What fly fishing gear do I need as a beginner?
Fly fishing is a sport. Just like any other sport, the quality of the gear you start with can give you a good or a bad experience. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get decent fly fishing gear.
The basic equipment a beginner fly fisher needs is a Fly Rod, a Fly Reel and Two Fly Lines. In addition to that, you need a leader line, same size tippet, an assortment of dry and wet flies and a little coaching.
This is one activity you may want to take up with a friend or family member with experience in fly fishing. You will need to know how to make knots, how to tie leader lines and how to tie the hook.
You’ll need to practice how to cast and land the artificial fly in a natural way that will not spook the fish. The proper combination of fly reel, fly rod and proper fly line weight plays a big role in the learning curve.
A 9 foot rod with medium action will be a good selection to get started. You can get a fly reel, left or right handed, to suit your needs. I recommend a Weight Forward Floating line and a second fly line with a sinking tip to start out.
These items can be bought separately or together as a Combo Fly Fishing Kit. The Combo Kits can range in price starting at under $100.00, but you may want to upgrade as you develop your skills.
Some of the old die hard anglers still like to use their fiberglass fly rods that offer unique action, in their opinion, not duplicated by the new fly rod building techniques.
To develop good habits, you should get some fly fishing lessons before you start. Your instructor, family member or friend, will be able to correct your actions before they become bad habits.
Get started now! Fly fishing is a sport that builds bonds between friends and family. Enjoy the outdoors and what nature has provided for us.
Why are there different fly rods?
There are many answers and opinions. Fly Rods are designed to give an angler the “right feel or response” for his style of casting. They also need to handle the weight of the fish the angler intends to hook.
The fly rod weight class starts at 1 weight and increases in size up to 13 weight. Weight class means the weight of the line the fly rod is designed to handle.
Class 1 to 4 weight fly rods are ideal for small stream fly fishing. They are designed for short casts to catch smaller fish. These fly rods will not handle big flies or streamers. They are not favored for fly fishing in windy conditions.
5 and 6 weight class fly rods are more popular and more commonly used by beginner anglers. They are designed to handle the bigger pan sized trout or bass. These fly rods can easily cast out medium streamers and buggers.
Fly rods in the 7 and 8 weight class are built for casting larger flies and poppers for bass. The 7 weight is not recommended for salt water fly fishing, while the 8 weight can handle steelhead, redfish, bonefish, school sized striped bass, bluefish…
The 9-10 class fly rods are the big heavy weights built and designed to catch freshwater salmon, pike, musky, saltwater bluefish and the smaller tarpon fish. The proper selection of fly reel should be made if you intend to use it for saltwater fishing.
There are heavy duty 11 and 12 weight fly rods used for fishing harder fighter sport fish like the large tarpon, small tuna and other fish this size.
Finally the 13 weight fly rod made for the serious salt water angler who wants to land the big trophy salt water fish. These fly rods are designed for fighting fish more that casting.
So there you are. Simply decide what fish you are going after, what size fish you want to catch and you will be on your way to another adventure.
Should I use a long rod or short fly rod?
This is another opinion based best answer, depending on the angler and depending on where the anglers fish. Some anglers prefer using a mid range fly rod, 8’6” in length for all their fishing expeditions.
There are advantages and disadvantages for each fly rod length.
Better for beginners
Easier to feel the line that can improve timing
Easier to cast over fast water
Makes roll casting in tight spots easier
Farther reach when fishing covered areas
Makes casting farther much easier
Makes wider loops when casting
Heavier that shorter rods of same weight class
Harder to land fish in smaller spaces
Line tangle happens more often in confined areas
Easier on the wrist
Easier to land fish in the net
Tracks the line in a straighter path
May work better in smaller brooks (matter of opinion)
Not so forgiving when making casting errors
Harder to get the line off the water for back casting
Takes more practice to be precise and efficient
Some anglers will argue that they can cast farther with a short fly rod than a beginner angler with a long fly rod. If you have the occasion to try different fly fishing equipment, don’t pass it by.
A fly fishing kit may feel good to you, even if your fishing buddies don’t like it.
How important is the Fly Reel? How do you choose a fly reel?
