Fly Fishing vs. Regular Fishing (Spinning): The Differences, and Which One is Better?

Fishing is an activity that can turn into a passion instantly after you try it out, especially for nature lovers. It’s exciting but peaceful and allows you to relax completely. Of course, there’s always some friendly competition involved or at least some personal goals we’re trying to accomplish. 

That’s why you must know the best way to achieve them. First, you should know what kind of fishing is better for you: fly fishing or regular (spinning) fishing. Both can be fun and challenging, and both have their advantages. But clearly, they are not the same thing. So, what are the differences between fly fishing and regular fishing (spin), and which one’s better?

Fly fishing uses a different kind of bait referred to as the fly. It also requires a heavier line and reel. You don’t use sinkers, but the line weight to cast with a completely different technique. Regular fishing uses standard reels and sinkers and is used to catch a larger variety of fish.

Some anglers say that fly fishing presents a challenge for every fisherman and is a different experience. It also enables you to catch at a higher rate, but the catch isn’t usually record-breakingly huge. It works only on particular species, although it’s evolving lately. Regular fishing might be slower, but you can catch almost every species, depending on your setup.

Let’s dive deeper into both types and help you decide what you believe is a better option for you.

What is fly fishing?

What is fly fishing

Fly fishing is another technique for fishing that requires an entirely different technique and rod setup than regular spinning fishing. It got its name from the lure you use when fishing, called “the fly.” It’s a lightweight artificial lure bait made to resemble species that fish might find naturally around their habitat.

It usually resembles insects such as flies, hence, the name for this type of fishing. The flies may also look like other small stuff natural to the fish in question, such as smaller baitfish, shrimps, or other invertebrates. It’s important to know what kind of fish you are trying to catch because every species reacts differently to specific lures.

If you use a lure that doesn’t resemble anything that the fish would naturally hunt and eat in their habitat, you’ll have a much harder time catching anything. Baits usually float on the surface to deceive the fish (as insects naturally would, too), and they are called dry flies. Another fly type is called a “nymph,” which floats just below the surface or close to the river bed.

As for the method, fly fishing uses only the weight of the line to propel the lure forward. There are no additional weights put on the line, and the lure is very light, so you have to develop a unique technique to cast successfully. It’s a bit tricky, but once you master it, you’ll be able to catch it at a much higher rate.

First of all, you need a special line for fly fishing that’s thicker and heavier (often coated in plastic). That allows you to cast the line using its weight instead of the weight of the lure or additional sinkers. The rod and reel are also different, usually more flexible and robust enough to transfer energy to the line when casting. We’ll get into the technique a bit more later.

What species can you catch with fly fishing?

Fly fishing is usually associated with freshwater fishing, especially in rivers and streams. That’s how and where the techniques were developed. However, today’s fly fishing setups are suitable for lake fishing and saltwater angling, too. With a correct setup of the rod, reel, line, and lure, you can catch virtually any fish in any water, just like regular spin fishing.

Freshwater species to catch with fly fishing

As we said, rivers and streams are the most common fly fishing locations, so the species inhabiting those areas are the most common targets. Trout is by far the most popular option, and you can find them mostly in rivers and streams. Salmon, bass, pike, and carp are also quite hot for fly anglers. 

If you’re patient enough to fly fishing at a lake, you’ll probably catch fewer fish, but they will usually be much bigger. Therefore, if your goal is quantity, head for rivers and streams. But, if you wish to get that record-breaking giant, your best bet is one of the Great Lakes in North America.

If you know when the spawning season for salmon is, go for the lakes, as they tend to spawn in places where the water is more still. All kinds of salmon are suitable for fly fishing, including pink, silver, and king salmon.

Again, these are merely the most popular species. However, if you have the correct technique and choose the right set-up, you can catch any fish that’s common in your favorite fishing spot.

Saltwater species to catch with fly fishing

Saltwater fly fishing became more popular as the equipment developed. It’s more durable and stronger now, which makes it suitable for catching even the bigger species. Of course, the bigger the target fish, the stronger, heavier set-up you’ll need.

Also, it’s best to use a reel designed to be resistant to salt water because if you don’t, you’ll quickly damage your equipment to the point where it’s unusable.

If you want the common species that live closer to the shore, you can fly fish from the coast, from a pier, or on a boat. Depending on what kind of lures you plan on using, you can catch bonefish, redfish, tarpons, snooks, or striped bass. 

