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Basic Fly Fishing Gear

The no nonsense guide to just getting what you need to get!

You want to start fly fishing.  The magazines say it's going to cost thousands of dollars to get set up.  You do not even feel certain you will enjoy the sport.  What is one to do?  That is what this page is about.  We will tell you what is critical to have, what is worth spending some extra $ on, and what is absolutely not worth the big bucks.  If you like it, the gear you buy up front will not be wasted when you want to upgrade.  It will be backup gear for when you break a rod tip or some other minor catastrophe occurs.

Rod and reel combo

Obviously, we do not know what your ultimate plans are for fishing, where you will do it, species you will target, etc.  But we do know what is likely to be your best bet for learning.  That would be what is known as a 5 or 6 weight rod and reel combo.  This size will get you on the water and allow you to fish for a lot of species - certainly your basic rainbow, cutthroat, brook, and browns in the 6" to 4 or 5 lb range will be in your range of possibilities.  

What you should not do is spend a small fortune on your first fly rod combo because when you spend the big bucks, it's more about balance, casting distance, and factors that will not matter for probably years because that is the length of time it take your skills to equal the quality of your gear.

An example of a good starting point might be the Orvis Encounter Complete Fly Outfit.  I would suggest the 5 weight 9 foot model.  You will, for under $200, get rod, reel, backing, and line all ready to go.  Try searching for the above setup and find your best deal.

There are lower priced combos out there that will work starting off, and if $200 + or - is too much for you, do not hesitate to go a bit cheaper...I am suggesting this because it really will be a workable setup for quite some time for you and if you can afford it, you will be glad you spent a few extra dollars.

Wader and Boots

Fly fishing on Missouri's Current River

It's pretty likely you are going to need waders and boots as the majority of fly fishing is done in cold water streams.  Of course, you may know that you will not be fishing in this environment, in which case waders and boots can be left off the list. For the waders, perhaps the most important feature is good reinforcement in the knees, as inevitably this is the area that fails first.  On the boots, you probably want to look for tubber soled boots as many states and areas are banning the felt soled boots.  The felt drags invasive species from one body of water to the next.

Maybe take a look at Reddington's Palix River Wader. I found them a couple of places at the time of this update (11/2016) less than $130. The boots Reddington has paired with these entry level waders run around $85.  Both items could be had for less with some careful shopping.

Fly Fishing Vest

This is the one piece of gear that you both must have and will probably think I led you astray first.  I say that last part because a fly fishing vest is such a matter of personal preference.  Everybody likes to bring different things out into the stream with them and organize them in different ways.  Si my suggestion will be one that will certainly work, and provide relatively handy places for storage for all of the odds and ends you have to have with you.

The recommendation I have been making the last couple of years is the Orvis Clearwater Vest.  It checks off the necessary things for what you will need, and they have held their price steady now going on two years - I am finding them in the under $70 range with no problem. If you go to the Orvis site, they have a deal where you can get a "fully loaded" version for a regular price of $210 and on sale now for $179. If you were to individually price the items they include, even the $210 price (that includes vest) is a good bargain.  Most of the things they include, you will end up buying pretty soon if you keep fishing.

Fly Fishing Net

You want a net that will accomplish three things.  The first is obvious - land your fish.  The second thing you want is a net that does hooks do not tangle in.  Third, the net should be made of a material that allows for safe release of fish.


The Wetfly Rubber Net with a short handle would be the net I would recommend.  It has all the features I described above, and if you do some searching on the web, you should find it between $30 and $50, - closer to the low end.

Basic Tools

Finally, you will need a few basic tools as described above.  Often these can be found as a combo pack that will save you money.  The minimum set to start off with includes:

  • Nail Knot Tool 

  • Line Nipper/Eye Cleanout

  • Forceps

  • Retractor(s) to attach tools to vest

  • Floating fly box

Beyond these items, the choices you make will be largely personal and/or dependent on the waters you will be fishing and the species of fish you will be targeting.  This is where the fun really begins.

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