Hey guys, Travis here with Noses Up! I've written this article as a fly fishing equipment checklist for beginning fly anglers. I hope it helps you determine what equipment you'll need to start fly fishing, as well as save you some money by helping you avoid purchasing unnecessary items.
What do you need to start Fly Fishing?
To get started fly fishing, you’ll need the following:
What to look for in your first fly rod: The important attributes to consider in buying your first a fly rod are: durability, versatility, and size to match your style of fishing.
Durability: You don’t need to break the bank to get a high quality rod, but some that are on the low end of the pricing scale are cheap for a reason.
Versatility: What I mean by versatility is the rod can be used effectively in several different fly fishing situations. Before buying a “specialty” fly rod, it’s important to first figure out what type of fly fishing you'll enjoy and will be doing the most of. A highly versatile rod will help you explore your angling options.
Best fly rod size for trout: The best size fly rod size for trout are 2-6wt. Each size is best for specific situations.
2-3 wt. Best for narrow streams holding smaller trout. Can be used to cast delicate dry flies as well as lightweight nymphs.
4-5 wt. Best all around fly rod sizes. Can be used in larger as well as smaller streams, and suitable to cast almost any dry fly or nymph.
6 wt. Best for casting big streamers, or in extremely windy conditions.
A good fly rod for a beginner needs to be affordable, easy to cast, and versatile enough to fish several different angling situations. My fly rod recommendation for a beginner is the Echo Base Fly Rod kit. This kit includes the rod and the real, so you wouldn't need to worry about trying to match and balance them together like you would if you bought them separately. Click on the link below to check out current pricing on Amazon.
The most important attributes to look for when purchasing your first fly fishing reel are the range of drag settings and balance with the fly rod.
Drag settings: Fly reel drag settings determine how hard the fly line must be pulled on before it will be released from the reel. The higher the drag setting, the harder the line has to be pulled. A wide range is important because it allows for more versatility in the situations it can be used in.
Balance with the fly rod: Balance with the rod is primarily determined by the reel’s weight. There are 2 options to help determine if it's balanced correctly with the rod.
You can take your rod into a fly shop and try out various reels.
You can buy a rod/reel combo specifically designed to balance each other out.
If you are going to go with the combo route, my recommendation would be the Echo Base Rod and Reel Kit. It was the 3rd fly rod I ever owned. (The first two were cheap rods that broke because of low quality). To check out current pricing on Amazon, click on the image below:
This is the “string” material that connects the fly line to the reel itself. Backing is very basic and I haven't found a brand that’s better than any other.
This is the thicker, usually brightly colored line that connects to the backing on one end, and to the leader on the other. There're several different designs (known as tapers) in the world of fly lines, and while the details of tapers are beyond the scope of this article, you can click here to read our in depth article and learn more about them.
When selecting your first fly line, 2 things are important to take into account:
It matches the size of your rod (known as "weight", no to be confused with the actual wt. in ounces or lbs. of the rod).
It’s an all purpose line.
Matching the line to the rod's size: One way a rod is measured is by size, which is also known as "weight". In order for a rod to function best, the size (weight) of the line needs to match the weight of the rod. All fly line manufacturers indicate the line's weight on the line’s package, so you won't need to worry about trying to figure this out for yourself.
Example: A 4 weight rod should be paired with a 4 weight fly line
All purpose fly lines: There're dozens of options for “specialty” fly line designs. When starting out fly fishing, it’s best to get an all purpose line so you’re not limited to only certain situations.
Fly line can be expensive. Especially because most of the time you won't be able to try it out on your own rod before purchasing it.
My top pick for an economical fly line option is the Maxcatch ECO floating line. They offer a few different color options, but these have no impact on the performance of the line, so just choose the color you like best. Click the image below to check out current pricing on Amazon:
My top pick for a more expensive fly line would be the Rio Premier Gold. It's more expensive than the Maxcatch option mentioned above. The main difference is the durability and extended life expectancy. Click on the image below to check out current pricing on Amazon.
A fly fishing leader is the section of material that connects the fly line to the tippet or fly. Leaders are made from various materials including; nylon, fluorocarbon, thread, or silk.
When beginning fly fishing, the two best types of leaders are: tapered monofilament and furled.
Tapered Monofilament (nylon) Leaders: Tapered leaders have a thicker end that’s attached to the fly line, and decrease in diameter as they move toward the end that’s attached to the tippet or fly. Some people tie their own leaders for specific fly fishing situations, but when starting out, it’s best to use a standard tapered leader that gradually gets thinner as it moves closer to the end the tippet or fly will be attached to.
