Want to learn how to start fly fishing?
Fishing is one of life's greatest pastimes. And fly fishing takes this outdoor activity to another level.
Wade into sparkling bodies of water. Spend the day with nature. And hopefully catch some fish, too.
It sounds simple, but fly fishing can take a bit of practice and preparation. There's finding the best fishing spots, learning casting techniques, knowing which rod and lines to get, and more.
That's why we turned to our friend Kris Stiltner of Stiltner Outdoors.
With more than 25 years of fishing experience (including as a guide for many years), we knew we could learn a thing or two. From Virginia, Kris is also one of our adventure partners. He uses FlipFuel for smart fuel management in the backcountry. (You can read his review here.)
Here are his tips for getting started with fly fishing.
Q1: How did you get started trout fishing? Fly fishing?
I got started in trout fishing as a young kid following along with my dad and uncles on small mountain streams. I got obsessed with fishing and started going after other species including trout, bass, bluegills, and catfish.
I didn’t start fly fishing until I was about 20 years old and got hooked instantly. Now I fly fish 95% of the time but still enjoy bait fishing with conventional gear.
Q2: Are there other types of fishing you enjoy?
I love to set out “jugs” for catfish while out on my kayak, and I really enjoy surf fishing and saltwater fishing when I get the time to be at or around the beach.
Q3: Where are the best wild trout streams? Your favorites?
I would say the top trout waters (and one of my favorites around me) would be the South Holston River in East Tennessee.
But I still love spending time on small local mountain trout streams where I grew up learning the sport.
Q4: When is the best season for fly fishing? Trout fishing?
For trout, I really love fishing in the fall-winter and early-late spring.
For bass, it's late spring-late summer.
There’s something to fish for year-round here in Virginia.
Q5: Any misconceptions about fishing that you hear?
One that I fell for in my early days of fly fishing is that you need the absolute best top shelf gear. There’s so many good gear companies now that don’t break the bank.
Q6: How much of an investment is fly fishing? Trout fishing?
I would say spend what you can without breaking yourself. There’s definitely a difference in gear quality between bottom shelf and top shelf gear.
But there is some really, really great fishing gear at the middle of the road price point.
Q7: What would you recommend for entry-level rods and reels?
I would tell someone starting out to look at a 9ft 5-weight rod (fly rod) and a reel with a good drag system.
It's an all-around good rod for most species. You can handle trout and bass on a rod like that.
Q8: Any other recommendations for fly fishing gear?
Go ahead and spend the money on good waders and boots. Those will take most of the abuse as far as gear goes.
I recommend SIMMS waders if you can swing that money, but Compass 360 gear has really great waders at a more budget-friendly price. I’ve used both with great success and longevity.
Korkers wading boots - hands down the best boot out on the market. They have interchangeable soles - making it a breeze to change from felt to studded felt for different river and stream conditions.
Q9: Where can someone contact you to learn more about fishing?
I don’t currently do any guiding since the covid world shut down. After that, things didn’t pick back up. But if someone reaches out to me wanting a trip or suggestions, they can find me on instagram @ks_troutbum125 and shoot me a dm. I can point them to a few great outfitters in the area and could possibly jump back into the game myself.
ABOUT THE EXPERT: KRIS STILTNER
Kris Stiltner is a husband and father of 3 (2 sons and a daughter). An avid outdoorsman, with over 25 years experience in hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping in the mountains of Virginia. Kris also is a member of the Mossy Oak Camo pro staff (8+ years and going), Mickwick All Natural Firestarter Adventurer team, and FlipFuel outdoor adventure partner.
Read about his outdoor gear reviews, outdoor tips and adventure stories at Stiltner Outdoors and on Instagram.