What Fish Can You Catch with a Fly Rod? This list surprised me!


The challenge and thrill that comes with fly fishing make it a favorite among anglers. Unfortunately, though, it can be an intimidating sport to get into, and many beginners find themselves wondering what kind of fish they should be fishing for.

Although fly fishing is a method that can be used to catch a wide variety of both fresh and saltwater fish, it is most commonly used to catch trout, salmon, and different types of bass.

Continue reading to learn more about the many fish that can be caught while fly fishing and how to choose the best fly to attract your catch.

Brown trout caught with fly rod

What Is Fly Fishing?

Fishing is defined as an activity with the purpose being to catch fish—either for food or as entertainment. There are several ways that this can be done. However, if you are using a rod, you are likely either fly fishing or spin fishing, but what is the difference between these two methods?

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is a method of fishing that uses a rod, reel, weighted line, and flies. The intention is to trick the fish into biting an artificial lure that has been tied to look like an insect or other type of bait. The casting technique is what sets fly fishing apart from other forms of fishing because instead of simply casting a line into the water, the angler must keep the fly in motion using one of many casting techniques. Anglers often enjoy the challenge that comes with this form of fishing.

Spin Fishing

Spin fishing, or what most people would call regular fishing, is a form of fishing that uses a rod, reel, lighter line, tackle, bait, and lures. Anglers can use both live or artificial bait, and what they use will depend on the type of fish they want to catch. Casting is much easier with spin fishing, and many believe it is the more versatile method of fishing.

Fly Vs Spin

 Fly FishingSpin Fishing
RodOften longer than spin rods, fly rods are lighter and not as rigid. Most are between 7 and 9 feet in length.Often heavier and shorter than fly rods, spin rods are not as “floppy”. Most are between 6 to 7 ½ feet in length.
LineThe four parts of a fly line are the backing, line, leader, and tippet. Utilizes a heavier fishing line.Lighter monofilament line that is less visible to the fish underwater.
BaitFlies, which are hand-tied with hair, feathers, and other materials, are used to imitate insects and other foods.Anglers use live bait (worms or small fish) or artificial lures. Lures are heavier and often imitate underwater insects, amphibians, reptiles, or small fish.
ReelMuch larger than spin reels, fly reels are open faces cylinders that attach to the fly rod.There are multiple types of spin reels but each one works by spinning a handle to retrieve the line. Often much smaller than fly reels.
FishAnglers commonly fly fish for trout and salmon but multiple other types of fish can be caught.The more versatile method, spin fishing, is commonly used to catch trout, perch, pike, bass, and other salt and freshwater fish.

What Type of Fish Can I Catch While Fly Fishing?

Fishing can be a tricky sport, and what works one day might not work the next. Because there are so many things that can affect your success, it is hard to say for sure what type of fish will bite on any given day. Still, there are some species that seem more willing to be caught on a fly rod and you can find a list of these fish below.

Freshwater Fish

Whether you plan to spend the day on the banks of your favorite lake or knee-deep in a rushing river, there are several wonderful freshwater species that can be caught on a fly rod.

  • Various Trout Species
  • Various Bass Species
  • Grayling
  • Barbel
  • Chub
  • Bleak
  • Tench
  • Salmon
  • Carp
  • Pike
  • Sunfish
  • Panfish
  • Shad
  • Rudd
  • Catfish
  • Arapaima
  • Golden Dorado
  • Dace
  • Jacks
  • In the right conditions, anglers can catch almost any fish that feeds on the surface of the water.

Saltwater Fish

Although freshwater fishing can be a blast, saltwater fishing can offer something a little more unique, and there are several species of saltwater fish that have become the target of fly fishers around the world.

  • Salmon
  • Billfish
  • Tarpon
  • Bonefish
  • Snook
  • Redfish
  • Bar
  • Bluefish
  • Striped Bass
  • Kundzha
  • Peacock Bass
  • Permit
  • Sea Trout
  • Taimen
  • Trevally
  • Triggerfish
  • Marlin
  • Tuna
  • Barracuda
  • Sailfish
  • Wahoo
  • Anglers may even fish for certain species of sharks!

What Type of Fly Should I Use While Fly Fishing?

Fly fishing from river bed

Different fish feed on different things, and since the goal is to choose a fly that resembles something the fish will want to eat, it is important to know what type of fish you are trying to catch before you pick out a fly.

Dry flies are designed to mimic adult insects that sit on the surface of the water. There are several types of dry flies available, and which one you choose will depend on the insects flying around in the area that you are fishing.

Wet flies are designed to mimic insect larva, baitfish, and drowned insects. They float below the surface of the water and are typically used for freshwater fishing. Since fish feed below the surface 80% of the time, anglers are often more successful when using wet flies.

Choosing the right bait is essential when fishing and it can mean the difference between catching a bucket of fish and going home empty-handed. There are several things that will need to be considered when choosing a fly:

  • What type of fish are you trying to catch?
  • What are the water conditions where you are fishing?
  • What time of year is it?
  • What are the fish in the area feeding on?

Knowing the answer to these questions will help you to choose a fly that will catch a fish or two. Additionally, if you want to avoid hours of trial and error, you might want to pick the brain of someone who has fished these waters before. Although, they may not want to give up their secrets!

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John Cunningham

John is a writer, classic car and whiskey lover, men's shopping enthusiast and self appointed DIY expert. His greatest passion is repairing in the workshop, making old classics look and run like new again!

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