Fly-fishing is a style of fishing that involves the presentation of small “flies” to a variety of game fish via a fly rod and fly line (housed in a fly reel). Rods, reels and terminal tackle differ significantly from the conventional bait-casting, spinning and spin-casting styles of fishing. Flies are relatively small and much lighter than other artificial lures, and are delivered by a unique casting stroke.
The most fundamental difference between fly-fishing and other styles of fishing is that a heavy line is used to cast a near weightless fly, rather than a heavy lure or bait that carries a near weightless line. The line is made of a flexible plastic that is much larger in diameter than conventional line, providing the weight and mass necessary to propel the fly toward the target.
More fly-fishing activity occurs in fresh water than salt water, although there has been a substantial increase in saltwater interest over the past few decades. Fly-fishing is generally confined to shallow-dwelling fish or fish that can be reached in shallow portions of deep water.
While most fly-fishing in fresh water is focused on the numerous trout species, anglers also pursue largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, sunfish and salmon in a large variety of waters, including streams, rivers, lakes and ponds. Despite the variety of species and types of water available to fly-anglers, fly-fishing constitutes a minority of overall fishing.
Fly-fishing is one of the oldest known methods of fishing. The first reference to fly-fishing is in Aelian’s Natural History, written about 200 A.D. In it, Aelian described the fishing process used by the Macedonians wherein a piece of crimson red wool and two feathers were tied to a hook. The rod and line used by these early fishermen were both 6 feet in length. Once this primitive fly was cast into their lair, the fish, either attracted to or maddened by the color, swam straight for it and were caught.
Much has changed in the past 1,800 years of fly-fishing, and especially the last two decades, due to a better understanding of the nature of fish diet and behavior, improved equipment and an ever-widening angler interest.