Making the Jump from Spin and Baitcasting to Fly Fishing

Last updated on March 28th, 2022

fly fishing fly up-close photo

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In the world of fishing, there are many different avenues. Fly fishing, saltwater casting, ice fishing, and so many other variations are all in the fishing world but can be wildly different from each other. When it comes to gear, bait, strategies, and performance, there are so many factors that go into each sect of the fishing world.

Transitioning from one style to another can be tricky. When an entirely new skill set is required, there is a learning curve. So, knowing how to transition from one to another is a great way to expand your fishing knowledge and harbor new experiences.

Knowing how to transition from casting to fly fishing is a great way to have the best of both worlds. Buying the right gear, studying the appropriate strategies, and learning the skills required will make the change from baitcasting and spin fishing to fly fishing seamless.

Here I will use the term “casting” to refer to the style of fishing done in both fresh and saltwater with casting (baitcasting) or spinning gear. These two are the most popular methods today and account for the majority of gear anglers use to catch fish. Though baitcasting requires a little more technique, both are fairly similar and easy to master.

Fly fishing occupies a smaller niche in the world of fishing and requires more time to master, but it is incredibly rewarding and experiencing a boom in interest. So, for those who are thinking of making the jump or giving it a try, here is how to transition from casting to fly fishing!

Having the Right Gear

The biggest difference you will find between these two styles is the gear used. Fly fishing requires a completely different lineup of gear than casting. You cannot break out the old baitcaster and expect to successfully fly fish.

More specifically, you will need a reel, rod, line, and fly that is specific to fly fishing. Probably the most important component of these is the line and how it relates to your setup.

In casting, you can throw almost any line on a reel and have some success. With fly fishing, the weight of the line needs to match up with the weight of the rod and reel. For example, a ⅘-weight line needs to be used with a four or five-weight rod.

Necessary fly fishing gear includes the following:

  • Rod
  • Reel
  • Line
  • Flies and a fly box
  • Waders
  • Floats and strike indicators
  • Gear bag or tackle vest

Items that can cross over between the two types of fishing include:

  • Rain gear
  • Net
  • Dehooking tools and pliers
  • Polarized sunglasses

So, having the right gear will put you in a position to succeed. All of this needs to be paired with the correct knowledge, of course, but it is a crucial first step toward success.

Evaluate Your Current Skillset

Although skill sets will vary between the different styles of fishing, there will be some crossover. When you have experience fishing in one area and want to move to another, those general skills and knowledge will stick with you, at least as they relate to some of the aspects.

For example, reading waterways and targeting areas with higher likelihood of harboring fish does not change much between casting and fly fishing. When you can seek out the eddies and breaks in water flow, you can see where fish may be sitting regardless of your casting strategy. If you have a knack for this, then you are already a step ahead when transitioning.

You can also figure out the areas of fly fishing in which you will need to work on more specifically. Whether it be general casting, mending, tying flies, or anything else, knowing what does not fall in your current knowledge base will help you specify what needs to be worked on.

Study Fly Fishing Thoroughly

Traditionally, you would need to know somebody or pick up a book to get into fly fishing. Now, those are still great options, but there are more modern approaches.

One easy way to adjust to the learning curve is to have a mentor. If you know someone willing to teach you how to fly fish or even just answer questions, absolutely take advantage. This is an incredible value that will help you learn all of the necessary skills.

Not everyone has those types of connections, so make the internet your best friend. The internet is chock-full of great information about fly fishing and how beginners can get started. Even referencing this blog will help you, so really focus on using the internet to help you learn fly fishing.

If you want to connect with the roots of fly fishing, go with some of the classic books. There is something about reading information on a physical page that helps it stick in your mind, so this may be the option for you.

Go Out and Practice

If you have never fly fished before, regardless of your casting experience, you will probably not pick up a fly rod and sling it out perfectly right away. It is a guarantee that this will not happen. So, practicing and building up muscle memory is incredibly important.

Before you hit the field, practice in your backyard or some open space. Practice casting and getting the general flow under control. This will alleviate some of the pressure you may feel to perform when you start casting on the water.

A big part of practicing fly fishing is understanding what will change and what will be different. If you are going into the process with the mindset that there will be a learning curve and that casting is different, your mind will let you process the change easier.

Closing Thoughts

Jumping from one area of fishing to another that is so different can be a daunting task. Knowing how to transition from casting to fly fishing will help you expand your fishing knowledge and even find a new passion.

It all starts with getting the right gear for the job, and once you do that, you can start transitioning the skill set and learning new techniques. Before you know it, you will be wading in streams for trout and fully enjoying the fly fishing life.

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About Dorado

John Pardal, aka Dorado, is the editor as well as an author for Reel Adventure Fishing. He has fished extensively up and down the U.S. Atlantic coast, throughout much of Florida and a bit of the Caribbean. John loves writing about all aspects of sportfishing and is passionate about conservation and promoting sustainable fishing.