by Gerry Frederick
Now that fly fishing has become fairly mainstream, it’s enjoying a rather large influx of beginners each season. These newcomers are getting younger, and the percentage of ladies among them increases every year. That second group is especially significant; some evidence suggests that women comprise the largest group of newcomers to the sport.
I guess it’s not just your father’s sport anymore.
I started fly fishing in the early 70s because it seemed to me that the fly fisherman were catching more fish than me, and they did it while lugging around a lot less gear. The flies also cost a whole lot less than the top of the line lures. When I lose a fly it costs me about $1.50 dollars if I bought it, and about 11 cents if I tied it.
Like any other hobby, a newbie can go nuts when it comes to buying gear. The sport of fly fishing can get out of hand, trust me,. I have two rooms in my house set aside for fly fishing stuff. Four boats have taken over what used to be the garden. Even when I wasn’t guiding, I could find a justification for just about every purchase.
I don’t guide as a pro anymore but I do feel the need to stay on top of the industry. A lot has changed over the last forty years, but not the basics. You should own the gear that best suits you, and that could take some time to figure out. I still find myself cruising the web for fishing gear more often than I care to admit. The truth is that you can never finish this race; you only stay in it.
Rods and Reels
It may be a cliché but it’s generally true in the fly fishing world: you do get what you pay for. Fly rods can cost as little as $25 dollars, or as much as $5000. The more practical rod for most of us is in the $150 to $250 dollar range. Fly reels are much the same. The bottom line is, if you don’t know how to cast a fly rod it doesn’t matter how much you paid for it.
That brings me back to where I started, what do you really need to get started fly fishing? Not very much at all. Scientific Angler puts out a starter kit that comes complete with everything you need, even a video. The quality of the rod, reel and line is above average and that makes getting off the ground a little easier.
To put together your own starter outfit ask the store clerk give you a hand. Let them know how much money you want to spend. I think you should keep it under $250 dollars. The reason for is simple. When you get a little better at using the equipment you may want to expand your gear or move to something different. For example: a rod with a different grip or different size. If you spend a lot more than $250 dollars on just one rod and reel, you’re kinda stuck with it, and you may miss out on a lot of great fishing that would be accessible with a different size rod.
It’s important that you get a rod that feels comfortable in your hand. Worry about the looks or the name next year. My suggestion for most beginners has stayed the same over the years. Get a rod that costs about $100 dollars, a reel that costs about $50 dollars and a floating line for about $40. The size should be a 5- or 6-weight. There are other items that you’ll need too, like backing and leaders. Oh, and don’t forget the flies. That stuff will cost about $60 dollars all together. With all that you’ll be ready to go, and you’ve just managed to hit the $250 dollar mark.
I suggest a cheaper rod to start for several reasons. Most beginners will want a stiffer casting rod after they master the casting or at least understand it well enough to know the difference. Another reason is breaking it. When you’re new to the sport and find yourself flailing away with a nine foot fishing pole, it feels less stressful if you’re only into it for 100 bucks. The same is true for the line. Beginners and particularly young people are very hard on fly line.
The reel is the one thing you’ll use for years, or until you meet one you like better. Be sure that the reel you choose has the ability to hold the line you have picked and that it will take extra spools when your ready for them. After you get started fly fishing and you’re a little more confident and then think you have it all dialed in, pop for the $250 dollar rod and the $95 dollar line. Then you have something to show them to the neighbors.