For years, there has been a debate among anglers surrounding fly fishing vs. spin fishing, with fly anglers claiming that their technique was better than spin fishing. Some anglers have claimed that spin fishing is way more accessible and more fun than fly fishing. So to settle the debate once and for all, we compiled the following article on fly fishing vs. spin fishing explained.

The primary difference between these fishing techniques is that with spin fishing, the weight of the terminal tackle pulls the line out to cast to cast the lure while with fly fishing, the fly line provides weight to cast nearly weightless lure. (1)

Despite having numerous similarities and being practical, these techniques are quite different. So in this article, we’ll show you the difference between the two and what makes each of them unique. We’ll also help you determine which technique is perfect for you.

Catching trout fly fishing
Catching trout fly fishing

Fly Fishing Vs. Spin Fishing

Spin fishing and fly fishing are different fishing techniques that have been used for centuries. And over the last few decades, they have evolved into two unique fishing methods with varying styles of casting and fishing gears. Both ways can help you catch fish, but some anglers would argue that one is more fun than the other.

The premise behind these fishing techniques is the same; you have to cast a fly, lure or bait into the water with the fishing rod as your lever. Spin fishing is distinguished from fly fishing by the type of reel and rod used.

Difference between spinning and fly fishing rods reels and lures
Difference between spinning and fly fishing rods reels and lures

Unlike fly fishing rods, there is no trigger attached at the base of the spin fishing rod. (2) Plus, the materials used to make these rods are usually the same, and in most cases, it’s carbon fiber or fiberglass, and traditional ones are made using bamboo, hickory, and ash. (3)

Therefore, settling the debate between these two techniques and determining which method is superior to the other can be pretty challenging.

And that is because it all depends on your preference; in fact, Norman Maclean once said that “in our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing” (8). So we will try and elaborate more on these two techniques in this article.

What is Fly Fishing?

The main goal of fly fishing is to trick the fish into biting the bait using an artificial fly attached to the line. This fishing technique gets its name from the lure being used to attract the fish. (4) Fly fishing is the oldest recreational angling technique whose origin dates back to 200 CE. In Macedonia and Europe, it was described by English writers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Casting nymphs fly fishing
Casting nymphs fly fishing

And while it’s fun, it does require some level of attention and patience. When fly fishing, anglers use long rods, which are from 7 to 11 ft. long, made from composites like graphite, fiberglass and bamboo. The reels are single action. Meaning that each revolution of the crank equates to one revolution of line on the reel spool. On to the heavy fly line a nearly invisible leader is tied.

Fly anglers use the rod to cast their artificial flies made from synthetic materials, feathers, or hair to resemble the fish’s food source. (5)

When fly fishing, the angler snaps the rod forth and back, allowing the weight of their lines to propel the weightless fly forward. It’s believed to be the most fulfilling and challenging fishing method in the fish sporting industry.

This fishing technique has inspired lots of contemplative and technical literature than all the other angling methods. (5)

It’s pretty popular among anglers who love challenging themselves while having fun and catching as many fish as possible. Plus, experienced fly anglers claim that it’s easier than it looks.

And although it’s supposed to be challenging, when arguing about fly fishing vs. spin fishing, most anglers have confirmed that it is more peaceful and has numerous mental and health benefits than you think.

What is Spin Fishing?

The whole idea behind spin fishing is catching lots of fish, and it is a more helpful method of catching other fish species instead of trout, which is common among fish anglers. And many anglers have gotten excellent results with this fishing technique. The first image that comes to mind when most folks hear the term fishing is a picture of them spin fishing. (6)

The idea of standing on the shores with your pole and casting the lure out several times until you catch something is quite enticing to most anglers. The term “spin” comes from the spinning reel that holds the line.

Spinning Reel for Fishing
Spinning Reel for Fishing

A spinning reel is the most common fishing reel and the easiest to use. Spin fishing can be quickly done anywhere to attract any fish, and it’s enjoyed by folks of all ages on the planet. Other than being famous, it is pretty easy to learn. (6)

Resistance lures used in spin fishing are what most anglers believe makes this technique superior to fly fishing. The spinner and lures used in spin fishing are effective and simple; after all, the idea is to imitate the prey fishes. And the fact that prey fishes go after the lures is a mystery, as they don’t resemble the prey fish, but the most important thing is that they are effective. (6)

Fly Fishing Vs. Spin Fishing: The Difference

Fishing Techniques

As aforementioned, the leader’s weight and the lighter line attached to the fly propel the fly to the intended spot when fly fishing. On the other hand, the weighted hook propels your lure to the intended fishing spot when spin fishing. Plus, you can never use spin fishing gear to fly fish and vice versa.

