If you received a gift card from a local fly shop (like Trouts) or Santa was nice enough to give you a couple of bucks to fund your new endeavor into the sport of fly fishing, and you are unsure where to begin, continue reading. Why? Because today, we are diving into the seven essential items a new or first-time angler needs to start in the world of fly fishing. By the end of this post, you will know precisely how to put those gifted dollars to good use and get you ready to hit the water.
Perhaps, the essential item you will need to get into the sport of fly fishing is, well... a fly rod. The purpose of a fly rod is simple, to cast your fly to the fish. When compared to conventional tackle, fly rods differ because all the power and loading of the rod comes from the weight of your fly line (hint, hint - FLY LINES) instead of the weight of your lure or fly. Fly rods come in various sizes and weights (denoted WT or #), and each one is designed for a different purpose.
If you are looking to exclusively fish for Trout on small streams or wishing to emulate Brad Pitt from A River Runs Through It, a 9' 5WT is the way to go! A 9' 5WT is your classic fly rod and will be sufficient on a large majority of fly fishing opportunities here in Colorado and the United States in general. If you are a beginner angler and unsure what brands are best, brands like G.Loomis, Orvis, and Temple Fork are hard to beat. Let's break these down by Good, Better, and Best.
Good: Temple Fork Outfitters Pro II Fly Rod - $179.95
If you want to get the most value out of your budget, the TFO Pro II Fly is an excellent choice. While this rod may not boast the most futuristic technology on the market, the Pro II is a fantastic choice for looking for a no-frills fly rod that is smooth when casting while also offering a powerful rod tip. The TFO Pro II also offers color-coded alignment dots to help you make sure you are putting your fly rod together correctly.
Better: Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod - Freshwater - $229.00
The Clearwater Fly Rod is a long-time customer favorite, and for a good reason. The value and versatility of our Clearwater rods make them favorites among beginner and veteran freshwater anglers everywhere. Offered at a great price and backed by a 25-year guarantee, the Orvis Clearwater rods cannot be beaten. If you are looking for a rod to help you progress as an angler, look no further than the Orvis Clearwater.
Best: G. Loomis IMX-PRO Fly Rod - $525.00
Arguably one of the most popular fly rods among all anglers at the moment is the IMX-PRO. This fly rod is built to the specifications of professional fishing guides with a very modest price point. From casting dry flies, throwing double nymph rigs, or even small to medium size streamers, this rod will get it done over and over again. The IMX-Pro is a shop favorite because of the incredible value and durability it offers anglers both from a utility perspective and a price perspective. If the IMX-PRO is in your budget, I think this fly rod should be a serious consideration for beginner anglers. As a bonus, the price point of this fly rod also gets you our Signature Rod Service.
If you happen to be someone looking to get into the sport of fly fishing with a different target species in mind, let's say carp or bass, then I suggest opting for a heavier rod option such as a 6WT or a 7WT.
Investing in a good fly rod early on in your journey can genuinely make the difference in whether or not you enjoy the sport. When I say invest, I mean investing in a fly rod that YOU can cast well and what fly rod YOU feel comfortable with. Not the one your friend told you to get the fly rod with the biggest price tag. Here at Trouts Fly Fishing, you cannot go wrong with any fly rods on our shelves; however, you can purchase a fly rod that you aren't ready for, which will ultimately have you not enjoying the sport as you should. If you are looking to buy a fly rod come into one of our two retail locations (DENVER & FRISCO) and cast them for yourself with any of our expert staff.
What makes a good fly reel? From my perspective, a good fly reel doesn't fail, wobble, fall apart, or seize. A good fly reel simply gets the job done and looks good while doing it. In the world of fly reels, there are countless designs and design choices to consider when purchasing your first fly reel. Finish, material, manufacturing processes, sound (yes, the sound), look, durability, drag, size, backing capacity... all come into play when purchasing your next fly reel. Here are some great options:
Good: Orvis Battenkill Reels - $149.00
Simple design and flawless construction make this the perfect click-and-pawl fly reel for nearly any freshwater fishing situation. A minimalist's dream, the all-new Battenkill features a classically styled, yet technically enhanced, four-position click-and-pawl drag system that is adjusted internally and is designed to work in tandem with the palm of your hand on those sizzling, screaming runs.
