What Do I Need to Get Started Fly Fishing? 

For the beginner, selecting equipment for the first time doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. However, many people will start by going cheap on a combo, which can often be a mistake. Spending some extra dough will likely make the learning process more straightforward, and the gear will be more pleasurable to fish with once you start hitting the water consistently. We already went through some of the various essential items, so below is a quick walkthrough of what we suggest you look for when just beginning in this sport. Also, remember to refer to our other Fly Fishing Basics sections for more information on each category.

The Rod
  • Graphite blank

  • 9 feet

  • Rods rated for 5 weight (freshwater) or 8 weight (saltwater) are ideal sizes to start with

  • Medium-fast action

The Reel
  • Cast or machined from aluminum

  • Some form of disc-drag system (fully sealed is a bonus)

  • Drag knob that's easy to adjust

  • Medium to large arbor

  • Ample backing capacity for targeted species; light reels may come with no more than 100 yards of capacity, while reels for bigger species (like in saltwater) often hold 200+ yards

  • Quick spool release

Line and Backing
  • Weight-forward floating fly line

  • Match fly line weight to the rod's rating (5-weight rod gets a 5-weight line)

  • 20-pound Dacron backing is fine for the combos most beginners start with

Leaders, Flies, Accessories

The trickiest part of choosing an outfit for the first time will likely be selecting the proper leaders and flies. Many variables must be taken into account when choosing either one. It's best to consult with an expert that can point you in the right direction based on where you're fishing and what you're fishing for.

There's no shortage of accessories in fly fishing, from clothing to tools. Much like leader and fly selection, some of your accessories will depend on the targeted location and species. Some essentials we pretty much take everywhere include a good hat, polarized sunglasses, sun-protective clothing, extra leader/tippet material, pliers/forceps, scissors, different flies, and a vest or tackle bag.

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