Fly fishing can be overwhelming and very confusing at first, but once you understand the basics and acquire the right gear the rest is just practice and time! Today I’ll be going over some basic and starter equipment any fly-fisher can use, beginner or expert!
First things first, you’ll need a rod. The type of rod you need depends on the type of water and fish you’ll be targeting. Rods are labeled with different weights and lengths. Although it's counterintuitive, the weight on the rod isn’t how much the rod actually weighs, it's actually its “weight class”. The weight class is the standard classification system that is used to identify different rods. What it’s actually used for is to tell you what weight line to use because fly lines are also classified by weights. Fly line is the colorful line that wraps around your reel and allows you to cast far and to let the fish run. The line weight is based upon how much the first 30 feet of the working portion of the fly line actually weighs in grains! Nifty huh?
When is comes to weight bigger= bigger! A 3wt rod is made for smaller streams and smaller trout, while an 8wt is made for say saltwater fishing for bonefish. Choosing your rod and line all depends on your size of water and fish you’re looking to catch. For example, I typically fish Colorado and Wyoming and catch trout from 5” to 28” and use a 5wt. In the picture below I’m using a 4wt to catch smaller brook trout!
After you have a rod and matching line, you’re going to need a reel to retrieve your new line and sit pretty on your new rod! Reels are also classified by weight. So just match your rod weight to your line weight and then match that to your reel weight, easy peasy! Reels, however, typically are made for multiple weights and will be labeled 0-3, 3-4, 4-5,5-6,7-8 and so on! For example, because my rod is a 5wt I equipped it with a 5-6wt reel.
Another thing to consider when purchasing a reel is the drag system. The drag system on a reel is what helps put tension or resistance on a fish and helps you as you fight it. The reel is essentially your brakes on that fish’s engine! Reels typically have a knob on them that allows you to adjust the drag making it either harder for the fish to run or easier. Bigger fish need a tighter drag so they stay controlled but still have the ability to play and run, while smaller fish need a loser drag to be able to run and play! If your drag is too tight you risk snapping your line and fly off on the fish but if it's too loose you risk the fish swimming really far away from you and then also snapping off! You can test your drag by turning the knob and pulling the line with your own hand to see how it feels based upon the fish you’re targeting. If it's hard for you to pull then you better be going for some big fish (or make it looser) and if it's too easy to pull then you better be catching small fish (or adjust it tighter).
There is one other type of reel that is somewhat uncommon and made for much smaller rods and fish. It looks like a normal reel but be careful because it has a limited drag system called click-and-pawl drag. The type of drag has only limited adjustment and has very little fish “brakes”. These reels are for anglers who prefer to bring in the fish by simply stripping in line, which is why they are made for much smaller fish and rods.
You’re just about ready to hit the water, but you still have a couple more things to add to the shopping list. Next is the leader. The leader is the line that’s attached to your colorful fly line and is clear. Check out next week's blog on how do I know which leader to buy!?