Fly Fishing Tips Library (Top Hints & Tricks)

  • Jun 11, 2020

The School of Fly Fishing “Tips” Library is a collection of suggestions, recommendations, hints, “Do’s”, “Don’ts”, etc, for fly fishing.

Fly Fishing Glossary of TermsRecommended Fly Fishing Books

Color-coded line

One fly line feature some beginning fly fishermen make use of is a “color-coded” line. It has a two-toned, bright color transition point on the line. This visually indicates to the angler when he has retrieved enough line in to pick up for the next cast. It is rather like a “training aid.”

Fishing distance

Most freshwater fish, particularly trout and panfish that often are a beginning fly fisherman’s early quarry, are caught within 35-40 feet of the angler.


Some fly fishermen prefer the softer feel, and its presumed similar effect on fish, that polyester mesh nets provide as opposed to the more commonly available nylon mesh which is more “scratchy.”

When netting a fish, it is usually best to net the fish head first, rather than from the tail. Touching the tail often results in the fish darting forward.

(In the “real world”, however, you’re often doing good just to get the rascal in the net!)

Leader tippet

When dealing with Leader tippet designations: “the bigger the X, the smaller the tippet” (e.g., a 7X tippet is smaller than a 3X)

Fly sizes

When dealing with Fly sizes: “the bigger the number, the smaller the fly” (e.g., a #18 is smaller than a #10)

Fly Rod weight

When dealing with Fly Rod weight classifications: “the bigger the weight, the bigger the rod” (e.g., a 9 wt. rod is bigger than a 6 wt.)

Fly Line weight

When dealing with Fly Line weight classifications: “the bigger the number, the bigger the line”. (e.g., a 7 wt. line is bigger/heavier than a 4 wt.)

Although it seems like very little difference between each fly line diameter at .010″, this difference adds a significant 1/8th ounce to the physical weight of the fly line.

Fly line Tip Diameters

The diameter of the tip of the most commonly used fly lines ranges from .030″ to .037″.  It is this diameter we consider when deciding what leader butt section diameter to use.

Fly size vs leader tippet

For most fly fishermen, especially those just getting started, better results will occur with this guideline: use no more than 3 or 4 fly sizes with any tippet size.


When tying your own leaders, the progression between sections or strands of nylon is usually .002″ (“two one-thousandths” of an inch).

For example, connecting segments going from thicker to thinner might be .017, then .015, then .013, etc.  The length of these individual sections depends on the total length of the leader, but they generally vary from 6″ to 18″ long.

Tippet sections are typically 20″ to 30″ long, but can be as long as 4′-5′ for “sneaky” situations.

“Rule-of-4”:   This “formula” says to use a leader tippet size that is 1/4th the size of the fly you are using.  Or, conversely, the fly to match your leader tippet should be equal to 4 times the tippet designation.

DON’T: keep fishing with a leader that is too short:  your catch rate will likely plummet.

DON’T: keep fishing with a leader with knots in it; you may be lucky for a while, but eventually you will lose a fish to break off. An easy way to estimate the length of the leader currently affixed to your fly line is to gauge its length against that of your rod

DO: many fishermen stretch out or pull the leader through a piece of soft rubber (carried on/in the vest?) to dampen the “memory” effect.

DO: shortening your leader is one step to take to try to combat the effects of windy conditions.


DO: avoid the problem of drag by learning how to “mend” a fly line.

Fly boxes

Some fly fishermen poke small holes in their plastic fly boxes to promote “airing” of moisture caused by taking wet flies in & out.  Although fly hooks are now made of high quality “stainless” hooks, over time, they can begin to show rusty condition.


To dull the shine on your forceps, (or any accessory) application of an inexpensive, spray-on, matte finish enamel, from the local store will work nicely.


The importance of eyeglasses cannot be overstated.  Particularly on extended trips away from home, a spare pair or two is a good idea.  An inexpensive alternative is to “recycle” your old/maybe even out-of-style rims for use as backups.


Active fly fishing, with the repetitive working of the fly line, can “burn” a hole or cut in your finger(s).  “Fingerless” gloves should, therefore, fit to above/over the top joint of your first two fingers.   (An option is to tape your fingers.)


By application of a waterproofing agent, your hat can provide better service when fishing in rain.


The best-disciplined fly fishermen check their fly’s hook after each fish is caught & released after a “hang up”, or whenever the hook is believed to have hit or caught on something that might dull or alter a straight, sharp point.

To sharpen a hook:

  • Use a hook hone at an angle of about 20 degrees to the hook point;
  • The sharpening stroke should be away from (not towards) the hook point;
  • (If you go toward the point it leaves curled metal burr). 

To check for adequate sharpness, drag the hook point at an angle gently against your thumbnail. If it catches slightly, it’s sharp enough. If not, it needs a few strokes with the hone.


When biting &/or annoying insects around your head interfere with your fishing, douse your bandana with repellent. Worn around the neck, the “ambient” factor is often enough to keep those pesky buggers at bay.


Don’t rely on sunscreen alone to protect you while fly fishing: hat, long-sleeved shirt, long pants (both of construction that keeps the sun out), and shoes/boots that cover the top of your feet, are equally important.