Going with a more sturdy setup, even the more prominent species aren’t impossible to catch with a fly fishing rod. Marlins and tuna are pretty popular, but we’ve seen guys catch huge wahoo fish and even sharks!

There are no limits to what you can catch, but there’s “a catch,” so to speak. You need to know what works on what fish, as they don’t all eat the same things. Choose a fly that resembles things they usually eat. That means you’ll have to adjust all the time, especially when going from fresh to saltwater.

Is fly fishing hard?

Many anglers say that fly fishing is a challenge, but in reality, it’s not that much harder than regular fishing once you master the casting technique. Moreover, you might catch even more fish if you can set everything up correctly.

There are countless possible lures, but you should make it simple for yourself as much as you can. Know what food might be around for the fish you’re fishing, and choose a similar lure. 

The type of lure also depends on what you want to catch. Bottom feeders will need lures called streamers and nymphs submerged under the surface and imitate crabs, leeches, etc. On the other hand, some species come closer to the surface to feed, so dry flies (also known as floaters) might be a better choice.

You can master the technique in a day or two if you have an excellent instructor. You need to follow a few steps with every cast, and once it becomes mechanical, you’ll have no problems with casting. Some people will need a week or two, and casting with different setups might present a challenge. But, as with everything else in life, you’ll get better with experience.

To cast properly when fly fishing, you need to use a special technique that uses line weight to propel the lure instead of the weight of the lure itself. How you cast will depend on what the conditions are. Do you have enough room to release as you see fit, or should it be more discreet because of other people around you? Are you casting from solid ground or a boat?

If there are no limitations, a forward cast is the most common technique. You whisk the fly over your head and behind the shoulder, and just as the line straightens, you forcefully pull it forward. It will cause a momentum transfer from the rod to the line and propel the lure forward. There’s also the double-haul, backcast, roll cast, etc., but we recommend mastering the basics first.

You should be careful if you’re fly fishing with other people around you or if there’s lush vegetation surrounding you. You’ll need to use a side cast or a roll cast to avoid obstacles or other people around you.

If casting from a boat, you’ll also need a technique that requires less forward momentum and rocking the boat. The loss of balance can cause the fly to go where you didn’t intend to cast, or you can end up tumbling in the water yourself.

Is fly fishing expensive?

A great thing about fly fishing is that generally, you don’t need a lot of equipment, nor do you need the expensive stuff to catch fish successfully. But, as in any other sport of activity, having better equipment changes the game.

For entry-level equipment, you’ll need a rod, a line, a fly reel, and, of course, a fly. The prices vary a lot, depending on what kind of equipment you want. There are rods priced at $50, and then there are ones worth well over $1000. 

Sure, the expensive ones are better and more durable, and you’ll be able to change more stuff on your setup, but the cheap ones work just fine for recreational fishing. The same thing goes for other parts of your equipment. The heavier lines aren’t necessarily better (depends on what fish you’re trying to catch) but usually cost more. 

Reels shouldn’t go for too much, as there’s not that much difference between a $40 and a $200 reel. It’s better to invest in a better rod if you want a game-changer. It means so much more in fly fishing.

Finally, the fly lures are where most of the difference lies between fly fishing and traditional lure and bait fishing. They are super cheap, be it buying or making yourself. You can use some wire, feathers, and fur, attach it to a hook, and voila, a free fly! It’s pointless to spend tons of money on fly lures. The fish doesn’t know how much you paid. If it looks tasty, it will bite!

One other piece of equipment that’s not obligatory to go fly fishing, but we still advise you to buy, is waterproof waders and boots. Fly fishing includes a lot of standing in cold, shallow waters, especially when angling in streams, which will cause big discomfort if you don’t have proper footwear.

Overall, you can get a tremendous entry-level setup (including a fly rod, reel, line, and lures) for $250. A rod, reel, and line combo that works in most freshwater spots will go for about $200. Use the remaining $50 to buy a nice fly case and several different flies. Get some dry flies, some nymphs, and some streamers to cover the widest variety of fish you’ll be able to catch.

If you add waterproof footwear to the mix, you’ll probably spend another $100 or $200, but trust us, it’s money well spent, especially when going for trout, pikes, or salmon.

What baits should you use for fly fishing?

