waders. If the waders have a pouch in them, you won’t need a chest pack or sling bag
  • 9′ 4-wt. rod (I’d call fly shops to ask about used or old demo rods)
  • A cheap but effective reel like the Lamson Liquid
  • 5x leaders
  • 6x tippet
  • Nippers
  • Forceps
  • Strike indicators
  • Split shot
  • Pheasant Tails and Hare’s Ears, sizes 14, 16 and 18
  • Zebra midges, as small as you can buy them
  • Check out some of our Gear Review posts


  • Triple Surgeon’s to connect the leader and tippet
  • Double Davy to connect your fly

WATCH: A great way to start is by watching the Orvis Fly Fishing Intro to Nymphing videos.

Q&A: Post questions at this blog. Visit the Reddit fly fishing message board. Call a fly shop or one of the LL Bean or Orvis fly fishing experts.


  • Go to some of the easy-access spots at stocked rivers (list of recommended waters at the bottom of the post here).
  • Go right after new stockings in the fall and spring (MA’s schedule is here).
  • Build a relationship with a fly shop. They know a ton. And, Orvis Dedham offers free Fly Fishing 101 and 201 classes in the spring.
  • Over time, fish with more experienced anglers. I recommend joining a local Trout Unlimited group.

Hope this is helpful. Fly fishing offers a lifetime of learning, as one of the Swift River dry fly experts tells me. I agree. You never stop learning, and it is very fun!

So, the best way to start fly fishing? Just go for it. Am happy to answer any questions you may have.


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8 thoughts on “Best Way to Start Fly Fishing

  1. Good list! I’d absolutely include; a net– makes it a lot easier to remove the hook, a variety of soft hackles– can be dead drifted or swung, and is very newbie friendly, and learning to roll cast. I’d also recommend barbless flies if available.

    1. Bob, great to hear from you. See you at the Millers this autumn?

      I agree with your recommendations. I was thinking long and hard about the net but left it out in order to streamline the list. But, the more I think of it after reading your comment, there are many cheap nets out there. Is there one you’d recommend for folks just starting out?

      1. Hope to see you out there Jo!.

        I’ve been using a Frabill rubber net, which is inexpensive (mid $20’s), built well, and fish friendly. Only drawback is that it’s a little bigger than the typical “trout” net, but that also means it can be used for larger species.

        There are a ton of nets out there in a wide range of prices, including many in the sub twenty dollar range, that will serve the new fly-fisher well– at least for a while. The important things to consider when buying a net, especially at the lower price points is that the mesh is fish friendly and that it’s built of materials that will withstand constant moisture. As you’ve mentioned; the local fly shop can be a great resource.

  2. Roll Casting is essential to the learning curve of a fly fisherman. I learned how to do so my second year and I wished I had spent more time trying to master the roll cast my first year than snagging trees and bushes. Also, hire a guide if you are starting out, they can teach you the basics and put you on fish right away. If I go on a trip to a new river, I still usually make it a point to get at least a 1/2 day out on the water with a guide before I go off and do my own thing.

    1. I have a different POV about guides, in all honesty.

      For learning the basics, a friend can take you out for a six-pack. Orvis 101 and 201 classes are free, and they’ll teach the basics. Or, join a TU chapter for $35 and get to know a bunch of really nice and helpful anglers who can help you over and over.

      Regarding spots, in today’s Internet age, there is a great deal of info on line, and once you learn to read water, it’s applicable to all rivers. And, it is an incredibly satisfying feeling to go to a new river, read it, and catch a few on your own. Fly shops will share info, too.

      I guess I’d rather save the money and instead invest it in gear or fly tying equipment, but I could be wrong?

      The exception, I think, is for specialized techniques, like working with Zach St. Amand on tightline nymphing, going out on a float with Pete Kistner, or throwing custom streamers at the Westfield with Grant Figura.

      1. I think I should clarify what I meant. I don’t hire a guide for every trip I take to a new river. I can read water well enough where I can have a good day even when I try new rivers (like I did this summer). I’m just stating how I learned important techniques from great guides and how it made me a better fisherman for it. You aren’t beholden to hire a guide; the ways that you mentioned are more than adequate. Nowadays, I only hire guides when I’m fishing rivers that are really far from me (4+ hours) or if they are highly pressured and I don’t know where to start (trophy section in Pittsburg, Farmington, and especially the Swift). Sometimes even a half day can be worth the drive and it can set you up with the proper knowledge and the right amount of confidence to explore these places for yourself in subsequent days. That’s just my 2 cents.

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