The best leader size for a beginning trout angler is a 9.5 ft 5x. This allows for extra tippet to be added to the leader without becoming too long to cast effectively.
Furled Leaders: Furled leaders are created by "braiding" materials together. Fly line is connected to one end of the leader, and tippet to the other using a built in tippet ring.
For starting out fly fishing, braided (furled) thread leaders offer 2 distinct advantages:
They last much longer than a monofilament leader. (You can fish a braided leader for multiple seasons without having to change it).
They're more forgiving during casting. The added weight and shorter length of the furled leader make it easier to load on the back cast and unload on the forward cast.
My favorite furled leader is the Featherweight Dry Fly. It seems to me to be more abrasion resistant than others I've tried. Click on the image below to check out current pricing on Amazon:
Tippet is the section of monofilament or fluorocarbon that’s attached to the thinnest end of the leader. When you first take the leader out of its package, you won’t need to add tippet to it.
Tippet needs to be added to the leader after 3-4 fly changes. At this point, enough of the leader has been clipped off to cause the tip to be too thick in diameter.
Tippet can be attached to the leader by using a double surgeons knot as shown in the video below:
Tippet can be made of either monofilament or fluorocarbon. It’s important to buy at least one spool of each as they are used for different fishing situations.
Monofilament tippet: Is lighter in weight and floats better. This is ideal for fishing dry flies.
Fluorocarbon tippet: Sinks faster and is more difficult for the fish to see underwater. This is ideal for fishing subsurface flies.
The best size tippet for dry fly fishing is 5x-7x supple monofilament. Sizes of flies you'll be fishing are the main determinate in which size is best for you.
Tippet size table:
5X: Fly sizes 12-16
6x: Fly sizes 18-20
7x: Fly Sizes 22-24
My recommendation for tippet is Rio's 6X Supple Flex. It's the most supple tippet I've found, which helps create the slack line casts needed to fool suspicious trout. Click the image below to see Amazon's current pricing.
WHAT FLIES DO I NEED TO START FLY FISHING
To get started fly fishing, you'll need dry flies and subsurface flies. You'll want to have 4-6 different patterns in 2-3 different sizes.
Flies are the “bait” used in fly fishing. While there're hundreds if not thousands of fly patterns available, only a handful would be needed to get started. Flies can be broken down into 2 broad categories: Dry flies and subsurface flies.
Dry Flies: These are the flies that drift on top of or in the water’s surface. They're made of materials that increase the fly's surface tension and helps them float.
The 3 dry fly patterns I would recommend when starting out would be:
Elk Hair Caddis
Subsurface Flies: These represent any fly that’s designed to be fished below the water’s surface. They're made with materials that add weight to the fly to help it sink.
The 3 subsurface fly patterns I would recommend when starting out would be:
Pheasant Tail Nymph
Hare’s Ear Nymph
Fly floatant is used when dry fly fishing to help the fly stay floating longer. There're 2 types of fly floatant: Silicone gel and powder. Both are important to have when starting out fly fishing.
Silicone gel fly floatant: This comes in a small “tube” containing a thick liquid that’s applied to the fly prior to fishing it. It increases the surface tension on the fly to delay the amount of time it takes for the fly to become waterlogged.
Powder fly floatant: This comes in a small container and often includes a brush to help apply the power to the fly. ( I would recommend getting the type with the brush because it makes application 10x easier). Powder floatant should be applied after the fly's been fished and has become water logged. The powder helps bring the fly back to life by drying out its material so it can float again.
Nippers refer to the tool used to cut leaders and tippet when fly fishing. They have an opening on one end that the leader or tippet goes into, and sharp edges to cut unwanted excess.
A few things to look for when picking out a pair of nippers:
Size: Small nippers work best. The less room they take up in your pocket, vest, or lanyard the better.
Hole on one end: Some nippers have a hole on the opposite end of the opening. This is very helpful if you decide to hook it on to a retractable zinger or other clip.
Sharpness: This may sound obvious, but I've bought expensive pairs in the past the were dull from the get go. The best thing to do is to take a small bit of tippet with you into the store/fly shop and try the nippers out on it to test their sharpness.
Most nippers look very similar to finger nail clippers. In fact, using a set a finger nail clippers is often better than others you can find!
Fly box refers to the carrying case for you flies. It's the small square container that opens and closes to keep your flies from falling out. Things to look for in a fly box:
Size: When beginning fly fishing, a small (7x4 inch) slim fly box is best. You won't need one that holds more than 40-70 flies, and a smaller box takes up less room to allow for other gear you might need.