Fly Reels are used for basically one purpose, to hold the line when fly fishing for pan sized fish. The Fly Reel is probably one of the least important components used when Fly fishing for the small species.
The fly reel is rarely used to land the small sport fish caught in rivers and streams. Most anglers pull the line in with their line hand. Shorter casted lines work well in these small bodies of water.
Anglers that fish the Bigger Species will rely on a Good Quality Fly Reel with a Drag System because bigger fish will run when hooked.
These fly reels will serve three functions.
Line Storage: When fishing big waters for large fish, a braided line called Backing is attached to the Fly Reel first. Then the fly line is tied to the backing. The leader and the tippet are attached to the other end of the fly line. When fishing for pan sized fish in close waters, a smaller fly reel is sufficient.
Drag: The Fly Reel Feature that is used most when trying to land Big Sport Fish is Fly Reel Drag. There are different systems use to create drag on the fly reels, but the purpose is the same, to create enough tension on the Fly Reel to protect the line from breaking while the angler tries to land a large fish. The angler needs to use the reel to retrieve the fish without getting tangled up.
Retrieval: The third feature is Retrieval. When a large fish is hooked and starts stripping line off the reel, the hand retrieval method used for small pan fish will not work. The angler must get all the slack line back on the fly reel to get a better chance to reel in and land the big fish.
Choosing a fly reel is a simple task. An angler simply needs to decide what kind of fish he will be going after. A fancy Fly Reel is not required when fishing for smaller pan size fish in short cast situations.
An angler that will be fishing for the bigger sport fish species in freshwater or saltwater will need a fly reel designed for that purpose.
What is the best way to use a fly reel?
When you are fly fishing for small brookies, you are probably not using enough line to worry about reeling in the fish. You just pull the slack with your line hand until the fish reaches the net.
The fly reel will work for you when you hook bigger fish when you have lots of line out. Once you hook bigger fish, it may run, taking up the slack and start to pull some line out of the reel. The fly reel drag must be set properly to avoid snapping the line.
If the fish doesn’t run, hold your rod up high with tension and reel in the slack line by holding and guiding it into the reel with your pinky finger.
Don’t move your feet until all the line is retrieved if the coiled line is lying on the ground or in the water. This mistake can make you lose your catch.
The best technique used for stripping (this method is use for landing smaller fish) is to learn to hold the stripped line in your hand, grabbing the line with your thumb and forefinger to make other strips. This will allow you to shoot the line from your hand for the next cast.
If the fish want to run, keep the tension on the line with your thumb and forefinger until the line is out. With the drag properly adjusted, you can now play the fish.
Large fish will put a lot of tension on the fly rod. You must keep the rod up, but not past the vertical position or it may snap and break. Never point the fly rod grip towards the fish, this technique will put too much pressure on the rod tip.
Try to fight the fish from where you stand. Fly reel drag is designed to put enough pressure on the fish to tire it out. Running with the fish can get you wet and make you lose your fish.
Larger fish may take out more line than you have on your spool, that’s when you may not have a choice but to follow the fish. This is why good quality high capacity fly reel is recommended when fishing larger sport fish.
Learn to match the fly fishing reel to the fly rod and the size of fish you are trying to catch and land. Good quality fly fishing gear makes the experience more pleasant.
Can I buy Fly Fishing Gear that will work for everything?
Fly fishing for beginners on a budget will require some rationalization. The definition for everything for one angler is quite different for another.
There are no fly fishing outfits available that will work to fish every size and species of fish. There are however fly fishing kits that will allow an angler to fish a variety of pan fish like trout or slightly bigger fish.
A good fly rod for a beginner that will limit his outings to fishing freshwater sport fish is a 5 or 6 wt rod with matching weight forward floating line.
An additional line with a sink tip will be used for fishing with wet flies. This will be sufficient to complete fishing techniques that won’t work with dry files.
Two Reels will be necessary in this instance, and both reels will do no more than just hold the fishing line, so, an inexpensive one is a good idea. One reel will be required to hold each type of fly line.
There is another option instead of buying two reels. An angler can purchase a reel with two interchangeable spools. These spools simply snap in and out of the reel body allowing a quick change.
