Can I Fly Fish with a Spinning Rod? (Techniques & What Kind of Setup do I Need)

Many fisherfolks assume to fish flies, a specific and costly fly fishing setup is needed…that lightweight flies arent’ easy to cast with anything but a fly rod and fly line setup.

But what if I told you that’s not always the case? That there is a way to “fly fish” with your spinning setup?

If you prefer to fish with spinning rods and tackle, you can admit that adding flies to your tackle options will open up new opportunities for catching fish. More fish, perhaps.

In this article, we’ll look at spin-fishing setups, flies, and how to “fly fish” with your spinning rod.

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In Short

Even if you don’t have a fly fishing rod or don’t want to go spend the money on a whole new, very specialized setup to fish just flies, don’t worry. You’re most definitely able to fish flies on a less-expensive spinning rod.

You’ll want to use an ultralight rod and reel combo, a lightweight line, and something to add weight for casting (a small bobber, bubble, or split shot depending on the type of fly you’re wanting to use).

Fly Fishing with a Spinning Rod

In the world of fishing, the equipment has grown leaps and bounds technology-wise. More innovation, more invention, and more specialization have become the norm.

More choice, more technology, and more specific equipment can be a good thing, but not always. Sometimes, an individual might just like to get one setup to cover a wide variety of fishing situations, baits, lures, and styles of fishing.

For me, this would have to be the spin rod. Its versatility is a welcome thing to anglers looking to eliminate guesswork on what equipment to bring on a fishing trip. You can definitely save some money on equipment too. It’s generally known as a do-it-all fishing setup.

For many, fly fishing with a spinning rod isn’t even on their radar. When thinking of fly fishing, most will think of a long, 8 or 9-foot fly rod, weighted floating fly line, and the typical 10-to-2 fly fishing cast.

True, a fly fishing setup is perfect for fishing with small, light flies that would otherwise be difficult to cast on any other type of fishing rod.


There is most definitely a way to fly fish with a spinning rod and reel combo!

You’re not going to be able to employ a traditional fly casting technique on a spinning rod, but with a little understanding of the setup, you’ll be able to fish a wide range of flies effectively.

large brown trout and spinning reel with rod

The Setup

If you’re going to fish flies on a spinning rod, you’re going to want a fairly light, mid-fast-to-fast action spinning rod and light reel. Most will refer to this as an “ultralight” combo.

The reel will match the rod for balance and castability. It should be somewhat compact, lightweight, and match the rod’s line recommendations (4-10lb line in this case).

The reel’s spool can be filled with a single run of mono or fluorocarbon line, but most modern anglers use a braided running line (main line) first because of the high strength and low volume. If you want to use a braided main line, you’ll need a clear leader line too…a short run of high-strength fluorocarbon will attach your flies to the braided line.

Some sort of weight is needed to cast the light flies. On a fly rod, the back-and-forth casting motion along with the weight of the fly line is what propels the flies. With your spinning rod setup, you’ll need a bubble or split shot to add weight to be able to cast flies.

fisherman fishing with spinning rod in pond

The Rod and Reel

A fast-action ultralight will have the right balance of casting ability and feel for lightweight flies. A lightweight spin reel will balance out the rod without adding too much weight.

Generally, you want to find a rod in the 4 ft 8 inch to 6 ft 6 inch ranges with moderate-fast to fast action.

If you don’t have a nice, light spin rod yet, there are plenty of options and price ranges to choose from.

For a solid, low-cost combo, check out the Lew’s Lazer Lite Speed Combo.

For a medium-price setup with a bit more tech, check out the Quantum Throttle Combo.

If you’re searching for a high-quality combo, check out the TFO Trout Panfish Rod and add the Cadence CS-5 reel to complete the setup.


Next, you’ll want to make sure you have a good quality line. An ultralight setup will most often use a 4lb to 10lb line. 6 or 8-lb lines are generally good middle-of-the-road options.

Most modern spin casters use a braided line as the running line and attach a clear fluorocarbon leader to the end.

If you already have a good line, great! If you need to buy line and re-spool, check out the following:

Braided line: Check out Truscend’s moss-colored braided line. It’s inexpensive, highly abrasion resistant, and casts smoothly.

For clear fluorocarbon leader, check out Seaguar STS or Berkley’s Vanish Fluoro Leader.

Weight for Casting

If you’re using dry flies or nymphs, a small bubble is the best bet. A bubble will float along with your dry fly or keep your nymphs suspended off or near the riverbed through the drift.

For dry flies, choose the smallest bubble possible that still has enough weight to cast. When nymphing, use the same criteria but also make sure it doesn’t sink in riffly water or under the weight of the flies.

When nymphing and using a bubble, if you find your flies aren’t getting close enough to the bottom, you can also add a little split shot a few inches above the fly to help it sink.

If you’re using streamers on your spinning rod, no bubble is necessary. You’ll want to pinch on a split shot or two to make the streamer heavy enough to cast and keep it running below the water’s surface during the retrieve.

fly fishing fly box with flies and fishing pack in background

Style of Fly

To set up your spinning rod for fishing with flies, you’ll want to first choose which style of fly you’re wanting to use.

For Dry Flies

If your reel spool is just mono or fluoro, simply slip the bubble on the line about 3 to 4 feet above the end (where the fly will go).

