Outdoor Horizon is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission.

Conventional Spin Fishing vs Fly Fishing – The 4 Main Differences

Spin fishing and fly fishing are two of the most popular methods used to catch fish. While to the untrained eye they may look similar, there are a number of significant differences between these two styles of angling.

The 4 main differences between conventional spin fishing and fly fishing are:

  1. Casting technique
  2. Lures
  3. Fishing Technique
  4. Location

Fly fishing is a precise form of angling, one which is seen as more of a challenge and is often considered a more natural approach. Conventional spin fishing places more emphasis on the quantity of fish caught. Below, we take a closer look at the main differences between these two types of fishing.

4 Main Differences Between Conventional Spin Fishing And Fly Fishing

1. Casting Technique

One of the prime differences between spin fishing and fly fishing involves casting. Those who go fly fishing are generally not so concerned about the volume of fish they will catch, whereas this can often be the goal when spin fishing. This difference of purpose is reflected in the different casting techniques.

Fly fishing depends on the weight of the line when casting. When fly fishing you use a back-and-forth motion on the rod to build the momentum required to cast the fly toward your target. The rhythm from this technique, known as false casting, creates energy in the line and through the bent rod, allowing for the forward propulsion of the cast when this energy is released.

It Takes Practice

Casting when fly fishing is not an easy skill and takes practice to master. However, it provides precision casting when targeting a specific section of water or a particularly elusive fish. Different anglers may have different casting techniques, but mastering the basics of this skill is the first step toward successful fly fishing.

Casting when spin fishing is a lot simpler and does not involve the back-and-forth movement on the rod and line of fly fishing. Instead of using the line weight, spin fishing uses the weight of the lure or weight on the hook to facilitate the cast.

This means in spin fishing you can simply cast the lure out and begin the retrieval process from there. This casting technique is one of the reasons spin fishing allows you to cover more water during the course of a session. With spin fishing there is more of a focus on catching larger quantities of fish than is generally the case when fly fishing.

2. Lures

Both spin fishing and fly fishing require lures that replicate the natural food source in order to tempt the fish to bite. However, the type of lures used is another major difference between these two angling methods. The difference is both in the look and in the weight of the lures.

Fly Fishing Lures

Fly fishing is all about providing a small, lightweight ‘fly’. These artificial lures are designed to imitate the natural insects and live bait the fish would prey upon. Flies can come in a huge variety of sizes, colors and patterns as the angler looks to match the natural food source. They are usually made from light materials such as feathers, wrapped around a single hook.

Spin Fishing Lures

Lures used for spin fishing are larger and heavier and tend to imitate larger prey compared to fly fishing lures. They can come in an enormous range of shapes, sizes and patterns, and can be made from various materials including plastic, rubber and metal.

Spin fishing lures may also have additional features, such as floating lures which can splash the surface to trick the fish in to biting. Using live bait is also another option when fishing with spinning gear.

When fly fishing the artificial flies used as lures can be intricate, with anglers taking a lot of pride in their creations. For spin fishing the lures retain practicality to aid ease of use and speed of application, allowing you to cast faster and fish stretches of water over a shorter period of time.

3. Fishing Gear

Besides the lures there are some noticeable differences in the rest of the gear used between conventional spin fishing and fly fishing.

Rods

The different techniques used in casting means the rods differ between these two styles of fishing. In fly fishing the rods tend to be longer, lighter and thinner than their spin fishing counterparts. This difference is to accommodate the back-and-forth motion involved in false casting when fly fishing.

A fly rod is designed to help maximize the efficiency of the casting technique. The additional length of the rod helps build the momentum required, while the lightweight, flexible nature of the rod helps create the energy required for the cast to propel the lure to the targeted area.

Fly rods tend to be between 8 and 9 feet in length, compared to spin fishing rods which are usually 5 to 6 feet long. However, while a spinning rod may be shorter it is heavier than a fly fishing rod. The extra strength and toughness in the design of the rod used for spin fishing helps cope with the weight of the lure and in the stability needed for a single cast.

Whereas in fly fishing the rod goes through a back-and-forth motion prior to casting, the heavier spin fishing rod is only required to cast in one motion. This can propel a lure deep into the water in just a single cast.

Reels

The briefest glance will tell you that the reels used in spin and fly fishing look completely different. The reel on a fly rod looks like a spool and is simpler to use. It consists of two plates with a cylinder in between on which the line is wrapped around.

The reel used for spin fishing is a slightly more intricate piece of gear. There is still a cylinder on which the line is wrapped, but a handle is used to reel in the line and a bail to discharge the line. Within the cylinder is a drag system which helps prevent the line being freely released when a fish bites.

A fly reel may have a similar drag function built in, as the aim for both types of reel is to prevent line that is not in the water from becoming entangled. An angler using a spinning reel must use the handle to reel in the line, whereas fly anglers can use their bare hands to reel in the line in certain situations.

Line

Another difference is that the line used in fly fishing is thicker and heavier than the line used in spin fishing. This extra thickness and weight of line is required to generate the momentum required for casting in fly fishing. When fly fishing you are also often catching fish close to the surface of the water, and the thicker line has more buoyancy to float.

The thinner line used in spin fishing is easier to cast in one motion and to weigh down with lures to fish at greater depths. The line also tends to be clear, whereas for fly fishing much of the line is brightly colored, with the exception of the leader that connects the thicker line to the fly. This tends to be clear in color.

It is key for a fly fisherman to be able to see the line, and the thickness and color of the line aids this purpose. They need to clearly see the line during the back-and-forth motion of a cast and also to see when a fish bites as there may be no tension in the line to feel the bite.

4. Location

Spin fishing is a very versatile form of angling, suitable for both freshwater and saltwater environments. While spin fishing is often seen as best on still waters such as lakes and ponds, it can still be effective on large rivers targeting fish lying in deeper pools.

The nature of spin fishing means you can catch most species of fish,with some of the most common listed below:

  • Perch
  • Bream
  • Trout
  • Salmon
  • Chub

Fly fishing is usually best suited to moving waters. Some of the most common species targeted in fly fishing are:

  • Trout
  • Pike
  • Grayling
  • Salmon
  • Carp

Final Thoughts

Conventional spin fishing and fly fishing have a number of distinct differences between them. The technique involved in casting is one of the main differences, from which many of the variations in the equipment required for both methods of fishing arise.

Although both forms of fishing can be applied to similar waters, fly fishing is often viewed as a more natural way to fish rivers and streams. Spin fishing is largely seen as best suited to still waters, with the technique and equipment designed to let you fish more water in a shorter space of time.