If you are interested in learning to fly fish, don’t let yourself be overwhelmed with the fishing equipment to get started. All the gear associated with the sport can be daunting—to say nothing of learning the technique—but it’s not as complicated as it looks. With a little practice and the right fly fishing equipment, you’ll be pulling trout from your favorite stream in no time.
Fly Fishing Rods
When you buy your first fly rod, look for a good balance between price and quality. Spending $500 on a fly rod isn’t necessary right out of the gate, but you don’t want to settle for junk either. A 9-foot rod made for 4-weight or 5-weight fly line is about right, and will have you covered in a wide range of situations, from small Panfish to Trout and Bass.
Fly Fishing Reels
You can get a fly fishing combo, which includes both the rod and reel, or you can pick up each piece separately. The most important aspect of choosing a reel is finding one that matches the weight of your rod. Aside from that major consideration, a fly reel is fairly simple, and as long as it’s of fairly good quality, it will do its job—namely, holding your fly line.
Fly Line and Backing
Fly line has evolved a lot over the years, and countless options are available. The easiest type of line to use is Weight Forward line, which is slightly tapered. The idea is that most of its weight is toward the front end of the line, making it easy to cast. Since you have a 4- or 5-weight rod and reel, be sure to get line of the same weight.
The typical fly line is somewhere around 80 or 90 yards in length. That’s plenty of line for playing small to average fish, but when you hook up with the fish of a lifetime, that’s where backing comes in. Backing goes behind the main fly line in your reel, giving you an extra 200 or so yards of leeway if a big fish pulls out all your fly line. Use a braided Dacron backing for good strength and ease of use.
Leaders and Tippets
A fully spooled fly reel starts with backing, followed by fly line, and then the leader and tippet. The leader and tippet is what connects the fly to the main line. When you cast, this section of tapered line transfers the energy of the cast to the fly, straightening out the line and making long casts possible. Pre-made rigs are available for both the leader and the tippet. Look for an 8- to 9-foot leader and 5X tippet.
You can have the perfect setup and all the essential fishing equipment, but it won’t do you a bit of good if you don’t have the right fly at the end of your line. Start out with a good assortment of basic fly patterns including the Adams, Wooly Bugger, Muddler Minnow, and Pheasant Tail Nymph. Add in a crayfish fly and popper if you’re after bass. Stop in at your local fly shop and ask about patterns that work especially well in the local waters and at certain times of the year.
Tools, Clothing and Accessories
Once you have your rod spooled and your flies in hand, just pick up a few extra essentials and you’re on your way.
- Landing net
- Fly box (to hold your flies)
- Fishing vest
- Waders or wading boots
- Lanyard (to hold tools while you’re wading)
- Polarized sunglasses (reduces glare and helps you see into the water)
- Knot tying tools
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