The angler can use the floating line with dry flies to catch fish feeding from the morning hatch. When the fish change their eating pattern to scouring the bottom for nymphs, the angler can switch the spool.
It is not uncommon for anglers to spend thousands of dollars on specific brand name fly fishing gear, but some no name fly fishing combos can catch as many fish.
Am I wasting money buying a used rod?
A lot of anglers a very passionate about fly fishing and the gear they use. They take care of their equipment so it will last them for years to come. Buying these used fly rods can be a great deal.
A close inspection for damage or wear should be done before buying a used fly rod. You should bring the fly reel you intend to use with the fly rod to make sure it fits into the reel seat if the rod actually passes the inspection.
How to inspect a used fly rod:
Grasp the rod just in front of the grip with one hand and try to twist it while holding on to the grip with the other hand. If it is loose, consider it damaged material.
Feel and visually inspect the rod from top to bottom looking for dents or break spurs that may have occurred when the rod hit branches or rocks while casting. Some indentations may not be seen, but you should be able to feel it if you run your fingers all over the rod.
Next you want to carefully inspect the guides and the guide wraps. Make sure the guide wraps are not cracked or broken. The guides should not be loose.
Bring some cotton balls to check for burrs in the guides. If the cotton drags as you pull it through the guide holes, this would indicate the presence of burrs that will make casting harder and will damage your fly line.
Fly rods that are used often can end up with worn ferrules. Check the joints where the pieces fit together for proper tightness or damage. Assemble the rod and wiggle it to see if everything is tight.
Ask the owner if the fly rod came with a tube. Some anglers will keep that part of the kit because they may want to use it with another rod. They may also have forgotten they had it if they were not using it.
There are many retired fly rod owners probably waiting for someone to simply ask if their classic fly fishing equipment is for sale.
Good treasure hunting and good adventure!
Essential fly fishing gear, what else do I need.
After acquiring what is essential for fly fishing, the fly rod, fly reel, matching fly line and an assortment of artificial flies, you should get a few more items to complete your outfit.
Polarized sunglasses enable the angler to see fish, reduce eyestrain and offer protection against bad casts.
Extra leaders and spools of tippet to keep your leaders at the proper length as you cut off unwanted knots and replace flies.
A cutting tool or clipper for cutting tippets or unwanted knots and for replacing flies.
A small pair of pliers or hemostat to remove flies from fish when you land one or for bending the barbs on your hooks if you practice catch and release.
Fly floating powder or liquid that will help your dry flies stay afloat longer.
Waders will keep you dry, warm and comfortable so you can fish longer, especially when the fish are active.
A hat will form a shield from the sun over your sunglasses giving you a better view of your fly on the water.
Sunscreen and insect repellant will keep you safe from those elements, but be careful to not transfer any of those chemicals to your fly line.
Once you feel comfortable that fly fishing is going to become your favorite pastime, you may want to get other fly fishing accessories.
Fishing vests, a landing net, rod and reel cases, wading staff, fly boxes are all items related to enhancing your fly fishing experience.
How is the tippet different form the leader?
This is confusing to a lot of anglers, especially the beginner. Learning to tie the tippet on the leader or the leader on the fly line is another topic that needs to be covered.
You cannot tie an artificial fly directly to the Fly Fishing Line because it is too big. It would also splash in the water and spook weary fish when casted.
So here comes the reason for the leader line and the tippet. The big end of the leader has a loop in it so it can be tied to the bigger fly line. This piece of line is also tapered from the loop end to the other end which is called the tippet.
The package information usually indicates the tippet size of the leader in an X size and comes in different strength. The best working length for a leader/tippet combination is 8 to 12 feet.
As you tie and change the artificial flies on the tippet, it gets shortened. As it gets shorter, the diameter increased the closer you get to the loop end.
Anglers will buy tippet line that comes in a spool to tie on the leader when the diameter on the leader gets too big and short. Remember, you want to keep the combination leader tippet at close to 9 feet for maximum control.
Some anglers tie lengths in decreasing size tippets to the leader to add more control in windy conditions. They would tie 3’ length of 3x tippet to the leader, 3’ of 6x tippet to the 3x and down to a 3’ – 8x tippet to tie the fly on. (the larger the x number of the tippet, the smaller the line)
The smaller the tippet, the smaller the artificial fly can be tied to it. Leaders/tippets vary in diameter and strength and not all manufacturers use the same materials.
