Just Starting? Here’s Where to Start?

Let me get this straight, you want to start fly fishing? Let me be the first to welcome you into the underground world of shady Craigslist deals and lies to your spouse about where you were last night. You’re better off starting to smoke. Trust me, it’s a more believable story and will cost you less in the long run.

I’m going to assume you’re interested in fly fishing because you’ve just finished watching a Justin Bieber fly fishing video and you need some material in that love letter you’re going to sneak into his dressing room next time he’s in town. Okay, great! Let’s get started.

Now, you may have taken a gander at some popular Instagram accounts connected to fly fishing and thought, “This dude looks fancy.” Let me tell you something, he was. I’m going to level with you here, the latest Simm’s Trout Belt Buckle isn’t going to help you catch fish. It will, however, make you irresistible to women (I think). In all reality, a fly fisherman needs a rod, reel, line, leader material, and flies to be successful. It wasn’t long ago that fly fisherman used their hats as a fly box, and old jeans as their waders. Those fishermen caught fish, just like the decked out fishermen of today do. So, where should you start?

Let’s begin with rod selection. Now, I live along the Rocky Mountains and am privy to catching trout species. Most of the fish I catch are 1-10 pounds and don’t require heavier gear. So, all things being equal I am going to assume you won’t be trying to fly fish for Grouper off the coast of Mexico. This means that on most occasions, I reach for my 5 weight fly rod. This size rod is a great all around fly rod that is delicate enough to fish smaller creeks and tough enough to help you wrangle in that 12 inch brown you accidently foul hooked. If I’m being honest here, my first choice would always be for a beginner to buy used gear when starting out, but that means you’ll actually have to go outside and interact with “people.” YUCK. Two great beginner rods are the Echo Base and the TFO Signature Series. I grew up using TFO and have nothing but amazing things to say about them. Their warranty is second to none, and I still use some of their rods today. Echo is a brand I keep hearing about. I’ve been told by their users that their rods are responsive and well made. Plus, their customer service has been nothing short of amazing. Now, I could get into the difference between fast action and slow action, but I will save that for when you get serious about fly fishing and want to step up your game.

Okay, so you’ve got a rod in your cart. What now? You need a reel, stupid. How else are you going reel in all that line after you’ve tangled it around the tree behind you? This is my personal opinion, but I don’t believe reel choice matters much when you’re first starting out. For years I used a $20 reel that was purchased at Walmart. That being said, it would absolutely suck if your reel stopped working after walking from the parking lot to your local children’s trout pond where you planned to spend an afternoon dazzling small children and the elderly. However, I still believe that you don’t need to spend a ton of money to get a quality reel. Reels such as the Redington Crosswater or the Echo Base are well constructed enough to last you a few seasons and are quite budget friendly. Yet, if you want to spend a little more money and get something that I trust, I would suggest an Orvis Battenkill or Sage 2200 Series fly reel. I’ve used both of those reels and had great success and very little complaints. I still use the Battenkill on my 2 weight whenever I get a chance to put it to use.

So, you’ve got your rod and reel. Time to catch fish, right? WRONG. What, did you think you could poke the fish and you’re fishing? Dead wrong, bucko. You need to attach a hook to something, and that something needs to end up in your reel. I know this sounds difficult, but it’s only because you want to fly fish, so you’ve lost a few IQ points already. You’ll need some fly line and some sort of leader material. Okay, I’m going to get a little serious here. In my opinion, fly line is the most important item to spend good money on. Cheap line will curl in the water, be difficult to mend, and can be prone to damage much quicker than more expensive line. So, what line should you buy? Well, that depends on your budget, but I would suggest never spending less than $40 on fly line. Since this is your first fly line, you are going to want to start with a floating line. Floating line is versatile, as it allows for the use of dry flies, nymph setups, and streamer fishing. If you need to get flies deep, slap on some weight and Bob’s your uncle. Myself, I have been using Rio Fly Lines for a better part of 15 years. However, I have heard good things about Airflo and they have a basic floating line for a great price. Plus, you can’t beat their no questions asked warranty.

We are almost home free here. You have your rod, reel, and fly line. All that is missing is a brain inside that thick skull of yours and some sort of leader. When you’re checking out leaders, you will hear the term “tapered leader”. This means the lines gets thinner as you reach the end, giving it more strength towards your connection to the fly line. However, you could just as easily use basic monofilament line and attach that directly to your fly leader. If you do this, I would suggest tying on tippet to the line to create a tapered sense within your setup. For myself, I use Rio tapered leaders, as well as their tippets.

So, there you have it. You’re ready to get out on the water and get some snapshots for that sad looking Instagram page you keep refreshing after each post. Remember kids, even if you don’t catch fish right away, you can always take artsy shots and write poetic posts about nature.

Tight Lines!