5 Fly Fishing Techniques Every Angler Should Practice

The top 5 most effective fly fishing techniques as taught by a professional fly fishing guide and instructor with 20 years fly fishing experience.

In this article, we’ll look at five of my go-to fly fishing techniques that I use on freshwater fish species. I’ll be talking about each at a relatively high level, but it should give you an understanding of each technique so that you can go out and try it for yourself.

Let’s dive in.

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1. Dry Fly Fishing

Although fishing a dry fly won’t always guarantee you fish, I included it here for two reasons.

Firstly, there’s nothing that gets the heart pumping like seeing a fish come up and sip in your delicately presented dry fly. Secondly, and most importantly, when fish are dialed in to eat off the surface, you need to fish for them on the surface.

Depending on your preference and personal casting stroke, a medium to medium fast action rod is ideal. To effectively fish a dry fly you need a long supple leader to ensure a drag free and undetectable drift and a floating fly line.

Man casting a fly rod in a river. 

Dry flies work equally well on lakes or stillwaters, especially during late afternoon when you see there’s a hatch coming off and you see fish rising.

2. Nymph Fly Fishing

Nymphing has hit the fly fishing world with absolute force, and rightly so. Whatever type of nymphing you do, it can prove to be super successful. There are various forms and types of nymphing and everyone likes to call it something different: Euro nymphing, Czech nymphing, French nymphing, Polish nymphing, tightline nymphing, and upstream nymphing, to name a few.

In essence, all these techniques are the same in the sense that you deliver one or multiple nymphs to the fish. In most cases, these nymphs are weighted to get them down to the fish as quickly as possible.

The best nymphing techniques, in my opinion, don’t make use of strike indicators, but rely on a sighter that’s integrated into the leader.

If you’d like to find out more about nymphing, we have a Euro nymphing series that covers all the basics that you need to know to get started.

Nymphing rods are generally very long, 10 ft and longer, to control drag-free drifts and reach over structure. The leader is made from thin material to reduce line sag and assist in strike detection. Talking about strike detection, Euro nymphing rods have very sensitive tips that help you to detect takes and to protect very light tippet material.

3. Dry Dropper Fly Fishing

Sometimes, you want to fish the surface and underwater column in the same drift and this is where a dry-dropper rig comes in. An added benefit of the dry dropper rig is that the dry fly acts as a lightweight strike indicator to help detect subtle takes on the nymph.

Depending on how far you want to make your casts and the distance you fish the flies at, a dry dropper rig can be tied into a standard dry fly setup, as described earlier. Or, to fish really close up at distances less than 30 ft, I use a dry dropper rig on my Euro nymphing setup.

Anglers cast a fly rod in a river.

This gives you great versatility on the water as you can use your existing Euro nymphing rig. Replace the top nymph with a dry fly, swap the bottom nymph with a slightly lighter fly, and Bob’s your uncle.

Dry dropper fishing is also a super underrated technique to use on lakes and stillwaters, especially when you’re sight fishing to fish from the bank.

4. Fishing with Streamers and Wet Flies

If the three previous techniques haven’t produced the goods, it’s time to bring out the big guns – it’s time to swing those streamers and wet flies. There’s nothing that can save the day like a black Woolly Bugger that’s swung over a deep and dark pool.

Ideally, you’ll want to up your tippet size slightly when fishing streamers and wet flies, as the takes are generally more aggressive than on nymphs or dry flies. The leader and fly line you choose to fish streamers and wet flies with will depend on the application.

For instance, when fishing my dry fly rig or Euro nymphing setup, it’s sometimes necessary to change over to a small streamer, so then I end up using it on the same rig. But, if you want to go out and do dedicated streamer fishing, a good fast-action rod with a 9 or 12 ft leader will get the job done.

The fly line you choose will depend on the river you’re fishing and where the fish are holding. If it’s a shallow river, or the fish are holding shallow, a floating fly line will do the trick. If the fish are holding deep, you can use sinking fly lines or add sinking tips.

5. Multiple Flies in Stillwaters and Lakes

If you’re fishing for stillwater trout, there’s nothing that works as well as using multiple flies. This gives you the capability of fishing various portions of the water column or fishing attractors and natural patterns in the same go.

In order to effectively fish multiple flies, you’ll need to get used to casting this Christmas tree, so opening your loop slightly is an absolute must.

fly fishing for trout

I fish stillwaters with either a 6 or 7-weight fast-action rod and, depending on the depth of the dam and where the fish are holding, use anything between a floating and a di7 sinking line.

Conclusion

Although I basically only scraped the surface of each technique, I hope that this article gave you an understanding of my five favorite fly fishing techniques. As with most things in life, it’s all about practice and the hours you put in.

The more time you spend practicing each technique, the better you’ll get.

Until next time!

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Disclaimer: IntoFlyFishing.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please see our Privacy Page for more information.

Pierre is a fly fishing guide and professional photographer who has guided and hosted trips for top fly fishing outfitters. Since being introduced to fly fishing over 21 years ago, he has travelled, fished and guided across the globe. He has extensive knowledge on specific gear and tackle selection for various salt- and freshwater species. Some of his writing work includes blogposts for Alphonse Fishing Company and African Waters.

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