Spin Cast vs. Fly Fishing on the River

   12.20.19

Spin Cast vs. Fly Fishing on the River

When heading out for a day of fishing on the river, you’ll come across a variety of techniques and gear being used. Baitcasters are a rare sight if trout are the target, but both fly fishermen and spin cast enthusiasts will be out in droves on certain days. If you’re using a spin cast reel, you may look over at the fly fisherman and wonder, does he know something that I don’t? The answer in many cases, is yes, but that is not always the case.

Spin Cast vs. Fly Fishing is an age-old debate. Fly fisherman will swear by the fly, while spinning enthusiasts will scoff at the fly-fishing technique. The key distinction being made here, though, is which technique works best on the river.

Fly Fishing Fundamentals

Fly fishing is a vastly different way of fishing than any kind of spin or baitcasting. The rod is longer, and lighter, and the reel functions as a line holder that contains no inner mechanisms to help you bring in your fish. Fly fishing uses its own unique line, rod, and reel, and requires a slightly different skillset than angling with any other kind of modern rig.

There are a wide variety of flies that can be used to both imitate and attract fish. There are also two forms of flies: dry flies which sit on top of the water, and nymphs which go below the surface. Oftentimes you’ll tie as many as two nymphs from the hook of your dry fly to cover a wide range of water. This is one area where fly fishing has a clear advantage over spinning.

Casting in fly fishing involves an entirely new technique when compared to any other form of casting. It takes practice but can be mastered to a beginner level in an afternoon. The idea is to use the fly line to propel your fly forward.

Some will try to tell you that fly fishing is about challenging yourself, and not about catching more fish. Do not listen to these people, because they clearly haven’t spent much time fly fishing. While spin fishing can outshine fly fishing in certain areas, there are many other times when fly fishing will be your ultimate weapon on the river.

Spin Cast Fundamentals

Spinning rigs are one of two different reel designs: a spincast reel, or a spinning reel. Spinning reels are your popular, open face reels with the spool hanging vertically down from your hand. Spincast reels, conversely, sit on top of the rod, and are operated with a simple press of your thumb on a button that releases the line. Spincast reels are also completely covered other than the front eyelet where your line is released out through the rod guides.

Spin Cast vs. Fly Fishing

As a passionate fly fisherman myself, I would have to say that fly fishing will give you a distinct advantage when fishing on a river. There is no doubt that fly fishing can be more effective than using a spin cast reel on a river when a hatch is alive and buzzing. Being able to target fish topwater that are already rising to the surface is an easy button for an experienced fly fisherman. Even lacking a fresh hatch, though, fly fishing can still be more effective at pulling fish out of the river.

But with that said, a spinning rig can be used to your advantage when frequency of casts and efficiency in catching and releasing are the top priority. When it comes to spin cast vs. fly fishing on the river, both methods can be effective. Your choice will ultimately be determined by what bait you’re using, and how experienced of an angler you are.

Spinning Advantages vs. Fly Fishing

The main advantage of a spin setup is being able to cast a further distance. While you may be able to cast just as far with a fly rod, it will take a much longer amount of time given the number of back casts you’ll have to make.

To cast further with a fly rod, you must pull line out of the spool simultaneously while pivoting your arm during the back cast. Each successive back cast gives you an opportunity to pull out more line with your other hand. This is a technique on its own that is difficult for a beginner to master. So, if you’re just starting out with fly fishing, your casting distance will be limited.

However, on a river casting distance may not be a priority. Depending on how wide the river is, it may be just as easy to cast as far as you need with a fly rod.

Another distinct advantage spin fishing has over fly fishing is the ability to cast heavy lures. The bait used on a fly rod is typically a weightless fly, and the fly is powered by an attached leader, with the heavy weight of the fly line propelling the fly forward. The lightweight fly has it’s time to shine in certain situations, but if you want to target bigger fish, a weighted spoon will give you an advantage.

Lastly, in saltwater there is no question that spin fishing is the clear winner over fly fishing. While some fly anglers can land impressive fish on saltwater, there is no question that it’s much more difficult than using a spinning rig.

Spin Cast vs. Fly Fishing on the River – The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, there is no reason to not learn both spinning and fly fishing techniques and bring a fly rod and a spin rod whenever you fish.

If the trout simply aren’t going after your flies no matter which setup you chose, try tossing some spoons with your spin rod to change it up.

If you see fish rising to the surface, check for what bug is hatching and try to match the hatch with a fly. You will undoubtedly catch many more fish on a fly when they are actively feeding on the surface, because a spinning lure cannot match their food of choice.

Many other days you’ll find that spin casting helps you to cover more ground and catch many more fish than when using a fly. So, the bottom line is that if you’re well-versed in both fly fishing and spin casting, you’ll be prepared to catch the most possible fish.

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