Better: Temple Fork Outfitters NTR Fly Reel - $169.95
TFO NTR fly reels are fully CNC machined from lightweight 6061-T6 aluminum and feature a smooth cork disc drag system, (draw bar design). A one-way stainless-steel spindle bearing with an internal cap and O-ring seal. The drag system is sealed to keep out moisture and dust. The NTR series reel features an out-going check and is easy to change from left to right-hand retrieve.
All NTR fly reels come with a black neoprene pouch.
Best: Ross Reels Colorado Fly Reel - $370.00
The Colorado LT set the bar for lightweight click pawl reels. The new Ross Reels Colorado Fly Reel takes it to the next level. The semi-caged frame on the Colorado adds unmatched strength and rigidity, but with only a minimal weight gain - just enough to balance out a wider range of lightweight rods. The industry-first bushing is fully machined from Vesconite - a material specifically designed to be used in the toughest marine bearing applications, guaranteeing a lifetime of flawless operation.
In general, the size of the reel should match the weight of the rod. All fly reels are designed to fit on a specific range of fly rods. Why? Two things: weight/balance on your rod and how the drag is tuned, designed, and manufactured. For example, a 2 weight reel will not have the same ability to stop a sizable fish, as well as a 6 weight reel, would. I'd venture to say that the 2 weight reel might not even fit an entire 6 weight fly line...let alone backing.
Unfortunately, reel manufacturers don’t use standard sizing ranges. For example, the Ross Evolution LTX ⅚ is designed for a 5 or 6 weight rod. While others, like Orvis, will note a reel size that has an associated rod weight recommendation. For example, the Orvis Mirage II is recommended for use on a 3 to 5 weight rod, while the Orvis Mirage V is recommended for use on a 9 to 11 weight rod.
Another feature to take into consideration is the arbor of a fly reel is the diameter of the spool where the backing is attached. Without getting too techy here, the larger the arbor, the quicker the line and backing retrieval rate. Imagine the size comparison to a 2wt reel and a Saltwater reel. One is larger, and one is smaller. Arbor sizes are broken up into three groups: standard, mid-arbor, and large arbor. Most modern fly reels are either mid-arbor or large arbor reels. The standard arbor (the smallest size arbor) is rarely seen in contemporary fly reels. However, they are very prevalent in the click-and-pawl reels still produced today, like the Ross Reels Colorado Fly Reel and click-and-pawl reels from Orvis. The standard arbor makes sense on smaller, lighter Trout and small Warmwater rigs where the reels serve more as a line holder than a high-end saltwater fly reel.
If you are anything like me, when you first got into the sport of fly fishing, you were simply unaware of all the different types and variations of fly lines. From Weight Forward (WF), sinking, double taper, intermediates, and sink tips, I still have to take a moment in order to understand all the different types of fly lines out there. Since fly lines can be a bit confusing for just about everyone involved, I thought it would be best to revisit a blog post that helped me understand fly lines. Josh Jenkins originally wrote this post from Scientific Anglers (and appeared in the 2019 edition of The Current). In it, he outlines key tips and for those interested in understanding fly lines.
If you are a beginner angler, the best line you can purchase to complete your beginner fly rod and reel outfit is with a weight-forward fly line. These fly lines will provide you with a standard taper which will provide you with enough weight to turn over flies with ease and makes casting easier. Trust me, when you start casting a fly rod, having a weight forward line will give you more forgiveness when casting and allow you to make mistakes every beginner angler makes.
If you are looking for your first WF fly line you cannot go wrong with the Scientific Anglers Amplitude Smooth Trout Fly Line or the Premier RIO Grand Fly Line both are a fantastic beginner to intermediate level fly lines that are forgiving and make learning how to cast enjoyable.
If you are interested in learning more about fly lines, click HERE to continue reading!
If you want to get out beyond the summer fly fishing season (i.e., wet wading) or wade deep into your favorite river or stream, having a pair of waterproof waders is an invaluable tool. Waders will not only keep you dry during those long days on the water, but they will also keep you insulated from the colder water temperatures during the colder months come around. Like fly rods, fly fishing waders come in many styles and options. That being the case, let's break them down a bit just like we did with fly rods.