Attach your dry fly and you’re ready to go! If your local laws allow, you can attach a second dry fly to a 16-inch section of line and tie it to the hook bend of the first fly.

If you’re using braided line, first attach a 6-foot piece of clear fluorocarbon line (leader) and then proceed to add the bubble and fly.

For Nymphing

The setup is identical but you’re using one or two nymphs instead.

These will sink beneath the water’s surface at some distance. If you’re fishing a deep run or find your flies aren’t getting deep enough, you may want to pinch a split shot or two about 6 inches above the top fly (between the bubble and the first fly).

For Streamers

No need to attach a bubble. If you’re using a braided main line, attach your 6 ft leader section (clear fluoro), tie on your streamer to the end of the leader, and add enough weight that you can cast the fly without much trouble.

Of course, if you don’t use a braided line, you won’t have to add a leader section.

The Technique

You won’t be “fly casting” this setup. You’ll simply be making a traditional spinning rod-style cast by pinning the line with your finger, opening the bail, and flicking your wrist toward your target.

When fishing with a bubble (dry fly or nymphing) in a river, you’ll want to cast the setup at a good angle upstream. When your bubble hits the water, turn the reel handle to close the bail and start retrieving line at the same pace as the river flow.

Since the flies and the bubble are coming downstream toward you, you want to make sure you’re not leaving slack in the fishing line. If you have slack and a fish hits your fly, you won’t be able to set the hook.

Personally, I like to lift the rod tip a bit while retrieving the slack line. This keeps the line between the rod tip and bubble from sinking and adding slack or too much tension. This will make for better drifts and better hook sets.

In most cases, you don’t want to reel too fast either… you’re trying to “dead drift” the flies. This means letting the speed of the water carry your fly or flies naturally instead of continuously reeling (like you would with a lure).

In still water (pond or lake), you’ll want to cast and pause to watch. Letting your flies sit still might be the best method. If that’s not working, add a little twitch of the rod or one to two slow reels for soft motion. Then pause and let the fly/flies set still for a moment or two and repeat.

Keep your eye on the bubble if you’re nymphing. If you’re dry fly fishing, you’ll want to keep watch on both the floating fly and the bubble at the same time. Use “soft” eyes meaning to see an area, not focus on one thing at a time.

When you see your bubble drop, tick, or hesitate, you’ll want to set the hook fast! The same goes with the dry fly… if you see a fish come up and take your dry fly, set!

Remember, this isn’t bait fishing. When the fish feel the fake fly, they try to get rid of it immediately.

For streamer fishing (stream or still water), you can fish with a retrieve…whether a jerk, jig or steady reel.

It’s best to look for a deep pool, overhanging structure, sunken structure, or a combo. Use a traditional spinning rod cast and give a bit of a pause after the fly hits the water. You’ll want your fly to sink until it’s near the structure or near the bottom of the river or lake.

Then you can start your retrieve. Jerk or twitch and reel the slack or reel, pause, reel, reel, reel, pause… The trick is to vary the motion and get some definite pauses.

Sometimes, if your streamer is a sculpin or crawfish pattern, you can slowly and continuously drag the fly across the river or lake bottom. You’ll want to feel your fly or split shot “ticking” along the lake/riverbed.

If your streamer just isn’t getting eaten, you can then try adding a bubble about 4 feet above the fly and using any of the above-mentioned nymphing dead-drift or pause-twitch-pause methods.

If you’re interested in fishing flies on your spinning rod, check out this video:


Can you fly fish with a spinning rod?

You can most definitely fish flies on a spinning rod. You won’t be able to “fly cast” in the traditional 10-2 method, but fishing flies on a spin rod is doable and effective.

What kind of setup do I need to fish flies on a spinning rod?

You’ll want an ultralight spinning combo, generally in the 4’8 to 6’6” range with a matching ultralight reel and 4-10lb line.

What are the types of flies I can use?

You can use pretty much any fly out there…the same as using a fly rod. Dry flies float on top of the water, nymphs sink below the surface, and streamers are generally larger and heavier flies meant to sink and add motion. Streamers represent smaller trout, baitfish, crayfish, etc.

Aren’t flies too light to cast with a spin rod?

Yes, that’s why you’ll want to add a bubble or split shot, depending on your chosen fly, to make flies “castable” on a spinning rod.

How much weight is needed?

I recommend using the smallest bubble that is still heavy enough to cast. This is probably most important in dry fly fishing when fish are already looking at the water’s surface and could spook with a heavy plop from an oversized bubble.

When nymphing, you may need to size up a little. Small is still good but you want the bubble to have enough buoyancy to float heavier nymphs (or sometimes streamers) in riffly water.

When streamer fishing without a bubble, you want enough split-shot to make casting easier and to help the fly get deeper into the water. Too much weight, however, will mean snagging and possibly losing your fly.


Adding files to your spin-fishing tackle box is a great way to add a fun variety to your outing. This will also make you a more versatile fisherperson who can adapt to different fishing situations.

Not only is spin-fishing with flies fun, but in some situations, it can be the difference maker in how productive your day is.

So, make sure you have the appropriate gear, head out, and give it a shot!

Don’t forget to comment below and share your spin-fishing-with-flies experience!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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