Frank Yaun September 2022
That’s one of the most confusing things about getting started on your fly fishing journey – what do I want, what do I need, what do I have the budget for? In a nutshell, it depends on your budget, and your personality, some beginners to fly fishing feel the need to look like page 42 in the Orvis catalog, which is ok if that’s your jam, but I’d suggest a much more pragmatic approach, which sounds odd to me as a recovering gear junkie. Let’s go thru the basic equipment:
Fly rod, reel, and line – I’d highly suggest getting this first, as you’ll need to begin learning to cast, as not being able to get the fly to where the trout are is the first obstacle to overcome to catch fish, and that’s the goal. I started out with a cheap Fenwick fiberglass rod, a click style reel (no drag), and el cheapo line, which was sufficient to start with. I’d suggest a 4 or 5 weight, 9’4 piece, medium to fast action rod, as this is a rod you can use for every technique of fly fishing for trout. As far as a reel goes, this is basically a device to store your line, you definitely don’t need a fancy pants reel. For line, get a basic, weight forward, double taper line, and grab a couple of nylon, 9’ 4x leaders. I should point that the 4x refers to the tippet strength, which is the terminal end of the leader. To make this simple, fly rod & reel manufacturers sell an entry level combo, with rod, reel, line, leader, and carrying case. Cortland, Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO), Greys, all have moderately priced high quality combos (rod, reel, case) prefer to support local fly shops, such as Maggie Valley Fly Shop in Maggie Valley NC, but you can often find deals on the web, at fly fishing shops with an online store, or God forbid, Amazon. Another option is to go to a “big box” store and by a cheaper combo, which is ok, but if you take to this art form hobby, you’ll quickly outgrow the cheapo rig, while higher quality rigs you can fish with for many years, pass on to your children, and can be a backup rig when you go down the dark rabbit hole of gear addiction. The high end rod & reel rig doesn’t make you a better fisherman when beginning, it’s all about learning the fundamentals, much like golf, or other sports. As far as line goes, it can be very specific according to what technique you use, and most ready to fish outfits come with line, so for the beginner, use that line, learn to cast, and not wipe out frequently while wading streams. There’s plenty of other rabbit holes we’ll go down later with regards to line, leader, tippet, etc.
Waders and wading boots – Most streams and rivers that we fly fish in maintain cool water temps, cool as in freeze your butt off, as the water temp window for sustaining trout populations is 35-65 degrees, and ideal water temps for catching trout are roughly 45-55 degrees F. For waders, again, you can go low dough, and get waders with attached boots, most come with rubber boots, which are fine if you’re into doing the slippery rocks, try not to bust your butt dance in a stream, which at a minimum results in bruised ego, bruised body, or even worse, serious body damage. For safety, I highly recommend felt soled boots, as they will give much better traction, you’ll thank me for this, unless you’re into sharing your bruise pictures on social media. Personally, I have always bought stocking foot waders, and felt soled boots, or rubber bottomed boots with carbide tipped studs, as when it’s nice and warm out, I will wade in my wader boots with neoprene booties, as I like the traction and ankle support. There are plenty of high quality entry level waders & boots from top shelf manufacturers, like Grundens, Orvis, Redington, and others, with (I think) all waders made from a breathable, Gore-Tex type fabric, that’s always a plus. There are cheaper waders made with nylon or neoprene, but these are usually pretty toasty when temps get up a bit. I currently fish with Orvis Pro zip waders, and Corkers wading boots, that have interchangeable soles, namely aluminum hex head soles, which really cut thru rock slime. For safety reasons, I highly suggest a wading belt, which prevents your waders from rapidly filling up with water, which can absolutely save your life if you take a spill in deeper water!
That’s the very basic gear, next up I’ll talk more about flies, line, leader, tippet, nipper, forceps, and suggestions on how to carry this plethora of needed materials with you on the stream.