  • The intensity of UV light increases by about 20% for every mile above sea level
  • although clouds appear to offer protection, most UV light passes through them
  • UV light is greatest between 10 am & 2 pm


For most freshwater fly fishermen, leader tippet spools of 3x, 4x, 5x & 6x are likely to be the predominant sizes to carry in a leader wallet.


Insulate yourself from the effects of wade fishing in colder water by the use of layering appropriate undergarments, rather than expecting your waders to provide this protection. It is easier (and less expensive) to “warm-up” a pair of light, uninsulated waders for use in colder conditions than it is to “cool down” a heavy pair of insulated waders when wading in warmer waters or weather.

For emergency streamside repair of punctures or small tears, the use of a quick-drying goop, called “Goop”, will get you by until you can get home to repair it properly. And, if worse comes to worst, duct tape, placed both inside & outside, will get you through the day & beyond.

Wading cleats

Some styles of “wading cleats” have removable spikes that allow for replacement when worn. This type is also the best for serving the added purpose of walking on ice


When dressing to go fly fishing, think more in terms of “hunting” and “camouflage”. Don’t wear white, which to fish is quite visible.


Drag to supplement the reel’s mechanism can be also be applied by the fisherman in 2 ways:

  • “drag” can be instantly increased or decreased by raising or lowering the rod tip . . . by raising it, we apply more restraint to the fly line; 
  • by “palming” a reel spool that has an “exposed rim”, the fisherman can add more pressure to assist the reel’s mechanical drag to slow down the turning spool and hence the line

Manufacturers recommend not taking disc drag reels apart for at least the first 5 years of use

Reel drag systems

“Drag coefficient” is the term used to describe the start-up friction a fish has to overcome before the drag system allows the spool to feed out more line. The higher the drag coefficient, the more likely it is the fish will break the leader tippet at the strike or on the initial running spool and hence the line

Reel drag

Drag to supplement the reel’s built-in mechanism can be also be applied by the fisherman in 2 ways:

  • “drag” can be instantly increased or decreased by raising or lowering the rod tip . . . by raising it, we apply more restraint to the fly line;
  • by “palming” a reel spool that has an “exposed rim”, the fisherman can add more pressure to assist the reel’s mechanical drag to slow down

Put a rod together

“How to put a fly rod together”:

  • Grasp the two-rod sections, one in each hand, without touching the guides;
  • and push them together with the guides offset at a 45o angle;
  • secure the pieces by pushing them together gently as you twist downward to a straight alignment of the guides.

Perform the opposite actions to disassemble.
If the rod pieces become lodged together so tightly that takedown cannot be done without uncomfortable pressure, get a 2nd person to assist you in this manner. 

  • Face one another with the rod between you;
  • Each person grasps the butt section in one hand & the tip section in their other hand;
  • With this “opposing balance” position, slowly pull the two sections apart.

Carrying a rod

How to carry a fly rod . . .

When carrying a fly rod, hold it “backward”:

  • with the butt end in your hand and the tip facing the opposite direction of travel; (this keeps the long, awkward thing out of harm’s way)

Rod care

Fly rods are most often broken by:

  • car doors
  • car windows
  • stepping on them

Seating a reel

When “seating” your reel to the rod during assembly, check to be sure the reel footings are fit properly into the front & rear slots; then “rock” the reel footing from side-to-side before tightening it down to assist in a secure fit.

After fishing with it for a while, check your reel again to see that it is well-seated.  Reels have a tendency to “creep” out of reel seats.

If they are so loose that they fall off the rod, it will be at exactly the wrong time.

Multiple line weights

Most fly rods are able to handle one line weight, both lighter/smaller & heavier/larger, than the line for which the rod is rated; e.g., a “6 weight rod” (designed for a 6 wt. line) can also be used with a #5 wt. & #7 wt. lines

Leader shock tippets

Large fresh or saltwater predatory fish have big, sharp teeth.  Such fish can make short work of standard monofilament tippets. They simply slice through your leader and your fish and fly disappear.  

“Shock” tippets replace this “wimpy” section with materials or adaptations that can withstand these “toothy” encounters. 

Various materials are substituted for the nylon;

  • wire,
  • coated mono,
  • or a very heavy (over 50#) short piece of mono.

Attaching fly lines

When attaching your fly line, be sure you are tying the butt end to the backing or reel & not the tip/front end.  Some lines have a tag to label which is which…others do not. Heads up!

Frozen rod guides

Before fishing, spray any non-stick cooking spray on the rod’s guides. While fishing put a little Vaseline on the guides. Neither will harm the fly line or the rod. At the close of fishing, clean line with a line cleaner.

you might also like...

World’s Greatest Lakes by Square Miles (Best Fishing Locations)
  • Jun 29, 2020

Ever wonder what are the largest lakes in the world? We've tallied the ten bigge...

World Saltwater Fishing Records
  • Jun 11, 2020

World saltwater fishing records are provided courtesy of the International Game ...

World Freshwater Fishing Records
  • Jun 11, 2020

World freshwater fishing records are provided courtesy of the International Game...

Fly Fishing Tips Library (Top Hints & Tricks)
  • Jun 11, 2020

The School of Fly Fishing "Tips" Library is a collection of suggestions, recomme...

Saltwater Fish Temperatures
  • Jun 11, 2020

Preferred Water Temperatures for Saltwater Sportfish Each type of saltwater fis...



Subscribe for your weekly updates.