If you’ve ever looked at the vast variety of fly fishing equipment available, it likely won’t come as a surprise that fly fishing is a $750 million market in the United States. For those new to fly fishing, trying to get everything necessary to begin can be a daunting task. To help you wade into this favored American pastime, we’ve compiled a list of six of the most essential pieces of equipment you’ll need.
- Fly rod
Clearly the first thing any new fly fisherman will need is a fly rod. Fly rods range in length from six feet for freshwater fishing to 15 feet for two-handed fishing for larger game like salmon or steelhead. As you may have guessed, the length of the rod you need will depend on the type of fish you’re after and the conditions in which you’ll be fishing. Obviously a 15 foot rod will do you little good in a stream that’s only seven feet wide. Many fly fisherman advise opting for a standard, nine foot rod to get started with freshwater fly fishing.
- Fly reel
The second item on your shopping list should be a fly reel. Fly reels can vary from $20 to upwards of $1,000. The larger the species you’re fishing for, the more important a quality fly reel becomes. For smaller, freshwater fish, it’ll serve more as a means of holding the line than anything else. Regardless of where and what you’re fishing for, you’ll need a fly reel that coincides with the weight of the rod you have to ensure there’s enough room for the fly line and backing.
- Fly line
As with all fly fishing gear, the fly line comes in a wide variety of sizes and varieties. From zero thickness to 14, they can be designed to float or sink. The weight of line you need will correspond to the weight of the rod you’re using. A four weight line goes with a four weight rod. Like the fly rod, a standard four or five weight fly line is a good place to begin. A four or five-weight, nine foot rod is suitable for most freshwater fish.
The backing is a lot like what it’s name suggests: it backs you up when your line runs out. The backing can give you an extra 200 yards of line after you’ve already exhausted all the feet in your fly line. Backing can also help resolve the issue of a slick fly line that doesn’t wrap easily around a hard spool. Unlike the other fly fishing gear, backing isn’t complicated and shouldn’t weigh heavily in your decision-making matrix.
With so many flies to choose from, it can be hard to know where to begin. Fly fishing flies are unique in that they can be made to resemble an insect at various stages of its life and development. From an egg to a nymph just emerging, to an adult occasionally touching down on the water’s surface, there’s a fly for every fish appetite. They can resemble a tiny midge, which accounts for up to half of a fish’s diet, particularly in winter; or they can be as large as a small mouse. Just ask a few fly fishermen to show you a look inside his fly box to see the overwhelming variety used at any given time.
If you’re new to fly fishing in the are, however, you’re best bet is to fill your fly box with a variety of flies. Add dry flies, nymphs, and streamers, and make sure your fly box has some flies which sink and some which float.
- Fly box
Once you’ve bought your assortment of flies, it’s time to find a fly box to put them in. The fly box varieties available can be almost as daunting as the variety of flies. One fly box may be perfect for nymphs while another is better for dry flies. Others are built to carry the large flies for saltwater fish. When choosing a fly box, look at both how it will accommodate the flies you’ll be carrying and also how it’ll fit in your vest or pack.