The Difference Between Fly Fishing and Spin Fishing

A detailed explanation of the differences

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

DifferencesFly FishingFishing
Rod TypeFly Rods – Lightweight, Used to cast line by false casting.Spin Rods – Heavier, casts monofilament line with singel cast.
Flies vs LuresFly 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 TypeFly 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 RiversFly 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 TypeFly Rods – Lightweight, Used to cast line by false casting.Spin Rods – Heavier, casts monofilament line with singel cast.
 Fly Line vs Fishing LineFly Rods – Lightweight, Used to cast line by false casting.Spin Rods – Heavier, casts monofilament line with singel cast.
PresentationFly 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.

Learn Exactly How to Identify Any Insect & Catch More Fish

Fully Online | Self Paced | Lifetime Access

Online Entomology Course

  • Become a Fly Selection Artisan
  • Get Forever Access, Including Content Updates
  • Get Three, 50% Off Coupons for Flies
  • Get a Free Bug Seine to Catch Insects
Regular Price: $199.99
Complete Course for Life: $99.50 (50% Off)
Buy Now

Course Outline

  • Length: 7 pages | Video: 3m 14s

    In our introduction, we lay out the framework and tools needed to identify any insect, anywhere in the world, and match it to a fly in your box. We cover insect orders, stages, and insect behaviors. With this information, the rest of the course flows together perfectly and makes it easy to retain the knowledge when you’re on the river.

  • Length: 16 pages | Video: 1m 59s

    Midges are present in a river and lake system year round making them a key insect to understand and identify when you’re on the water. Learn how to identify a midge in all stages, match it to a fly in your box and catch more fish. Includes tips on how to fish each stage of midge insects

  • Length: 19 Pages | Video 1m 12s

    Mayflies are the most diverse insect a fly fisherman needs to identify and understand. Learn the stages, flies to use, how to fish those flies and common hatches, colors and sizes to watch out for in the river and lakes around the world.

    In addition, since mayflies are so prevelant, we address all the common species like Baetis, PMD, Callibaetis, Tricos, Hex, Isonychia, Green Drakes, March Browns, Hendricksons, Cahills, and even the famous Adams (FYI, no such mayfly as an adams, if you didn’t know that, you probably need this course.)

  • Length 12 Pages | Video 1m 25s

    Caddis are an exciting and highly important insect to trout. Learn what stages hold the most importance to trout and how to match them to flies in your box. We also provide some critical tips to improve your presentation on the river.

  • Length 22 Pages | Video 3m 11sec

    We cover the most exciting bugs to fish in this lesson – stoneflies and terrestrials. Though not alike in many ways, they are fun to fish and are known for producing great summer fishing. Learn about the elusive stonefly and the coveted terrestrials including patterns and tips on how to fish them.

    We grouped stoneflies and terrestrials together only to keep length lessons similar. Stoneflies only have two stages and terrestrials only have one that we as anglers have to worry about, so it makes good sense to add them into one lesson. Otherwise, there is really no comparison between the two.

  • Length: 10 pages | Video: 1m 23s

    These insects are fully aquatic and don’t hatch, yet they hold a vital importance to a trout’s diet. Learn about the underworld life of scuds, sowbugs and annelids (worms) so you can catch more fish, especially on tailwaters.

  • Length: 19 Pages | Video 1m 12s

    Fly anglers who love fishing lakes need to pay special attention to this lesson. However, if you prefer rivers, you’d be surprised how many of these insects reside in your local waters and are important to trout throughout the seasons. Learn the insects, patterns and tips on fishing them in this lesson.

  • Length 12 Pages | Video 2m 32s

    In the final lesson, we address some easy tips and tricks to apply the knowledge, a larger framework for understanding how to catch fish anywhere, and anytime.  We also provide some epic resources you can print and keep with you that are easy identification guides and hatch charts for insects.