The Difference Between Fly Fishing and Spin Fishing

A detailed explanation of the differences

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I was hanging out with one of my friends the other day, and they asked me how I spend my time since I’m often not out at parties, but instead off by myself on a river. This lead me to a conversation about my passion, fly fishing. As I was talking with my friend, he didn’t even know the difference between the two sports- fly fishing and spin fishing. I realized that I frequently have to explain to people the difference between the two as most people equate the two when in reality, they are worlds apart.

The only real similarity of fly fishing vs spin fishing is that you are still catching fish. That however, is where the similarities stop.

Additionally, in this article I will not be sharing my opinions, although they do exist, on which is better than the other. If proper care for the environment and the fish are taken, whatever floats your boat is the right choice for you.

Fly Fishing vs Spin Fishing Differences

Differences Fly Fishing Fishing
Rod Type Fly Rods – Lightweight, Used to cast line by false casting. Spin Rods – Heavier, casts monofilament line with singel cast.
Flies vs Lures Fly fishing uses flies (dry flies, nymphs, emergers, streamers) imitates all forms of food fish feed on. Spin fishing uses heavier lures normally imitating fish
Line Type Fly line, leader, tippet, used to cast the lightweight flies. monofilament line or other type to cast heavier lures that don’t need heavier line to cast.
Lakes vs Rivers Fly fishing is typically on moving water, though stillwater is still present and done frequently. Conversely, spin fishing is primarily done on stillwater vs rivers.
Rod Type Fly Rods – Lightweight, Used to cast line by false casting. Spin Rods – Heavier, casts monofilament line with singel cast.
 Fly Line vs Fishing Line Fly Rods – Lightweight, Used to cast line by false casting. Spin Rods – Heavier, casts monofilament line with singel cast.
Presentation Fly fishing allows for an upstream presentation and stealthier presentation. In addition, you can work in tighter quarters when fly fishing. Spin fishing works well for imitating bait fish or crawdads and are presented at all water depths and are retrieved vs thrown upstream and brought to you.

Though other differences exist, these are the main ones as it pertains to equipment and usage.

The Intent Difference

Fly Fishing – The intent of fly fishing is to typically to fool a fish on any artificial fly that is made with animal pieces (feathers, hair, etc). The desire of most fly fisherman is to challenge themselves with a more difficult form of fishing and catch as many fish as possible during the experience. This idea of challenging yourself is a core idea of fly fishing. Arguably, it is more peaceful, and has been branded as a more pure way to catch a fish. Typically a trout will prefer insect imitations most times, and using lures with spin fishing just doesn’t give you as many options to catch fish across trout waters. Recently, fly fisherman have been trying to catch anything and everything on a fly rod, and are able to do so in most cases, so to say fly fishing is just for trout, is really false these days.

Spin Fishing – is really meant to catch a lot of fish. It is likely a more versatile way to fish if you are going for different species aside from trout, and can have incredible results. Crankbaits, and other resistance lures that can only be used with spin rods, are an edge that spin fishing has over fly fishing any day. Though the skill of the angler often trumps any of the above mentioned, an equally matched spin fisherman vs a fly fisherman, the spin fisherman is probably the better bet if its not on a river for trout. The true intent of spin fishing is results driven and is arguably easier than fly fishing.

End of the Day

At the end of it all, which one is right for you? If you are looking to catch fish for dinner, and you’re near a lake, a spin rod is probably you best choice. However, if you’re looking for an experience with nature up on a stream or river in the mountains, then fly fishing, though more difficult to learn, is likely the best choice.

The best way to find out is to get out and try each. Spin rods are very cheap and you can try it out for under $100 easily. Fly fishing you can get by under $300 during the summer, but perhaps borrowing from a friend is a better first option. There is a steep learning curve to fly fishing, but it really pays off as a lifelong sport when you learn.

Isn’t it funny how our passions always seem to come out in every conversation? A simple game of hold em on party poker begins a spark in me to share the differences in fly fishing vs spin fishing simply because too many of my friends assume that they are pretty much the same thing.

I hope you now understand that fly fishing is much different than spin fishing both in intent, gear used, and ability to fish certain waters. Get out there and try what your interests are, you may just find a new life long passion along the way.

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