Tips from a new fisherman to a new fisherman: Fly-fishing

Fly Fishing, Alberta Flyfishing, How to Fly-fish Alberta

Tips from a new fisherman to a new fisherman: Fly-fishing

In the Spring of 2020, my buddy and I decided to give fly-fishing a go. Wide-eyed and innocent, we didn’t realize how much of a journey this would be. The amount of information thrown at you at the beginning can be intimidating, to say the least. Between the knots, the gear, and the fly types it is understandable to have the inclination to pick up your spin-cast rod and head to the closest lake. However, we made it through, and although I still feel like an absolute imposter I like to think I have learnt a thing or two. Now I will share with you some tips that I wish I had easy access to when I started fly-fishing. 

Disclaimer: These tips are for the noobs. Pro fly fisherman might look at some of these, scoff,  and proceed to tell you to do something another way. Listen to them.

Buy a Rod and Reel Combo.

A rod and reel combo is nice to start with because they are completely set up for you. This is nice because it allows you to skip learning about backing, fly lines and how to connect these to your reel. You could take one of these kits down to the river, open it, tie on a fly, and start fishing. Upon looking at these combos you will quickly notice the weight system. A system that goes from 1-weight to 14-weight. Most rookie anglers are recommended to use the 5 or 6-weight. This allows you to handle big fish but also doesn’t take the fun away from smaller fish. I purchased the Orvis Encounter 6-weight combo, and I love it.

Watch a lot of YouTube

We all have used YouTube to learn something in our lives, fly fishing is no different. There are plenty of great fly fishing channels out there that will help you learn the basics. My personal favourite is “The New Fly Fisherman”.

Knots to learn

Once again this is where YouTube comes in handy.

Perfection Loop 

To make a loop at the end of your fly-line.

Surgeon's loop

To connect your tippet to your leader

Clinch knot

To connect your tippet to your fly


In this section, I will describe and give my thoughts on some of the more important pieces of gear.


The Leader is the line that you connect your fly-line to. This is achieved in a number of ways. The easiest is the perfection loop. Your fly line and leader will likely come preinstalled with a loop on each end (if not scroll down to knots and see perfection loop). 

To connect your leader to your fly line you:

1.Put the loop of your fly-line through the loop of your leader.

  1. Put the other end of your leader through the loop of your fly-line.
  2. Pull the leader through.

The size or gauge of your leader marked with a number and an X beside it. These numbers range from 1-8, 1 being the strongest and widest, and 8 being the thinnest and thus the weakest. Choose the size of the leader based on the size of the fish and the size of the fly you plan on using. I.e. Bigger fish means smaller leader number, and vice versa. 

You will notice that the side of your leader with the loop is wider than the other end. This taper in line allows for the fly to both moves through the air better and land softly in the water. 


The Tippet is the line that connects your leader to your fly. The main purpose of the tippet is to extend the life of your leader. So if you snag the bottom and lose some line you won’t have to attach a brand new leader. The Tippet should be of a smaller gauge than the tip of your leader. Meaning if you have a 3X Leader you should use a 4X or 5X tippet. This is to keep the taper from your leader through to your fly. 


Let’s be real this is just a bobber. But don’t call it that, They will look down on you (Make sure you lift your pinky when drinking out of your Nalgene as well).


There are three fly categories that you should focus your attention on The dry fly, the nymph, and the streamer. The dry-fly imitates bugs and creatures that are floating up on top of the water. The nymph is a submerged fly and is often used with an indicator. The streamer is a larger fly that’s purpose is to imitate a small fish or minnow. Each of these fly types has specific ways to be cast and presented (this is where YouTube comes in handy). 

When purchasing flies keep in mind their sizing system. Larger flies will be a low number and small flies will be a higher number. For example, a size 18 fly is pretty tiny. The best way to choose what fly is by looking on the website of your local fly fishing shop and find a hatch-chart link. The hatch chart will tell you roughly when a specific species of bug is hatching, and therefore tell you what the fish are munching on. These charts usually have a recommendation on what type of fly best imitates the hatch.

Polarized sunglasses 

Not absolutely necessary, but they will help you see fish more easily. You don’t have to get an expensive pair. Even a gas station pair work wonders.

Ask your experienced friends to take you out.

This may be one of the more useful tips. A mentor/friend can answer all the questions you have about fly fishing. They can give you technical tips that are hard to portray over blogs and videos on the internet. Including things specific to you, like your wonky casting technique, fly presentation and so on. I am lucky to have a couple of fishing buddies that were willing to take their time with me. This not only made me a better angler but also instilled confidence in me so I could go out on my own. 

If you are lucky they will take you to their secret fishing spots (but don’t you dare share this spot with others, they will disown you). If you do not have friends that are fly fishermen try and convince one of your friends to take up fishing with you. If neither of these is an option, skip to the next tip. 

Bonus Tips: 

Don’t stress about losing flies

Short from bringing a snorkel and diving for our lost flies, my buddy and I use to go to extremes to get our flies back. This can be a bit of a waste of time. However, if that is your last fly of its type and you are still fishing, you might want to retrieve it.


A trout’s diet is 80% nymphs. But, don’t be afraid to tie on a dry-fly, because that’s when the real fun begins.

Foam is Home

Cast your fly into some surface foam. That’s all I am going to say about that.