Can You Fly Fish With A Spinning Reel?

Fly Fishing With A Spinning Reel

There are many ways to fish, but one is quite different from the others: fly fishing. Fly fishing is a type of angling that is unique and requires different equipment from other styles. Is there any crossover, and can you fly fish with a spinning reel?

Fly fishing is meant to be done with fly fishing gear. Otherwise, there would not be fly fishing specific reels, rods, and lines. However, there is some room for crossover with a spinning reel. Although it is less than ideal, fly fishing can be done without fly fishing gear. 

It will be up to you to decide whether investing in fly fishing equipment is worth it to you. 

Is It Possible To Cast A Fly With A Spinning Reel? 

Although it is not ideal, you actually can cast flies with a spinning setup. Fly fishing specific gear will make the entire process much more comfortable, but it can absolutely be done when in a pinch.

You will need to make some modifications to your setup. Although spinning reels are perfect for throwing light lures compared to bait casters, flies are so light that even they can’t handle them well.

Thankfully, some great, affordable modifications can be made to convert your spinning rig into a fly fishing machine.

What Equipment Is Necessary Fly Fish With Spinning Gear? 

First and foremost, you need a spinning setup. This seems obvious, but it is the first step in throwing flies without fly fishing gear.

Next, you will need a fly. You are probably used to using lures and live bait when using spinning gear, but you are here to transform it into a fly fishing setup. Picking a fly is based solely on personal preference. Pick your go-to fly and get ready to fish.

Two major add-ons will allow you to throw ultra-light flies with a spinning setup.

Castings bubbles are just how they sound. They are clear, floating spheres that will add weight to your line and allow you to cast far. If you want to cast long distances, you can add some water to the bubble and create a heavier line. This helps make up for the fly fishing weighted line and reel components that allow you to cast light flies.

The other weighted option is a D Lead Rig. This acts as a conduit between the line on your reel and the leader connecting to the fly. These come in various weights, so figure out home much extra weight is needed to be successful.

There are a few different types of lead rigs that will add the necessary weight to throw flies.

Without some sort of weighted rig, it is nearly impossible to cast a fly with a spinning reel.

Spin Fishing Gear for Fly Fishing

Which Add-On Is Better? 

Well, there is no cut and dry answer to which of these two rigs is better.

When using dry flies or smaller presentations, using the bubble method is probably preferred. This will keep the fly where you want it to be without too many issues. This will also help add some finesse to the presentation of the fly.

Click here to read what is the difference between wet flies and dry flies.

On the flip side, larger flies you want to submerge under the water should probably be used with a weighted rig. If you are trying to strip the fly below the water’s surface, the floating bubble will prohibit this from happening.

If you consistently rely on your spinning reel to fly fish, it may be a good idea to have both rigs handy. This allows you to change your strategy depending on the specific situation. Just like you would have different flies for different scenarios, you should have a couple of different rigs on deck just in case.

What Is Nymphing, And How Does It Relate To Spin Fly Fishing? 

Nymphing is a style of fly fishing that takes place below the surface. Instead of working a fly floating on the water’s surface, this technique imitates insects in their developmental stages while still living underwater.

You can read our article, “What Is Nymphing?” to learn more. 

Some examples of insects that are imitated through nymphing include:

  • Caddisflies
  • Mayflies
  • Stoneflies

How does this technique specifically relate to fly fishing with a spinning reel? As you already know, there are two types of ways to increase your line’s weight. One keeps the line at the surface, and one uses a lead weight to sink part of the line.

Using a lead rig to bring the line below the surface when using a spinning setup is critical. Especially since many monofilaments float, you will need to do something to get that fly down.

Like with any form of fly fishing, there are specific pieces of gear for everything you would do. There are nymphing rods that are made just for nymphing. Using this technique with a spinning reel isn’t ideal, but it can be done like the other forms of fly fishing.

Catching Fish from fly fishing with a spinning reel

Is Spin Fly Fishing A Good Alternative?

Now that you know a bit more about fly fishing and how it can be done with a spinning reel, you may be wondering if it is worth doing. Well, this is a question that depends on each person individually.

There are physical limitations when it comes to fly fishing with a spinning reel. There is a certain elegance and finesse that comes with fly fishing with the proper gear. This is extremely hard to replicate without the right equipment.

If you want to know what you need to start fly fishing, read our article, “What Does A Beginner Fly Fisher Need?

Along the same lines, fly fishing is all about the fly dropping onto the surface very discreetly and efficiently. This is also hard to do with a spinning rod and reel because that is not what it was made for.

It comes down to if you just want to get by or if you want to set yourself up for the best success possible. If it is the latter, investing in the fly fishing gear should become a priority. 

Beginner fly fishing kits are not that expensive. Check out for great deals.

Why Avoid Spin Fly Fishing If You Can

It is admirable to try to cast flies with a spinning reel, but it is not for everyone. If money is an issue, this could be a way to avoid shelling out cash for fly fishing gear. If you do it regularly, it will probably become worth it to invest in the correct equipment.

A spinning setup cannot produce the same efficiency and results as a fly fishing rig on the physical side. In a way, using a spinning reel is you just trying to imitate the action without getting the full package.  

In the short term, converting your spinning reel into a fly fishing rig can be done relatively easily. Once you take in fly fishing as many hobbies and enjoy the process, getting the proper gear is the next step.

As you grow as an angler, getting more technical with your gear is a lot of its fun. Adding new rods and buying new flies is almost as fun as fishing itself. Therefore, using a spinning reel can be a fantastic gateway into fly fishing before you have to buy the specific gear. 

Fly fishing doesn’t have to cost hundreds of dollars and only be a sport for the privileged. It can be done on virtually any budget, especially when taking advantage of the crossover between angling styles.

Good luck and happy fishing!

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