I want to back up a little and talk about the basic stuff one needs to get into fly fishing. When new folks come to Flycasters meetings or to one of our casting classes, one of the first questions they ask is, “How much does a fly rod cost?” Well fortunately a fairly decent fly rod can be had for around $100. But the rod is just the starting point. The following is the minimum amount of stuff that it takes to go fly fishing: a rod, a reel, a fly line including backing, tippet, and flies. If the rod doesn’t come with a decent case, you’ll want one of these. Some folks will want a net. For a long time after I re-started fly fishing [I did it first as a kid 60+ years ago but only got serious about it after I retired 15 or so years ago] I often said that I didn’t see the value of an over-priced fly reel. I said that if it wouldn’t embarrass my fishing partners, I would prefer to duct tape a Budweiser can to the handle of my rod and wrap the line on it. But as I started catching more good sized fish, I’ve come to realize that a reel with a reliable drag system can be a big help when playing decent fish.
Fairly frequently we encounter folks who have inherited a bunch of fly fishing stuff from a relative or friend. In most cases, despite the pride in this equipment, much of it should be discarded and replaced with up-to-date equipment. Even a rod that cost $5-600, 15 years ago is so different than more recent vintage rods that their value has declined to virtually nothing. So what makes a good rod, anyway? For me, mainly weight and flex. On the North Platte and surrounding waters I fish 5 or 6 weight rods, so this my frame of reference. When I occasionally go somewhere I can fish 3 or 4 weight rods, they are a joy – unless I happen to get into a really big fish.
So let’s add it all up and see what it really costs to get into our sport. Rod = $100; reel = $60; line and backing = $50; tippet = $5; flies [let’s say a dozen to start] = $30. Let’s just say $250.00 as a nice round number. So where do I get this stuff? There are several possibilities, including Walmart and Cabelas, but I always recommend my favorite fly shop. These folks will ask the right questions to match a new fly fisher with the right gear and they will be sure that you are indeed properly fitted and ready to hit the water. Besides the option of buying items individually as I laid them out above, the smartest thing for a beginner is to buy a package that includes items of about the same quality that are balanced for one another. These packages typically include rod, reel, fly line and backing, and case. The only thing you have to add are tippet and flies. Decent packages can be had for around $160.
That’s the basics. But if you plan to wade fish [actually get in the water with the fish] you will need waders and wading shoes. Or at least hip boots, which typically but not always, come with boot feet. When I wade these days, I use a wading staff [although I guess an old broom handle might suffice]. The older I get the more uncertain I am of my balance on uneven, invisible surfaces. A decent net, which I consider an option for a beginner, can run to $100 or so. A good wading staff will run about the same. And expect to spend up to $250 for a good set of waders and wading boots.
OK, let’s say you’ve been fly fishing long enough that you want to replace the entry level gear. Again, make a trip to my favorite fly shop. They will let you cast their rods before you buy and will explain the various options. And if you’ve progressed as much as I expect you to, you will tell a noticeable difference from the stuff you’ve been fishing. But be sure your credit card is well lubricated. Because you will be spending at least twice what it costs to get started to step up to the next level. And if you jump to top of the line gear, expect to spend even more.
We’re coming up on the best fishing of the year! Get out there and get among em!