Fly Fishing vs Regular Fishing [What’s the Difference?]

Fishing is a sport with one goal; to catch fish. All you really need is just a fishing rod and some bait to start catching fish, right?

Well, kind of. Fishing is more complex and diverse than many people would recognize.

From spearfishing to deep-see fishing, net casting, and even using pottery, there are dozens of different ways to catch fish. Some ways of fishing are done for economic reasons, and others for recreational.

Let’s focus on recreation fishing today, and talk about the difference between fly fishing and regular fishing.

What’s The Difference Between Fly Fishing and Regular Fishing?

There are some major differences between the two, but first, let’s briefly describe what the two are before delving into fly fishing vs regular fishing.

regular fishing

“Regular” Fishing

There are two types of “regular fishing”, bait fishing and spin fishing. For the purpose of this article, we’re only going to look at spin fishing. The list of gear for spin fishing includes:

  • A fishing rod
  • Plenty of line
  • A hook
  • Weights
  • Bobber
  • Lure or bait
  • The reel

Reel fishing is done by casting the line into the water, where the weight will sink the bait or lure to an appropriate depth. From there, the fisher slowly reels in their line in a motion to simulate a smaller prey item.

The bobber is used to tell where the hook and bait are, and to see if a fish has taken the bait. If a fish goes for the prey, the bobber will be pulled under. Once a fish is hooked, the person fishing will need to reel it in or risk losing the line.

fly fishing

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing has a fair amount of similarities to regular fishing, but there are enough differences. Let’s look at the gear for starters,

  • A specialized fishing rod
  • Plenty of line
  • A hook
  • A fly
  • The reel

Fly fishing utilizes a special type of lure called the “fly”, which is normally lightweight and made out of natural or synthetic materials with the design mimicking a prey item, much like a regular lure.

However, a fly is meant to land on the surface of the water and not sink, with the line being coated in plastic and typically heavier than a regular line.

To cast their line, the person fishing needs to flick the rod in conjunction with the reel to release the line. Because the line is heavier, it’s much easier to land it on the mark.

From there, it’s about pulling the line back and casting it out. Since no bobber or weight is used, the person fishing needs to keep an eye on their line and fly.

What Are The Advantages Of Fly Fishing Compared To Regular Fishing?

Now that we’ve established what each type of method entail, both in technique and gear, let’s look at the advantages of fly fishing and regular fishing, and compare them to each other.

Advantages Of Fly Fishing

  • Useful for Certain Types of Fish: Some fish, like trout and salmon, are much easier to catch with a fly. This is due to their predatory lifestyle and normally swimming by the surface of the water. A fly is a tempting target for them.
  • Much Easier to Land Near A Fish: As previously mentioned, the lines used in fly fishing are coated in plastic. This makes them heavier and not subject to sudden gusts of wind or odd-throws. The line will land where you aim, making this quite an accurate method.
  • Flies Can Be Homemade: Given the abundance of flies on the market, you’d think finding one wouldn’t be hard. Well, you’d be surprised. There isn’t a fly for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make one. Making your own fly is very easy and quite cheap!

Advantages Of Regular Fishing

  • Useful for catching a wide variety of fish: The advantage of regular fishing lies in that a wide variety of fish can be caught. Even salmon and trout can be caught with just some bait or a lure.
  • Very Easy To Learn: We’ll discuss this further in a bit, but fishing with a reel and bait is quite easy. Practice makes perfect, of course, but fishing this way is as simple as dropping a line with bait into the water.
  • Very Versatile: With regular fishing, everything can be tweaked and changed to your heart’s content. From the type of line, the length of the pole, the type of bait, the weight, and so much more!

With the advantages of regular fishing and fly fishing laid out, which one is the better method of fishing?

Well, to be quite blunt, neither! Both have their advantages, and of course disadvantages, but what matters is really what you enjoy and which style fits you better.

This being said, it would be inappropriate to just leave the article on that note. So let’s look at some frequently asked questions about fly fishing vs regular fishing!


good catch from fly fishing

Does Fly Fishing Catch More Fish Compared To Regular Fishing?

For some, catching as many fish as possible is the goal of their fishing trip. Be it to cook and eat, or just catch-and-release, they want as many fish as they can get.

So does fly fishing allow them to achieve this goal compared to regular fishing? The answer, surprisingly, is no. Fly fishing, like regular fishing, depends on many variables. Including the time of day, what types of fish are present, if the fish have eaten before, the types of lure, etc.

Even if you attempt to condense this all down to a formula and plan the perfect fishing trip with thoughts of catching hundreds of fish, the one variable you’re leaving out is the fish.

Fish are smarter than they look, and you can spend your entire fishing trip never catching anything or even getting a bite.

Fly fishing relies more on precision than blind luck, and even if you land your line right on top of a fish that’s no guarantee they’ll bite. Regular fishing is faster, although only marginally, because of blind luck.

As the weights help the lure or bait sink, there is a higher chance a predatory fish may come in for the bite as opposed to only surface fish.

Is Fly Fishing Hard To Learn Compared To Regular Fishing?

Yes, it is harder. This is because fly fishing uses precision and more precise movements once the line is in the water, it takes time and a lot of practice to fully master landing the line where you want.

It takes even more time to learn the proper way of reeling the line back on top of that!

Regular fishing, on the other hand, is much simpler to learn. You hold a button down on the reel, toss your line and release the button at the same time, and hope your bait didn’t accidentally go flying off the hook.

Even kids can learn with ease how to drop the line into the water at the very least. So, fly fishing is pretty challenging, but still very rewarding with a bit of practice and patience.

Is Fly Fishing Cheaper Than Regular Fishing?

No. Once you start adding up the cost of the line, the flies, the rod, new reels, and everything else fly fishing becomes as expensive if not more than regular fishing.

You can of course cut down on the prices, like making your own flies for example. Again, the price comes into play because fly fishing is more specialized than regular fishing.

Can You Fly Fish With A Regular Rod?

Yes. It is possible to use a regular rod for fly fishing, but it’s not recommended. Even using fly fishing line, a regular rod isn’t used to casting a bait that’s suppose to sit on the top of the water.

A regular fishing rod is longer than a regular rod, again to account for the accuracy. A regular rod can be used, but you’d have to get very up close and personal with the fish to catch them if you’re using a regular rod.

fly fishing on land

Do I Have To Stand In The Water To Fly Fish?

For an activity that involves being around water a lot, it’s surprising that people don’t really want to get wet. If this sounds like you, don’t worry!

You can still fly fish on the shore or on a boat. Surprisingly, fly fishing is used on the open oceans where attempting to stand in the water isn’t easy to achieve on the account of the land being thousands of meters below the surface.

So why stand in the water? Many anglers claim that standing in the water gives you a much better read on the water, and in turn the fish. Including the current, where the fish are likely going to be moving to or from, and tell-tale signs of fish activity.

This, like everything else with fly fishing, takes patience and practice to properly learn. If you want to fly fish and stay dry, you easily can and this is recommended for ponds and lakes.

Final Thoughts

Fly fishing is a much more specialized form of fishing compared to regular reel fishing. Does this mean it’s by any means better or worse? No. It’s just a different set of skills. With patience and plenty of practice, anyone can master both fly fishing and regular fishing!

Nathan Barker

My wife and I are huge adventure seekers! We've traveled and explored over 40 countries and want to share what we have learned on our journey. We'll be talking about everything from hiking and camping, to guides, reviews and tips that we're sure will help any avid adventurer no matter what walk of life. So relax, grab a cup of coffee and we hope you enjoy the read!