What baits should you use for fly fishing

You need to use special artificial flies for fly fishing. They are more lightweight, and although there are several different types, they all work virtually the same. It’s sporadic to see live bait on a fly fishing setup, but experienced anglers sometimes use small worms or shrimps, depending on where they’re fishing. We’ll recommend some of the best lures we’ve tried that’ll indeed work.

ODDSPRO Fly Fishing Flies Kit

As we said, it’s always the best idea to have a variety of flies at hand, so you can switch up and see what works best around your favorite fishing spot. That’s why buying a kit that includes various flies is the best choice for beginners. The ODDSPRO Fly Fishing Flies Kit contains 36-78 pieces of various flies, including floaters, dry flies, streamers, and nymphs. 

You’ll also get a nice tackle box, so you don’t have to worry about that, too. And, the price is very reasonable, which makes it even better! The flies themselves are made to look quite realistic and imitate either the insects living around the water or insects that spend their larvae stage in the water and crawl beneath the surface. It’s a cool, cheap, and versatile set.

Outdoor Planet Assorted Fly Fishing Lure Pack

If you’re the type of person that likes to have more choices, the Outdoor Planet Assorted Fly Fishing Lure Pack is the best choice for you not only on entry-level but if you are a more experienced fly angler, too. 

They offer numerous different packs. Some are designed to cover the widest variety, some are must-have fly sets, while some are designed and specialized for particular fish, such as trout flies. Your safest bet would be the top-rated set, as it contains all their best and most popular flies.

What rods should you use for fly fishing?

What rods should you use for fly fishing

When you decide to invest a bit more to upgrade your equipment, you should go for a new rod. They make all the difference when fly fishing. We’ll recommend a great entry-level rod, and then one that’s a bit more pricy but well worth the money. But, before buying, make sure to explore a bit more, as there are numerous options out there.

Echo Carbon XL

The Echo Carbon XL Fly Rod is an awesome beginner’s fly rod that’s versatile enough to take you on river runs, streams, or lakes. It might not be enough to pull the biggest fish out of the water, but it certainly won’t break easily. We’ve used us for about three years, and it still didn’t break; we just upgraded to another rod.

Sage X Fly Rod

If you want the pro kit but still get a fairly reasonable price, the Sage X Fly Rod sweeps the competition in a similar price range. There are more expensive models, but as you further up the price tags, the differences get a lot smaller. Sage X is a great rod that’s surprisingly strong, precise, and built to perfection.

Additional equipment for fly fishing

Even if you don’t need it to fish, sometimes it’s great to have additional equipment, especially if it’s helpful to catch more or be more successful. Apart from the necessary setup, you should always consider waders, warm boots, hats, and polarized sunglasses. It will improve your comfort, and comfort enhances productivity.

Also, a hemostat and line nippers are pretty helpful for beginners, as they help you cut your lines neatly and remove hooked fish from the hooks. You’ll also need a net, as you would when spin fishing.

What is spin (regular) fishing?

We’ll keep it shorter about regular fishing, as it’s the type that most of us know. It’s called spin fishing or spinning because of two things: The type of reel you use and the type of lures you use that move in a spinning motion, resembling natural movement to attract fish to bite.

The setup consists of a rod, a reel that differentiates from a fly reel because of the casting methods, a line, a lure, and, in most cases, some lead weights (sinkers) used to improve casting distance and accuracy. You use sinkers if the lure itself doesn’t have enough weight to pull the line when casting. A bobber (float) is regularly used to indicate when the fish is biting.

Spinning is used in virtually every area and every fish in the world. Depending on how you set up your rods and the rest of the equipment, you can go for baitfish, and game fish, including bottom feeders and predators. You can also go spin fishing in fresh and saltwater too. The difference in versatility between spinning and fly fishing was a lot bigger before, but it’s still apparent.

What fish can you catch with spin fishing?

With spinning, it’s not about what you can catch. It’s about what you want to catch. It’s possible to catch almost every kind of fish in existence with spin fishing, but it will depend on your equipment, the location where you’re fishing, the lures and baits, etc. Also, it depends on the technique you use for casting and reeling.

For instance, if you use the bottom bouncing technique, you’ll attract fish that are commonly bottom feeders, such as trouts, bass, etc. When live lining (using live bait), it allows your lure to get into cracks and rock formations, which is where game fish usually hides. That way, you can catch predators such as perch, pike, etc.