In a nutshell, a smaller artificial fly tied to a smaller tippet, delivered with professional precision should help you catch the weariest fish.
When is a good time to start fly fishing?
Depending on where you live or want to fish, you may be able to go fly fishing year round. If you want to go fishing before the flies come out, using a sinking line with wet flies is a good suggestion. You may want to try and mimic some minnows or stuff that falls off trees.
Try replicas of small hatching bugs or streamers. Some fish have been caught on artificial flies that don’t even look like anything that lives in the rivers, lakes and streams.
Most anglers will try to use what is compatible with the bugs that are available to the fish at the place and time they are fishing. The caddis mayflies are very popular when the water is just right and they are hatching, usually in May.
In July and August, the popular equipment to use for fishing rivers and streams is floating line with dry flies. Figure out what time of day the flies hatch, usually the same time each day, and mimic those flies.
On average, the best time of the day for catching fish is around 6 am, around 10 am maybe for a couple of hours and after 6 pm until dusk.
If you plan to go fishing at the head of tidal rivers, it’s a good idea to check for the time of the tide changes. Fish seem to be more aggressively feeding when the tide starts coming up. This frenzy can last approximately one hour.
The rule of thumb for what to use during the fishing season is to pay attention to what the fish are eating. In the early season, use a sinking line and when the weather warms up, use a floating line.
Fish eat in any weather, sunny, rainy and windy days. The best weather to fish, if you want to catch fish, is on cloudy days. Anglers do catch more fish on sunny days in early morning and dusk.
Where do I find trout, how can I read the water?
Trout usually face upstream unless there is a reason for them to swim downstream. They will position themselves where they will burn less energy and see the most food pass by and where there is hiding close by. Their survival depends on food and avoiding predators.
Fish will stop in pools while resting before heading upstream. Some fish will position themselves behind a spot where the water depth quickly changes from deep to shallow to catch food before it rushed downstream.
If there are large rocks or windfalls in the pool, fish will hang out behind these pockets which break the current. They will snatch food as it slows down when passing around these objects.
When fishing the bends, target your fly to land into the outer bend if the water is deep and flowing slowly. If the water is flowing fast, the trout may be waiting on the inner side slower water.
Fish are attracted to an eddy, where there is a swirl that flows against the current. Food will collect in these areas, landing an artificial fly usually gets results.
Follow riffles to where there may be a depression deep enough to hold fish. At the end of the riffle, look for a chute that carries food downstream. Fish will be waiting at the edge of these chutes for food.
Overhanging bushes and grasses offer a good hiding place for trout. This offers a good food source of ants, grasshoppers and other insects that fall or get blown into the water.
Knowing where to cast a fly will greatly enhance your chances of getting a strike. Choosing the right artificial fly will get you more strikes, but, the presentation will make or break all of the above. The fly must be presented in a natural way that will attract fish and not spook it.
How can I cast more fly line?
First of all, the reason beginners end up with a short cast is because they are allowing a slack line to form in their cast. There is a technique that newbies can learn that will help with this issue.
This is how beginners can accomplish increasing the cast distance.
Take out and measure 30 feet of line, and mark it so you can easily see it when you practice the cast.
You then re-set the line so you can be ready to start casting at the edge of the water. Wiggle some line out to start your cast and make a roll cast and pull some line from the reel into a loop in your “line hand” a couple of times. Now hold the line against the rod grip with the index finger of your casting hand.
Now you have 30 feet of line in front of you with 2 or 3 loops of line in your line hand, keeping your finger against the line at the grip. Lower your rod tip over the water.
If there is slack in the line, take it out by pulling it into your line hand making loops and lock the line on the grip with your index finger. Soon enough, you’ll be able to control that slack with your line hand.
Now make your pick up and start your back cast. If you have good line speed, you can shoot more line out, if not, make another back cast before shooting the line, releasing some loops from your line hand. Repeat the process until you reach the desired length of cast you want to achieve, but be realistic.
