Fly Fishing For Dummies
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Successful fly fishing starts by finding out if the water temperature is ideal for fishing or if your day is better spent preparing your fly gear for the next outing. Make sure you have the appropriate weighted fly line and rod for the fish you’re trying to catch.

fly fishing © Annette Shaff /

Optimum water temperatures for fly fishing

Fish don’t do much if water is too hot or too cold, so you might not want to waste your time fly fishing in certain weather conditions. Use this guide, (along with a thermometer) to decide if you’re going to fish or stay home and clean your fly gear. (All temperatures are in Fahrenheit.)

Type of Fish Lower Limit Optimum Upper Limit
Bluegill 58˚ 69˚ 75˚
Brook Trout 44˚ 58˚ 70˚
Brown Trout 44˚ 56˚– 65˚ 75˚
Channel Catfish 55˚ 82˚– 89˚ na
Coho Salmon 44˚ 54˚ 60˚
Lake Trout 42˚ 50˚– 59˚ na
Largemouth Bass 50˚ 65˚– 75˚ 85˚
Muskellunge 55˚ 63˚ 72˚
Northern Pike 56˚ 63˚ 74˚
Rainbow Trout 44˚ 61˚ 75˚
Smallmouth Bass 60˚ 65˚– 68˚ 73˚
Walleye 50˚ 67˚ 76˚
Bluefish 50˚ 62˚– 72˚ 84˚
Bonefish 64˚ 75˚ 88˚
Cod 31˚ 44˚– 49˚ 59˚
Dolphin Fish 70˚ 75˚ 82˚
Fluke 56˚ 66˚ 72˚
Red Snapper 50˚ 57˚ 62˚
Redfish 52˚ 71˚ 90˚
Snook 69˚ 70˚– 75˚ 90˚
Speckled Trout 48˚ 72˚ 81˚
Tarpon 74˚ na 100˚+

Indispensable fly fishing advice

Here are a few important pointers that you need to keep in mind about fly fishing. All of them have to do with getting your fly to the fish without scaring the fish away. Scared fish don’t eat, so no matter what you cast to them, no matter how pretty the cast, they will stay away.

  • Keep a cool head. You see a fish that is finning quietly just below the surface. No scene is more enticing to an angler, yet at no other moment is a fish so skittish. When approaching a fish like this — in fact, when moving through any water where you think you might find fish — steady yourself, concentrate, breathe, and follow the rest of the rules here.
  • Go slow. The faster you move, the more likely you are to make a disturbance. In calm water, moving slowly is a matter of taking a step, waiting a second for the ripples to subside, and then taking another step. The same goes for rowing or paddling your boat, kayak, or canoe — do it slowly and steadily.
  • Be quiet, please. Be careful about banging your oars, scraping rocks with your boots, or walking with heavy footfalls. Sound travels well underwater. Take it easy, take it slow, and if you must do anything, do it quietly.
  • Stay out of sight. In most cases, if you can see the fish, the fish can see you. This rule is not always true, however. For example, if you are downstream of a rising trout, it probably won’t notice you. Still, the basic idea is this: Stay out of the line of sight of wary fish. How do you do that? First, blend into the background. Although you don’t need full camouflage, wearing clothing that is the same color as the background against which the fish will see you is a good idea. Next, keep a low profile. An angler should stay low and out of sight.
  • Be chill. I just want to re-emphasize how important it is to stay cool, calm, collected, and quiet. The more enticing the fish, the harder keeping quiet may be. But the only way that you are going to be sure not to scare off a trophy fish is by being quiet.

Fly line weights for common game fish

Fly lines are rated according to their weight. A 1 Weight is a very light line used with an extremely flexible rod. As fly line numbers go up, so does the weight. Rods are rated according to the weight of the line they throw. This table lists recommendations of line (and rod) weights for some common game fish.

Line Weight Type of Fish
1, 2, and 3 Weight Panfish, trout
4 and 5 Weight Trout, freshwater bass
6 and 7 Weight Trout, bass, small blues, stripers, bonefish, pike
8 and 9 Weight Salmon, stripers, bonefish, permit, bluefish, redfish
10, 11, and 12 Weight Tarpon and other big game fish

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Peter Kaminsky is an author and a contributor to the New York Times, Field & Stream and Outdoor Life. Greg Schwipps' work has appeared in a number of outdoor magazines. Dominic Garnett is an angling writer, blogger (, photographer and guide whom Angling Times recently described as 'Fast becoming one of the most readable angling writers in the business… has that rare ability to convey the magic of the sport.'

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