Chumming is often used to attract bigger fish to a particular spot, especially sharks (when fishing in saltwater areas. You’ll catch sharks, snooks, tarps, and even barracudas! To say it briefly, you can catch anything, but it all depends on how you set up your gear. If you’re an experienced angler, you’ll have no trouble changing set-ups.

If you’re a beginner, don’t worry. Have somebody help you learn what works, and how it works, or simply go with a trial-and-error method. Try new things, feel the waters, and see what works best for you.

Is spin fishing hard?

We wouldn’t say that it’s hard to learn how to spin fish, but it’s more complicated than you may think. It requires precision, power, and technique. Every setup and every method has a different approach, so you should learn how to do a technique properly before trying it out yourself. That is if you want to avoid lost or broken equipment (trust me, we’ve been through a lot).

Setting up your rod and gear is the first thing people tend to have trouble with. But, if you know how to tie at least one knot, you’re good to go. Some casting techniques are more complex than others, though, but you will learn “on the job.” What we mean is, you’ll get better with time, because no book or lecture can change your experience on the water.

As for the most common techniques, you have bottom bouncing, jigging, live lining, walking the dog, etc. Every technique has a special purpose. Casting distance is achieved with the weight of the lures and sinkers, and an experienced angler can cast a spin rod thirty meters or even more! It takes time and practice, but once you master it, it’s as easy as breathing!

Is spinning expensive?

Regular spinning fishing will be only as expensive as you want it to be. To begin casting, you need a rod, a line, a spinning reel, and lures (crankbaits, blinkers, etc.). As you progress, you’ll probably want more equipment or better equipment, but cross those bridges when you get there.

For instance, some lures cost merely $10 to $20. They won’t last long, but most of them will do the trick for you for a while. On the other hand, the highest-quality lures can go for more than $300. They usually last longer, but in terms of helping you be a better angler, there’s not that big of a difference to be worth that much money.

Overall, you can get a nice spinning fishing entry-level setup for around $200-$300, depending on the amount of equipment you need. The essential equipment is a rod, a line, a spinning reel, hooks, and bait (lures). If you want to go further, you need a net, a tackle box, a foldable chair, warm waterproof clothes, polarized sunglasses, coolers (for the fish), fishing pliers, and additional equipment. The more you want to have, the more it costs.

Lures and rods to use for spin fishing

The setup you choose for your fishing trip will determine what you’ll catch. Every type of lure is suitable for another species, depending on what they eat regularly in nature.

Soft spinning lures such as The TRUSCEND fishing lures are quite common, and the most notable targets are bass and pikes. However, these lures work great in salt and fresh water, so it’s wise to have one at hand.

If you don’t want to use additional weight and sinkers, choose a hard bait such as the Berkley Spin Rocket that weighs just enough to pull the line and allow you to cast further.

As for the rods, if you don’t have a budget limit, go hard with the St. Croix Rods Premier Spinning Rod and the adjacent reel. It’s perfectly suited for spin fishing, and you will feel the difference between its performance compared to cheaper models.

You can still get a decent rod for a lot less money. For instance, the Fenwick HMG Spinning Rod is a rod that we have in our arsenal but rarely use now (we used it a lot as a beginner). However, it’s light and compact, and even though the finishing leaves something to be desired, it’s still a friendly beginner’s rod.

What are the differences, and what should you choose, fly fishing or spinning?

Ultimately, the choice between fly fishing and spin fishing should be only yours, depending on what you find more exciting or interesting. If you’re still uncertain about what to choose, we’ll try to help by pointing out the main difference one more time.

The most significant difference between fly fishing and spinning is the way you cast. In fly fishing, the lures (flies) are incredibly lightweight, so you can’t use their weight to propel the line through the air. That’s why the line is a lot thicker and usually coated in plastic to provide enough weight to cast the lure.

As opposed to fly fishing, spinning uses the weight of the lure and additional weights called sinkers to propel the line through the air. The line is a lot lighter and thinner, so the tying and set-up methods are also different.

The difference in style requires different equipment too. Price-wise, fly fishing equipment tends to be a bit more expensive, but the difference is almost unseeable, especially if you’re considering only the essential, entry-level gear.

Supposed that you’ve mastered both techniques, fly fishing is generally considered to allow you to catch more fish. On the other hand, you’ll be much more versatile with a spinning rod, meaning that you’ll be able to catch a wide variety of fish in a wide variety of locations without having to change your setup too much.