Practice this technique and pay attention to your timing, to your 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions and to your wrist, until you feel you are controlling the fly line coming out of the rod tip. Timing to release the line in the forward cast is critical to keep out the slack, thus casting further.
As you start your forward cast, slightly haul the line back with the line hand then shoot the line out as the forward motion starts pulling by releasing the loops. You have to learn to feel this timing yourself.
Note: When you make the 2 or 3 loops, hold them over your line hand finger with your thumb, looping them so when released they will not tangle up.
Can I bend my wrist when fly casting?
Most anglers, especially newbies actually use their wrist to some degree when fly casting. You have to make a concentrated effort to learn how to keep your wrist locked.
Some anglers use gimmicks, like a rubber band around the wrist and attach the rod base to their wrist to minimize wrist action. Inserting the butt end of the fly rod in a long sleeve shirt will help correct this issue.
Some fly fishing instructors are ok with some bending of the wrist, but a lot is frowned upon. During the power stroke, the wrist is snapped back at the 11:00 o’clock position until the rod starts reloading. The wrist is only snapped forward at the end of the cast ending the power stroke.
The bad effects of bending your wrist are loss of accuracy in your cast, the contribution to inefficient loops and tailing loops. Your arm is stronger than your wrist and will give you better control of your fly rod.
Fish do not care whether your wrist is bending or not. The most important action to complete is accuracy and landing the fly. Bad fly fishing techniques tend to create bad loops. If your fly slaps the water surface, you’re likely going to spook the fish.
Why am I losing fish after they are hooked?
Sometimes when you hook fish, everything seems to go well then the line get’s loose, the fish is unhooked. Disappointing? There are reasons why this is happening.
The obvious first thing an angler want to blame for dropping fish after they are hooked is the fish. Maybe it didn’t grab the hook right or maybe it spit out the hook.
Here are some of the most common tips that will help land your fish after they are hooked.
Do not use dull hooks; it will make it harder to hook the fish sufficient enough to land it.
Using bigger hooks that have bigger barbs means the angler must give a bigger tug on the line to properly set the hook. De-barbing our hooks will make it easier to set the hook in the fish.
A slow action soft rod may not give the angler enough line control to set the hook, especially if the hooks are dull or too big.
Make sure there is not too much slack line in the water. An angler wants just enough slack in the line to create a good drift.
Keep your rod forward but not horizontal when drifting the line. You need enough of an angle to be able to lift and set the hook when the fish strike.
Hold the line in your line hand tight enough when stripping so you can set the hook when you get a strike. Raise the rod and pull down or hold the line at the same time.
Once you hook the fish, keep your rod up to keep the fish tight on the line and use the fly reel drag the way it is intended for landing big fish.
You can also pull hard with the stripping hand to hook the fish. If you miss, the fly will only be a couple of feet away from the fish so it may strike again.
What are fly fishing ethics?
Getting accepted in a group of anglers has it challenges. There are common courtesy rules that apply. Showing respect for others and nature is a good place to start.
Anglers learn to respect the following basic rules
Do not approach an angler that is fishing a section of water. The basic rule here is that stretch of water belongs to the first angler to fish it.
If you are on the move and you catch up to an angler that wants to keep fishing a certain section, exit the water and walk around the angler to fish downstream.
An angler fishing upstream has the right of way.
When an angler hooks a fish, reel in your line and yield to the angler fighting the fish.
If an angler is waiting for the waters to calm down after a disturbance, wait for their next move before proceeding to fish that section of the water.
Respect other anglers. Do not enter the water directly in front of another angler in action.
Wading in the water can disturb the natural aquatic food chain. Wade only where necessary.
Respect the environment and the property of others, do not litter.
Respect private property, do not trespass or destroy roads and trails. Leave gates as you found them.
Local fishing laws are intended to protect our environment and our rights to fish, obey them.
Congratulations! You now have the knowledge to fully equip yourself with the proper fly fishing gear to fit your style of fly fishing. With a little practice, you will become a good fly fisher.
Learn to experiment with different casting techniques to see what works best for you. If you have the chance to try different action fly rods, do not pass it up.
Keep watching for more fly fishing guides from me, and most of all, enjoy the great adventures that the passion of fly fishing will bring you!