If you’re beginning fly fishing but just don’t know where to start, trust us– you’re not the only one. Like any sport, starting out in fly fishing requires a dash of patience and a heaping dollop of practice. However, the right setup and the right gear to accompany it is crucial for saving money, time, and the hair on your head. From rods and reels to flies and tippets, this is our guide to beginning fly fishing for trout.
You can’t become an expert shadow caster without this crucial piece of the puzzle. There is no shortage of good fly rods out there. But knowing which are a good bang for your buck is easier said than done when beginning fly fishing.
For most trout applications, anyone will tell you that a 5wt or a 6wt rod is your best all around option. A 5wt rod is in the goldilocks zone when it comes to fly rods. Not too soft and not too stiff, lending itself to a wide variety of fly fishing techniques including dry fly, nymph and streamer fishing. A 6wt fly rod, on the other hand, is a little bit stronger and casts big flies easier. Therefore, if you’re fishing an area that uses a lot of big flies (stoneflies, heavy nymphs, etc.) or need a little extra ‘oomph’ in a rod then a 6wt is a great option.
Either way, choosing a solid beginner fly rod at an affordable price is critical as you acquire more fly fishing gear. The best ones we have fished are the Orvis Encounter and Orvis Clearwater setups. The Clearwater fly rod is $249 and is arguably the best rod for under $300 that money can buy. Orvis also offers beginner fly fishing package deals. The Orvis Encounter Package comes with a fly rod, reel, backing, fly line and leader for just $198. The Orvis Clearwater Package comes with all that and a 25-year warranty and is ready to fish out of the box for $396. Compared to other packages on the market, both of these fly rods cast like a dream at an affordable price. We carry both in a 5wt and 6wt and receive great feedback from customers that have put their Encounter or Clearwater setups to the test.
For those that don’t want to buy a complete fly fishing setup from the start or maybe already have a fly rod, fly reels come in a wide range of prices because of certain features. For a beginner fly reel, there are certain things to keep in mind when you’re ready to pull the trigger. First and foremost, size does matter! All reel manufacturers design different sizes of the same reel to accommodate different line and rod sizes. Pairing your rod with a correctly sized reel will improve the balance and weight of your set up, and also have the perfect amount of room for the fly line and backing.
So you’ve established that you need a 5wt reel for your 5wt fly rod, what comes next? Most reels you find will either be manufactured with cast or machined aluminum, with a significant price difference between the two. Cast is cheaper, while machined is more durable. Many manufacturers make reels out of both. One of our favorites is the Lamson Remix fly reel. The spool of the Remix is cast aluminum, while the frame is machined. It’s a perfect, made-in-America hybrid that can go through the wringer without costing an arm and leg. It comes in three different sizes and sells for $220-$230.
Purchasing the right fly line for a beginner fly fishing setup can be difficult. Most fly shops have an extensive selection of fly lines that literally spans wall to wall. Faster fly rods (meaning they’re stiff) require heavier lines to bring action to the rod. Similarly, slower (or bendier) fly rods require a softer taper to achieve a delicate presentation. Our staff at our Montana fly shop will be able to tell you the right line to put on your rod.
When you’re just getting started, it’s important to find a fly line that is good for multiple applications. One of our favorites, and certainly our most popular, is the Scientific Anglers MPX fly line. The MPX is a half-size heavy, allowing it to cast heavier flies easier and farther. At the same time, the MPX can delicately deliver dry flies. It’s a versatile and durable fly line that is made in America. Need we say more?
A good pair of waders and boots is a critical step in your beginning fly fishing gear checklist. Many waders you will see in fly shops nowadays are not the neoprene boot-fit waders your grandfather wore. Most are fixed with neoprene booties to be worn with a wading boot of your choosing. This reduces the chance of issues like leaks, while giving you the option to wear your boots without waders to wet wade. This also gives you the flexibility to pick and choose between features when selecting fly fishing gear.
We carry a wide selection of Simms and Patagonia wading gear. We love the Simms Tributary Waders for beginners. The Simms Tributary Waders are a great choice for anglers on a budget, coming in under $200. Another option is the Simms Guide Classic. This pair is made in Bozeman, Montana with durable and breathable GORE-TEX. The Guide Classic is a great choice for those looking for a Montana-made pair of waders without any unnecessary bells and whistles.
A good pair of fly fishing wading boots goes a long way. The Simms Tributary Wading Boot is a great, durable boot for just $139.95. The next step up, the Simms Flyweight Wading Boot, is a much lighter and more comfortable option for $200. Both the Tributary and the Flyweight are available in felt and Vibram rubber soles and are perfect to wear all year long.
With all of the new fly fishing gear you’re about to acquire you have to have a reliable place to store it. Luckily, there are multiple styles of fly fishing packs available. From vests to backpacks, you can’t really go wrong with any fly fishing pack. That being said, you want something that has all the necessary storage and function without sacrificing comfortability. One of our favorites is the Fishpond Summit Sling Pack. It’s minimalistic yet spacious, with enough room for several fly boxes and any necessary tools. It also comes with storage for your net and wading staff. For $119, you can hit the water with a simple yet functional sling pack.
At any given time, there are literally hundreds of different patterns available in our fly bins at our Missoula fly shop. All of them are meant to not only imitate a specific insect, but also a certain stage of that insect’s life cycle. This many options can be confusing, but there are several key patterns that are important to have in your beginner fly fishing setup.
First, you want to have a solid selection of versatile nymphs. A few of our favorite patterns all year long are Pheasant Tail Nymphs, Prince Nymphs, Pat’s Rubber Legs, and San Juan worms. These nymphs are sure to get you into fish when all else fails. For dry flies, a selection of Chubby Chernobyls, Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, and Stimulators are cornerstones of our dry fly go-to’s when bugs are hatching. Woolly Buggers and Sparkle Minnows are also great to have if you’re looking for bigger fish.
Now that you have the necessities, what else do you need to hit the water? Some important items to have on you include a net, fly box (or several,) forceps, and leaders and tippet. We receive a lot of questions about leaders and tippet. For starting out, or if you’re looking for a great all-around option, we recommend a 7.5 ft 3x leader. This size is strong and turns over big flies with ease. For tippet, we recommend 3x-5x. This range will cover your heavier nymphs and small dries alike. Other items to keep in mind are strike indicators for more successful nymphing and floatant to prolong your dry fly fishing.
These items are crucial building blocks to your beginning fly fishing kit. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to add some great gear to your collection, be sure to give us a call for specific recommendations and quality advice.