And that is because the spin fishing gear is designed to cast a bait which helps give the line the needed distance. On the other hand, the fly fishing rod flexes a lot to help provide the artificial the required distance. So interchanging these two gears is not possible.

How to Fly Fish

Fly fishing is way more about casting the line than the lure; after all, the fly is too light to pull the line from the casting reel. It is all about finding the right rhythm and movement for casting the fly rod. And the best method for learning how to cast fly is picturing the direction of your clock’s arm. (4)

When casting forward, your arm should be at 10.00 on the clock, and when doing a back cast, it should be at 2:00. Before starting any motion, your casting hand must be at neutral, i.e., at 12:00. By giving your arm a small operating window, you will have both the power and control in your cast. (4)

When casting, you should let out a one-rod length of the fly line out and hold the rod with one hand and do the following:

  • Slowly, swing the rod in the 2 o’clock position behind with the rod’s tip pointing upwards. Once the rod is past your shoulders, you can make a fast but smooth cast forward while letting the line rest on the surface of the water.
  • When casting, you can release more lines for the fly to cast even further. And to cast the line even further, you can pull the line a bit from the reel while casting.
  • After the fish has bitten the fly, you can set the hook by either pulling the line using your hand or pulling the rod suddenly. (4)

How to Spin Fish

Whether you have ever fished using a spinning rod or not, this is the most straightforward fishing technique you will ever learn. To spin fish, all you have to do is:

  • Place the lure at the end of the fishing pole and then cast it into the water.
  • After casting it, you can start reeling it in as fast as possible. The reeling speed is determined by the fish species you want to catch, with some species preferring fast lures while others prefer slower ones. (6)
  • Once you catch a fish, you can start reeling it in as fast as possible or let tit fight until it gets tired.

Your retrieval speed will also affect the lure, which helps attract the fish to the bait. But make sure you keep the underwater structures in mind when reeling. And the rate at which you avoid the snag will depend on your retrieval speed. The slower you reel, the deeper it will sink and vice versa. (5)

Guide Tip: Fly fishing isn’t just for rivers. Read how to cast a fly in a lake with this article – Can You Fly Fish in a Lake? – I find out

The Main Differences Between Spin and Fly Fishing Gear

When arguing the debate “fly fishing vs. spin fishing,” most anglers agree that the difference between the two is in gear used. Plus, the gear helps perfect the casting technique, and the fact that you can’t interchange their respective gear makes them unique. So, the other differences between these two are:

Fly Fishing vs. Spin Fishing: Lines

The line used in spin fishing is relatively thinner than the rod, which is why we use a spinner when fishing. On the other hand, the fly fishing line is heavier than the other fishing lines, making the fly rod flex back and forth. It is why the fly fishing lines were designated by weight related to the rod’s size.

spinning line vs fly line
spinning line vs fly line

The first fly fishing line was constructed using woven horsehair, which later evolved to silk fiber lines. With the evolution of plastic technology, synthetic materials have replaced natural materials. Modern fishing lines have a synthetic top layer that determines the slickness of the line, shape, and buoyancy. (7)

Guide Tip: If your seriously going to get into this fly fishing thing check out my FREE video dry fly fishing workshop at this link – https://www.how2flyfish.com/

A reliable fly line requires tapering; after all, a flat line cannot help with casting. So, you can look for a double tapered line when dealing with fiberglass or bamboo rods. (7) On the other hand, spin fishing lines are braid, fluorocarbon, or monofilament. (9)

The fly fishing line weight is a standard set by the industry, and it’s the measure of the weight in grain for the first 9.1 meters. The standard line weights are as below:

Table: Standards fly line weight (7)

DesignationWeight 9 (grain)Acceptable Range (grains)
1wt6054-66
2wt8074-86
3wt10094-106
4wt120114-126
5wt140134-146
6wt160152-168
7wt185177-193
8wt210202-218
9wt240230-150
10wt280270-290
11wt330318-342
12wt380368-398
Grains per the first 30ft of line

Fly Fishing Vs. Spin Fishing: Fishing Rods

The fishing rods for both fly and spin fishing use the same materials, with bamboo and fiberglass common with fly fishing rods. But what separates these two fishing rods is the bait used and the casting techniques. We use an artificial fly to lure the fish; therefore, the line must be heavier and the rod lighter. Fly rods are flexible and thin, with a hook on one end tied to the line using foam or fur. (3)

On the other hand, with spin fishing, you have a bait that helps you cast the line further; therefore, the rod can be thicker than the fly fishing rod. And that is because it doesn’t have to flex when casting the line onto the water.

But saltwater fly fishing rods are a bit thicker than freshwater fly fishing rods because of the difference in target size of fish (3)

Spinning rods are made using either fiberglass or graphite and have a PVC foam handle. The length of these rods ranges between 5.0ft and 8.5ft. Spinning rods have about eight guides on the lower side to help you control the fishing line.

