Navigating the fly fishing gear sphere can be difficult for anyone. When purchasing gear, there’s a choice around every corner and multitudes of buying options. Here at Trident, we’re gear junkies and we always do our best to make sure you get products that will work for you on the water.
For first-time anglers, navigating the gear sphere can be particularly daunting. Knowing which gear is essential and how to assemble a collection of fly fishing necessities is no easy task. We’ve put together a list of the most important gear for first-time fly anglers to point you in the right direction.
Perhaps the most essential tool in fly fishing is the fly rod itself.
Fly fishing for Trout? Typically, a 9’ 5wt like the Douglas DXF is your best option. If you’re targeting larger fish, use a heavier rod: the Scott Tidal 9’ 8wt is a great mid-priced rod for saltwater applications. Like nearly every piece of gear in fly fishing, it’s important to match the fly rod to the target species.
A fly rod is of paramount importance, however, without a fly reel, a fly rod is useless (unless you’re Tenkara fishing… but that’s a different blog post).
Fly reels hold the fly line, balance a fly rod, and allow the angler to fight fish. Rod and reel work hand-in-hand on the water to artfully present the fly to the fish. Reels come in different arbor sizes, different weights, different drag types, and loads of different designs. The Lamson Litespeed G5 Fly Reel is our favorite Trout reel here at Trident. For beginners, Redington and Orvis make some quality low and mid-priced freshwater reels.
Fly Line is another essential piece of gear on the water.
Part of the beauty of fly fishing is that the angler isn’t casting monofilament off a reel like conventional fishing. Instead, a weighted line and a series of backcasts are used to propel a fly through the air and land that fly in the vicinity of a fish. This technique can certainly take some getting used to, but matching the appropriate fly line to your rod and reel setup definitely helps flatten the learning curve. Rio and Scientific Anglers make a variety of lines for every fly fishing situation.
A leader connects the fly line to the fly.
A leader is a piece of fluorocarbon or monofilament, usually 7-12 feet in length, that attaches to the end of a fly line. This clear piece of line helps disguise the fly when presenting it to a fish. Most leaders are tapered; they decrease in thickness from the butt end that attaches to the fly line to the tip of the leader. Generally, when Trout fishing, leaders in sizes 3x through 5x work well.
Tippet is useful during long days on the water that involve multiple fly changes.
Tippet attaches to the end of your leader to protect the leader and add additional length. A general practice when choosing tippet is to continue the taper of your leader. If you’re fishing a 3x Trout leader, add a few feet of 4x tippet to the end of the leader then tie your fly to the end of the tippet. Rio and TroutHunter make high-quality tippet and leader.
You’re not going to fool a fish without a fly.
Fly selection can be difficult. There are three main types of flies: nymphs, dry flies, and streamers. Nymphs are fished subsurface and imitate the larval stages of insects. Dry flies are fished on the top of the water and imitate mature insects that land on the water. Streamers imitate baitfish or other large aquatic prey. Local knowledge is invaluable when choosing flies, but it always helps to have a thorough fly selection.
Fly collections, especially Trout flies, can often be small, numerous, and difficult to organize without a fly box.
Fly boxes are used to organize and transport flies. Tacky makes some great boxes with silicone inserts to protect flies against rust and weathering. If you’re looking to store larger flies, Cliff makes a Bugger Beast Fly Box that’s a solid suitcase for streamers.
Days on the river usually necessitate the carrying of a water bottle, a fly box, extra gear, and other essentials. A fly fishing pack or bag makes carrying gear easy and efficient.
Packs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. If you’re planning on day-tripping, a smaller pack like the Orvis Waterproof Hip Pack has ample room to store daily necessities. If you’re likely to camp or spend multiple days on the water, a larger backpack is a better option.
Weather is an inevitability whenever you spend time outdoors. A hat acts as a shield to the elements, including the sun, during fly fishing ventures.
Hats are an angler’s best friend. Trucker hats are popular among fly anglers. If you’re planning on warm water angling, perhaps a sun hat like the Simms Sunshield Hat will provide maximum shelter from the elements.
Whether you’re angling on a small trout stream or wading the saltwater flats, polarized sunglasses help cut down glare and increase your chances of sighting a fish.
Sunglasses serve two purposes: they function as fish sighting tools and they provide eye protection from a hook and fly. It’s important to be able to see fish, but it’s arguably more important to protect your eyes from a momentary lapse in your casting stroke.
Angling often involves wading or time on two feet, so proper footwear goes a long way when fly fishing.
From wading boots to durable sandals, footwear should be chosen wisely. If you’re wet-wading (wading without waders), the Simms RipRap Shoe is a great option. If you’re angling in colder water and wearing waders, wading boots like Korkers or Simms provide support, grip, and versatility on the water.
Surely our gear list and recommendations could go on, but this list of the essentials should get you started. Did we leave something out? Let us know in the comments. If you’re new to fly fishing, give us a call at the shop and we’ll answer any and all gear questions to get you out on the water as quickly as possible. Tight lines and happy angling.
Questions about gear? Call us directly at (888) 413-5211 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.