Fly-fishing, like any hobby, requires tools and equipment to be successful. The gear for fly fishing can vary in price, quality, and ultimately comes down to personal preference and needs.
As a beginner fly fisherman, I felt a bit overwhelmed at first when I was getting set up. Hopefully this will help provide you a guide to getting yourself geared up for a successful day on the water.
What Target Species Are You Fishing For?
Before ever stepping foot in a fly shop, you must first decide what species of fish you are wanting to catch with your fly gear. So much of fly-fishing gear and equipment is centered around the size of the fish and their habitat.
Fly rod and reels are sized by “weight” which range from a 0 weight all the way up to a 17 weight. The importance of this is due to the design of the reel and rod’s weight is centered around the size and strength of the fish being targeted. For example, you would not use a 12 weight rod in a stream for brook trout just like you wouldn’t use a 3 weight rod for giant trevally in the ocean. This applies to leaders and fly lines too.
Knowing your target species will also help you decide what flies to bring. The fish you want to catch have a specific diet so you need to do your research on what the species enjoys feeding on. Asking your local fly shop is the best way to educate yourself on what fly patterns to tie on.
When you target a species, you also need to know their environment. This translates to knowing what other gear you may need outside of your tackle. If you are going to be wading, weather and water temperatures will dictate either waders or wading boots.
Fly Fishing Gear For Beginners – What You Need
Fly Fising On A Budget Or Is The Sky The Limit?
A critical aspect of gearing up for fly-fishing is how much you are willing to spend, or more importantly need to spend. Getting started in the sport requires minimal equipment. I say this because if you do not enjoy it, then there is no sense in dropping thousands of dollars on it. A cheap fly rod and reel combo will come with a fly line and sometimes a case, leader, and a few flies.
Despite popular belief, you do not need the most expensive gear or prettiest flies to catch fish. Once you go a few times and decide it is a hobby you want to stay with, then you can look at upgrading your gear. Again, this does not mean go straight for most popular or expensive.
Fly rods are the foundation of your gear and you should try casting several rods before making a decision. The rod will feel comfortable to you based on your casting ability.
The reel, line, leader, flies, and anything else is purely based on personal preference. Obviously, the more expensive gear is typically of higher quality, but at the end of the day, don’t break your budget trying to fit in. Base your gear purchases off reviews, needs, and personal experiences.
Buy Gear That Has A Warranty
Something I personally like to ensure when making a gear purchase, especially one with a high price tag, is a warranty. Buying from a company that is willing to help you out when the unfortunate happens is something worth investing in.
Anything and everything mechanical can and will fail. Forceps, sunglasses, fly rods and reels, boats, etc. All of these have parts that wear out and can break. If it is an item that you have spent a substantial amount of money on, having the piece of mind that it can be replaced free of charge or for minimal costs can make the initial investment worth it.
The Right Clothing Goes A Long Way
Although sometimes taken to an extreme (apparel ranks higher than gear on some angler’s lists), clothing is an important part of fly-fishing gear. It can protect you from the elements and make for a more comfortable outing.
Going from head to toe, a comfortable hat and quality pair of polarized sunglasses are recommended for the sun’s glare. Depending upon the climate, either a long sleeve moisture-wicking shirt for warm weather and multiple layers for cooler weather. Moisture-wicking shorts or pants for warm weather while insulated pants or multiple layers (i.e. long-johns under jeans) may be needed for cold climates. If it is sunny and 75 then flip-flops are fine (depending on if you are wading, walking a shoreline, or on a boat), but if it’s cold, insulated boots or thermal socks and hiking boots for cooler weather.
You Never Know What Miscellaneous Gear You Might Need
Outside of the essentials such as the rod and reel or clothing, there are some other pieces of gear that can help provide a successful trip.
A good landing net can really help in getting that trophy trout in the boat or secured until the photograph can be taken stream side. Again, this should be based on target species. Smaller nets for stream fishing and panfish; medium-sized nets for bass and inshore saltwater species; large nets for musky and pike.
Pliers are a staple in any fishing situation. Good pliers can help make short work of tying on new leaders or flies, while also performing surgery on a well hooked fish. Forceps are typically used for smaller fish and trout fishing, but pliers are acceptable in any scenario. Be sure to invest in pliers with stainless steel hardware for saltwater use.
Spare leader material is always a good idea. If you’re casting is anything like mine, you will spend time in the trees, on rocks, around dock pilings, etc. That being said you will have shortened leaders quickly and they will need to be replaced.
Fly boxes are a good idea if you decide to carry a bountiful supply of feathered offerings. Some fly anglers carry just a few flies in their pocket or on their hat. Again, if you like the trees, having plenty of ammo is a good idea. Fly boxes come in a variety of sizes for each scenario and need. Keep convenience and comfortability in mind- you don’t need a musky streamer box for small brook trout midges and dry flies.
Other gear can include floatant for dry flies, tool lanyard (can hold leader, forceps, line nippers, etc.), a camera, dry bag, snacks, and most importantly frosty cold beer.
A Beginner Doesn’t Have To Be Unprepared!
There is a myriad of fly-fishing gear out there and without being overwhelmed on what is necessary, it is easy to get lost in what is important versus what is the latest trend. I hope this article helps guide you in getting what you need and if you ever are unsure, visit your local fly shop. The guys and gals in there love to talk shop and they are more than willing to help get you set up how you need to be.
Remember that at the end of the day, the brands and actual gear is personal preference. Find what works for you based on your style of fly fishing. There is no need to invest a ton of money up front if you find you don’t enjoy the sport as much as you thought you would. But when it comes time, remember that you get what you pay for.
There are essentials such as a rod and reel, fly line and leader, flies and clothing, that are staples for every outing. As you develop your ability and interest in the sport, so too will your gear inventory increase and evolve.
The most critical piece of gear though is your happiness. Don’t make this sport work and become overburdened with needing the latest and greatest or having junk you never use. Go out, have fun, but most importantly, enjoy fly-fishing and the great outdoors.