And unlike most rods’ the spin reel is usually situated on the lower side of the rod, which means that you have to hold it using your dominant hand. (3)

Fly lines vary in weight and size depending on the fish targeted or the size of the artificial fly. For example, heavier and larger lines are best to cast heavier artificial flies and installed on the right rod. Therefore, when it comes to size, the length and weight of the rod are determined by the fishing line. (3)

Unlike spin fishing rods which are not that strict when matching the lines with the rods, fly fishing rods must be matched correctly with the right lines. After all, both the rod and lines come with a designated weight usually indicated on them. So make sure you match them as per their weights.

Fly Fishing Vs. Spin Fishing: Reel

Spin fishers use a spinning reel, the commonest reel in the market, while fly fishing uses a fly reel. A fly reel is merely used as a storage device when fly fishing since the angler strips the line and holds it in one of their hands while manipulating the rod using the other hand. (7)

On the other hand, the spinning reel is usually active during the fishing process. The angler uses the reel to control the distance, while the angler uses the hand in fly fishing.

Spinning rod, reel and lures
Spinning rod, reel and lures

When fishing in a small pond, a trout angler will discover that the reel is a storage device and nothing more. But after the fish has caught the bait, both spin and fly fishing reels become a line recovering and fish fighting system.

Recently, newer fly casting reels have been developed for catching huge fish. These fly reels have a disc-type adjustable, mechanical drag system that allows anglers to fish using light leaders.

Fly Fishing Vs. Spin Fishing: Target Species

Spin fishing can help you catch a wide range of fish species, salt, and freshwater. But some fish are more susceptible to spin fishing than others, including Bass, Catfish, Pike, Walleye, Bream, Perch, Salmon, and Trout. (2)  These fish are generally deeper in the water column.

Fly fishing is one of the best techniques for catching Trout, Panfish, Steelhead, Salmon and some saltwater species including striped bass, tuna, snook, redfish, sea trout, tarpon, sailfish, and salmon. (3)  Fly fisherman typically target fish in the to 15 feet of the water column.

Fly Fishing Vs. Spin Fishing: Other Differences

Another main difference between fly and spin fishing is the lure used to attract the fish. With spin fishing, the lures used are heavier, and they usually imitate some small fishes, which is why spin fishing can be used to catch a wide range of fishes.

Fly fishing uses artificial flies resembling the trout’s natural food items. The attractive artificial flies can trigger some instinctive movements that attract the trout. (3)

The bait used in these fishing methods helps determine which species will be caught by the angler. Fly is the main food for trout; therefore, you are highly likely to catch trout when fly fishing. On the other hand, spin fishing uses many spinners and lures that imitate the prey fishes for zander and pike. (2)

FAQs

Is Fly Fishing Harder Than Spin Fishing?

Well, the answer depends on the experience level of the angler. But if the fly fisher and spin fisher have the same experience level, spin fishing will be easier in most fishing spots, except when fishing for trout in rivers. After all, spin fishing is arguably more straightforward than its counterpart as its result-oriented.

Guide Tip: Find out if fly fishing is tough with this article – Is Fly Fishing Hard to Learn?

Can I Use Artificial Flies on Spinning Rods?

Yes, you can use flies to catch fish with a simple reel and spinning rod. Fly fishing using a spin rod is practical and possible.

Do I Need a Special Fishing Rod for Fly Fishing?

Yes, the fly rod is quite different from all the other types of fishing rods. And since you have to match it with the right line and reel, you must know where you’re fishing and the type of fish present when picking the right fly rod.

One More Cast

Determining the winner when debating fly fishing vs. spin fishing can be pretty challenging, as the answer varies depending on your preference. Some anglers prefer fly fishing, while others only know how to catch fish using spin fishing gear. Luckily, they are both very effective, and with a bit of training, you can catch as many fishes as possible.


Are you looking for some great How To Fly Fish Articles? Checkout this list:


Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How 2 Fly Fish

Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How 2 Fly Fish

Sources

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  2. Wikipedia, Spin fishing, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spin_fishing/ Accessed September 7, 2021
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  7. Wikipedia contributors, Fly Fishing tackle,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fly_fishing_tackle#Fly_reels/ Accessed September 5, 2021
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  9. Falcon Guides, Basic illustrated freshwater fishing,https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=h2yPBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA14&dq=spin+fishing+lines+are+braid,+fluorocarbon+or+monofilament&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj_3uCFnfHyAhVIOhoKHUIuD4AQ6AEwAnoECAoQAg#v=onepage&q=spin%20fishing%20lines%20are%20braid%2C%20fluorocarbon%20or%20monofilament&f=false/ Accessed September 7, 2021