The Essential Guide to Fly Fishing Gear for Beginners – Foundry Outdoors
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The Essential Guide to Fly Fishing Gear for Beginners

If you have dreams of fly fishing tranquil mountain streams, you'll need to get your hands on the basics of fly fishing gear.


Fly fishing: these words alone bring images to mind of meandering mountain rivers and rising trout. High peaks, clear water, trout, and a fly fisherman blend together like a painting by the brush of God himself. Just thinking about it gets my heart going.

Granted, you don’t have to toss a fly in the cold running water of the high country. In fact, some folks put very few western states in their top fly fishing states. The truth is you can fly fish just about everywhere. You can catch nearly any fish on a fly rod, and most bodies of water near you are ripe for a good night of fly fishing.


If you are new to the sport of fly fishing, you may be interested in learning what fly fishing gear you actually need. Fly fishing is one of those sports where, fortunately, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to get into. You only need a few basic items, and a basic understanding of their purpose. The following items could be considered the essential fly fishing gear for a beginner.


Perhaps the first piece of gear you’ll want to settle on is the rod. You may think buying your rod is the first step because it is the most prominent. In actuality, buying a rod is a good first step because it makes you settle a few main questions. The biggest question you have to make is what kind of fish will you be targeting?

It seems lots of people get into fishing just wanting to catch a fish. This makes sense. You can’t see them, don’t know where they are, and can seldom get an idea of what they are feeding on. This is why it is important for an inexperienced fisherman to target a specific species. Not only will doing so help you learn the trade, rather than just throwing a line in and hoping for the best, but it will make gear selection easier. It will help you actually learn to fish.

Fly fishing rodOnce you have a species of fish in mind, you can purchase your rod. Fly fishing rods are sold by weight. The weight should correspond to the fish you are targeting. Small fish can be a fun fight on a small rod, like a 3. If you want to catch larger fish though it is best to use a heavy rod, perhaps an 8. For a first timer looking to catch trout or bass, a 5-6 weight is a good all around choice. Length is also something you should pay attention to. The longer a fly rod is, the bigger the action (how much of the rod bends when you put pressure on the tip), but the more difficult it is to cast. Newbies should buy rods no longer than about 9 feet. This will help you as you learn the art of casting a fly rod.


After purchasing your rod, the next piece of essential fly fishing gear is the reel. Fly fishing reels look much simpler than a spincaster, but can be as high falutin as you want. A good friend of mine who spends more time on the water than at work claims, “All a reel does is hold line.” Maybe he’s right, and maybe he’s wrong, but this philosophy has worked for him. In other words, if you are a beginner, don’t worry about getting the fanciest reel on the market. Most reels will be just fine.

Fly fishing reelGenerally speaking, choosing a reel is fairly easy after buying your rod. Reels are designed to accommodate specific rod. For instance, if you buy a 5 weight rod, you’ll be looking for a #5 reel. This is one aspect of buying gear that is pretty straightforward, which is nice for a first timer.

The only other thing to look for, is a reel with a large arbor. The arbor basically refers to the diameter of the housing the line spools around. A reel with a larger arbor will not impart as much “memory” in the line. For example. Think about if you took a piece of dental floss and wrapped it tightly around your finger. When you removed the floss it would likely have some wave, or ripples to it. Next, if you took a similar piece of floss and wrapped it around a basketball, then removed it, you would notice the floss would lay pretty well flat. A large arbor will have the same effect.


The next component of essential fly fishing gear is what goes on the reel; the line. Fly fishing line isn’t as easy as choosing some monofilament for a spincaster though. There are actually 3 different elements to fly rod line; the backing, the line, and the tippet.

Before anything else goes on your fly reel, you’ll need to load it with about 100 yards of good backing. Backing will actually compose most of the material on your reel. It is thinner than fly line which allows you to load more onto a reel. When fighting fish, having extra line is something you’ll surely need.

Attached to your backing is the fly line. Fly line comes in several different types, and the kind you’ll need depends on the kind of fishing you’ll be doing. These days manufacturers make floating line and sinking line. Floating line seems to be the most popular, but some folks who like to fish deep waters like lakes, opt for sinking lines instead. Again, it depends on the fishing you’ll be doing.

One attribute beginners may want to look for is a weight forward line. These days, they can actually make the line heavier toward the fly, and lighter as you move from the front. If you increase the forward weight it should make casting easier.

Finally, at the end of your line is the tippet. A tippet is the final part of the line that connects your fly line to the fly. Tippets come in many different sizes. The general rule is that the smaller the tippet is, the less likely a fish will see it. On the other hand, the smaller the tippet is, the more likely a fish will break it. It is all a game of give and take.

Once you have your rod, reel, and line all put together, you have the basic requirements met. You’ll still need to buy flies, but a discussion on flies is a whole different ball game. If you can decide on your target fish, and buy gear suited to that species, you can worry about flies at a later date. You'll have many considerations to make in that regard.

On a side note, if you’ve gotten to the end of this guide to the essential fly fishing gear and you’re feeling more lost than when you started, you may consider buying a kit. They comes with everything you need to get started, including a DVD to set you straight. A good ⅚ kit would likely be a good all-around choice.

With summer fast approaching, now is the time to start assembling your fly fishing gear. If this is your first go at fly fishing, you’ll certainly need all the gear listed above as well as flies. As with any sport, there is a whole array of gear you can buy down the road to improve your catch or your comfort. When first starting out, this essential fly fishing gear will get you on the water and having fun. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll be casting your own line in some high mountain meadow.


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Derek Dewitt - Nov 22, 2017

I have been wanting to pick up fishing as a hobby since last summer, but I keep getting hung up on choosing the right gear. I’m glad that you mentioned how the longer the rod, the more difficult it is to cast. I’ll have to find a relatively smaller rod to start off with until I get the hang of it in this case.

Anna Sally - Apr 08, 2019

Thank you because you have been willing to share information with us. we will always appreciate all you have done here because I know you are very concerned with our. Fishing Gears

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