A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Fly Fishing Gear
A comprehensive list of the basics you need to get started on the water this spring.
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Most of us have seen photos or videos of anglers fly fishing. The artful shape of the line, the possibility of a fish in every riffle, the gorgeous places fishing takes us… it’s easy to get caught up in the romance of it all. After all, who hasn’t dreamed of standing in a river on a warm summer evening, casting effortlessly to rising trout as the sun sets magically behind the surrounding hills?
Fly fishing, like most sports, is an acquired skill. It takes time, patience and practice to become proficient in the cast, read the water and handle fish. But really, when boiled down to the basics, it’s readily accessible to anyone with a little time and a neighborhood pond at hand. Save the dream trips to film-worthy destinations for the future, and take today to enjoy whatever local water resides in your backyard.
At its core, fly fishing is a stick, a string and a wad of yarn and feathers tied to a hook. In actual practice, it’s a bit more complicated, and an excellent place to start is by visiting your local fly fishing or outdoor shop to determine if they offer classes. These shops will likely have rental or loaner gear, but it helps to invest in your own gear that you’re comfortable with and capable of hauling anywhere. For that reason, we’ve compiled a few of our foundational favorites to get you started. Below, the basic equipment you need to get into fly fishing.
Rod and Reel Outfit: Orvis Encounter Outfit
An easy place to kick things off, this outfit includes only the basics: a rod, reel, line, backing (attaching the line to the reel) and leader (attaching the fly to the line). Just add a pair of nippers and some flies, and you’re ready to hit the water. While it’s not the fanciest rod-and-reel combo on the market, the Encounter casts smoothly and is a great entry-level outfit for beginners and adult-onset anglers alike.
Freshwater Rod: Redington Classic Trout 590-4
Whether chasing bass or trout, most freshwater anglers will start off with a nine-foot five-weight rod. “Five-weight” refers to the line weight of the rod: the smaller the number, the lighter the line; the bigger the number, the heavier. Heavier lines throw heavier flies. A 5-weight is the classic weight for throwing a variety of flies in various freshwater scenarios; a good “all-arounder” for any angler, if you will. With a lightweight blank and forgiving action, this rod from Redington was designed to be a tool for anglers fishing all types of trout water.
Freshwater Reel: Waterworks Lamson Liquid
A die-cast manufacturing process means this reel retails for less than its machined big brothers, but Waterworks-Lamson gets clever and retains many of the features higher-end reels boast while keeping the price point budget-friendly. Full-radius compound curves, a precision fit, smooth finish and machine 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 country’s best fly trout fishing.
Waders: Simms Tributary Stockingfoot
Bozeman, Montana-based Simms has become famous for its high-end — and consequently high-dollar — waders. The Tributary captures many of the features that have made Simms beloved by anglers and packages them into a product that emphasises 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. Perhaps best of all, they’re available in a broad range of sizes from small to XXL. Add a pair of wading boots and you’re ready to hit the river.
Wading Boots: Korkers Greenback
Neoprene boots on fishing waders require the addition of lace-up wading boots. Just like your favorite pair of everyday boots, wading boots should offer snug ankle support and reliable grip over slick 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 boot’s sole for varying conditions. A blend of hydrophobic materials dries faster to prevent the spread of invasive species between waterways.
Fishing Shoes: Simms Challenger Air Vent
When the weather is warm enough that you don’t need full-on waders and boots, it’s time to opt for footwear that drains well while offering proper foot and toe protection. These breathable slip-ons from Simms fit like a sneaker and look sharp enough to venture into the bar for that post-fishing beer, but perform in the water with ease. An EVA outsole with micro-siped rubber pads provides reliable traction on docks or boat decks, and sneaker-style laces dial in the snugness.
Sunglasses: Tifosi Tyrant 2.0
The Tyrant’s well-positioned vents help prevent the dreaded onset of fogging on humid fishing days. Lightweight frames wrap securely around the eyes, offering solid protection from flying hooks and other detritus, and the adjustable nose piece maintains comfort for hours on the water. Lightweight and cheap enough that we can justify a spare pair to keep in the truck.
Walk into any fly shop and you’ll quickly come to understand the basic uniform: a flannel shirt and ballcap (or sun shirt and ballcap in the summer). There’s nothing quite like a dedicated “fishing hat” to soak up the water-born mojo, and this one from Howler Brothers gives a nod to one of the finest saltwater ecosystems around, mangroves. Beyond the eye-catching design, the hat features a large, comfy fit, and a pliable flat brim with a navy underside to help reduce glare.
Sling Pack: Fishpond Flathead Sling
Sling packs have seen a sharp rise in popularity amongst anglers, and it’s easy to see why: the design allows for maximum freedom of movement while still carrying the basics. The Flathead Sling’s ambidextrous design allows the pack to be carried 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 big water bottle pockets manage hydration and one removable foam fly patch is included.
Rod Case & Organizer: Orvis Carry-It-All
Fishing inevitably involves lots of little things … things which like to get lost. This Carry-It-All from Orvis has been an industry standard for more than a decade thanks to its ability to help keep anglers organized both at home and on the road. (Most airlines will allow this as a carry-on bag, which means you can avoid checking valuable rods and reels.) Boasting a separate zippered rod storage compartment, various internal compartments with adjustable dividers, and external zippered pockets, this bag holds the basics plus a wee bit more.
Fly Box: Cliff Outdoors Day’s Worth
Originally designed as a pocket box for western fly-fishing guides, The Day’s Worth from Wyoming family-owned Cliff Outdoors is a box you’ll still see gracing the pockets of fishing guides around the country. A strong magnetic bottom holds small, loose flies and prevents them from blowing away on windy days, while two self-healing foam strips on the top seat larger patterns with ease. At less than four-by-three inches in size, the box fits in small spaces with ease, making it perfect for a post-workday creek session.
We anglers love our tools, and this is a great piece to start your collection. Forceps (also called hemostats) help fishermen gently loosen 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 or gloved hands, and a compact cutting surface to trim leader and tippet. The comfy grip remains tacky even in cold conditions, and the matte black finish is rust-resistant.
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