A complete beginner’s guide to fly fishing gear
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Most of us have seen pictures or videos of fly fishers. The clever shape of the line, the ability to have a fish in every riffle, the beautiful places the fishing takes us… it’s easy to get carried away by the romance of it all. After all, who hasn’t dreamed of standing in a river on a warm summer evening, effortlessly casting towards rising trout as the sun magically sets behind the surrounding hills?
Fly fishing, like most sports, is an acquired skill. It takes time, patience and practice to master the cast, read the water and handle the fish. But really, when it comes down to the basics, it’s easily accessible to anyone with a bit of time and a neighborhood pond close at hand. Save dream trips to movie-worthy destinations for the future and enjoy the local water in your backyard today.
At its core, fly fishing is a stick, string, and bundle of threads and feathers attached to a hook. In practice, it’s a little more complicated, and a great place to start is to visit your local fly fishing or outdoor store to see if they offer lessons. These stores will likely have rental or loaner equipment, but it is worth investing in your own equipment that you are comfortable with and able to carry anywhere. For that reason, we’ve compiled a few of our core favorites to get you started. Below, the basic equipment you need to get started in fly fishing.
An easy place to start, this outfit only includes the basics: a rod, reel, line, rig (securing the line to the reel) and rig (securing the fly to the line). Just add a pair of pliers and a few flies, and you’re ready to hit the water. While not the most sophisticated rod and reel combo on the market, the Encounter casts smoothly and is a great entry level outfit for beginners and adult anglers.
Whether hunting bass or trout, most freshwater anglers will start with a nine-foot, five-weight rod. “Five weights” refers to the line thickness of the rod: the smaller the number, the lighter the line; the larger the number, the heavier it is. Heavier lines cast heavier flies. A 5 weight is the classic weight for casting a variety of flies in various freshwater scenarios; a good “all-rounder” for any angler, if you will. With a lightweight blank and a forgiving action, this rod from Redington was designed to be a tool for anglers fishing all types of trout water.
A die-cast manufacturing process means this reel sells for less than its machined big brothers, but Waterworks-Lamson gets smart and retains many of the features of high-end reels while keeping the price affordable. Full radius compound bends, precision fit, smooth finish and mechanical work on critical areas mean this reel is more than capable of handling a feisty bass or trout. It’s also assembled and tested in Boise, Idaho, a stone’s throw from some of the best fly-fishing trout sites in the country.
Simms, based in Bozeman, Montana, has become famous for its high-end — and consequently very expensive — thigh-high boots. The Tributary captures many of the characteristics that have made Simms popular with anglers and incorporates them into a product that emphasizes value. Waterproof and breathable, they feature a fleece-lined handwarmer pocket for cold days on the water and a secure chest pocket for keys and fly boxes. Best of all, they come in a wide range of sizes, from small to XXL. Add a pair of wading boots and you’re ready to hit the river.
Neoprene boots on fishing waders require the addition of lace-up wading boots. Just like your favorite pair of everyday boots, wading boots should provide good ankle support and reliable grip on smooth surfaces. These Greenback boots from Korkers are rugged yet comfortable and feature the brand’s famous OmniTrax interchangeable sole system, allowing the angler to customize the sole of the boot for different conditions. A mixture of hydrophobic materials dries faster to prevent the spread of invasive species between waterways.
When the weather is warm enough that you don’t need waders and full boots, it’s time to opt for shoes that drain well while providing adequate foot and toe protection. These breathable slip-on shoes from Simms fit like a sneaker and look sharp enough to venture into the bar for that post-fishing beer, yet perform in the water with ease. An EVA outsole with micro-slat rubber pods provides reliable traction on docks or boat decks, and sneaker-style laces ensure comfort.
The Tyrant’s well-positioned vents help prevent the dreaded appearance of fogging on wet fishing days. The lightweight frames wrap securely around the eyes, providing solid protection from flying hooks and other detritus, and the adjustable nosepiece maintains comfort for hours on the water. Lightweight and cheap enough to warrant a spare pair to keep in the truck.
Walk into any fly shop and you’ll quickly figure out the basic uniform: a flannel shirt and cap (or a sun shirt and cap in the summer). There’s nothing quite like a dedicated “fisherman’s hat” for soaking up the water-born mojo, and this one from Howler Brothers nods to one of the best ecosystems in the world. water, mangroves. Beyond the eye-catching design, the hat features a wide, comfortable fit and a collapsible flat brim with a navy underside to help reduce glare.
Sling bags have seen a surge in popularity among anglers, and it’s easy to see why: the design allows for maximum freedom of movement while carrying the basics. The Flathead Sling’s ambidextrous design allows the bag to be worn on either shoulder, while a large clamshell opening and adjustable interior dividers let you customize and organize the space to your liking. A magnetic front pocket holds loose flies, two large water bottle pockets manage hydration, and a removable foam fly patch is included.
Fishing is necessarily full of little things… things that like to get lost. This Carry-It-All from Orvis has been an industry standard for over a decade thanks to its ability to help anglers stay organized at home and on the road. (Most airlines will allow it as carry-on, which means you can skip checking valuable rods and reels.) Boasting a separate zippered rod storage compartment, various compartments internal with adjustable dividers and external zippered pockets, this bag holds the basics. a little bit more.
Originally designed as a pocket box for western fly fishing guides, The Day’s Worth from Wyoming’s Cliff Outdoors family is a box you’ll still see in the pockets of fishing guides across the country. A strong magnetic bottom catches small, loose flies and keeps them from blowing away on windy days, while two self-healing foam strips on top easily accommodate larger patterns. At less than four inches by three inches in size, the box easily fits into small spaces, making it perfect for a creek session after a day’s work.
We anglers love our tools, and this is a great piece to start your collection. Forceps (also called hemostats) help anglers gently detach a fly from a fish’s mouth while causing minimal damage to the fish. The thoughtful design of the Rogue Quickdraw includes a carabiner handle, oversized thumb and finger holes for large hands or gloved hands, and a compact cutting surface for cutting leader and tippet. The comfortable grip stays sticky even in cold weather and the matte black finish is rust resistant.
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