Good: Simms Tributary Waders - $179.95
For years the fly fishing world waited for Simms to develop and produce a sub $200 wader. If you are a beginner angler not looking to break the bank for a pair of waders, I highly recommend purchasing a pair. Unfortunately, if you are looking for a pair of waders rich with additional features, these are not the pair. And, they are not meant to be. The Simms Tributary Waders were designed to do one thing, keep you dry when you are out on the water. If you expect your fishing season won't extend past the middle of spring and late fall, then these waders are for you! And, if you do venture out during the wintertime with these, make sure to layer up as they do not offer much in the insulation department.
Better: Simms Freestone Z Stockingfoot Waders - $399.95
Zippers!! Listen here, beginner anglers. I am not sure you understand how crucial having a front zipper is. I can't express how much I wished my pair of waders had a front zipper. However, these waders are highly durable for the price point and offer excellent four-season utility. Remember that you are getting a very well-designed Four-layer Toray® QuadraLam™ waterproof, breathable laminate, which serves as your waterproofing for this price point. Sometimes, I think these could be in the "Best" category, but they just have not had the time under them to reach that point; however, I am sure they will be in time.
Best: Simms G3 Guide Stockingfoot Waders - $439.95
The most famous of the wader bunch? The classic G3 Guide Waders.
The heavier, 4 Layer Gore-Tex extension around the backside means durability and reduced signs of wear over time. If you were unaware, the 4-layer Gore-Tex technology used by Simms is 100% patented, and nothing like you'll find anywhere on the market and is reflected across Simms's entire selection of waders. This is a change from the former 5-layer Gore-Tex of the old G3 Stockingfoots; reducing weight and more durability is a hard combo to find, but the minds at Simms were able to achieve it.
If you want to learn more about the G3 waders specifically, especially the super techy aspects, CLICK HERE!
Considered by many tiny pieces of art, flies used for fly fishing are nothing more than a bunch of feathers, wire, fur, or tinsel wrapped around various hook sizes sealed with a touch of head cement with the sole purpose of imitating bugs. Generally, these flies will come in many different sizes and styles; however, many trout fishing flies can be broken down into three distinct categories: Nymphs, Emergers, Dry Flies, and Streamers. Each type is designed to mimic a different life stage of various bugs found amongst the river banks. And, as an angler, it is up to you to figure out what the fish are eating.
When it comes to fish, they are generally pretty intelligent. Especially when it comes to their food sources. That is why it is best to head out to the water with a solid selection of fly patterns that will potentially be wiggling around the ecosystem of the water at that given time. What are those fly patterns? Let's go over them:
Umpqua Parachute Adams:
One of the most versatile and practical dry fly patterns available and usually the answer to the often-asked question "if you could only fish one dry fly, what would it be?" Its effectiveness comes from a very realistic silhouette that sits low in the water and the highly visible wing that is known to be a trigger for trout to eat.
Umpqua Blue Wing Olive:
This historic fly pattern has been fooling trout for longer than most of us have been alive. A stiff, spade hackle tail, tightly dubbed body, and pullet-feather wings (good ones are hard to come by) surrounded by a stiff hackle collar assure a good imitation.
Umpqua Prince Nymph Gold Bead:
It is a classic pattern that is as effective today as it was the day it was invented in the thirties. The natural peacock and contrasting white biot's across the back of the pattern help this fly to flicker as it swims in the current, letting fish know food is here. Best used to imitate caddis, drake, or stonefly nymphs. We like the variety with the gold bead to help it get into the fishy zone more quickly.
Umpqua Flashback Pheasant Tail Tungsten
One of the essential flies for any fly box, the Pheasant Tail, is intended to imitate a mayfly nymph. This variation incorporates a tungsten Bead to aid in quicker descent into the water column. The flashback will signal the dinner bell for any fish in the area; however, it is tied in to imitate an air pocket created to help a natural nymph emerge to the surface pre-hatch.
Umpqua Tungsten Zebra Midge
The Zebra Midge is arguably one of the best natural subsurface midge imitations. The slim body with accent rib offers excellent contrast in the water that fish find irresistible. This version with a Tungsten bead allows this fly to sink quickly into the strike zone.
Umpqua Gold Bead Crystal Bugger
There is arguably no better fly in the world than a Wooly Bugger. The Gold Bead Crystal Bugger has all the "bells and whistles" to take it to the next level. Rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, you can strip it, swing it, jig it or drift it! Only your imagination limits your ability to catch fish with this versatile pattern. If it swims, it will eat a BUGGER!
Umpqua Lil Kim:
One of the most consistent patterns producers when it comes to single hook streamers, the Lil Kim is perfect for this time of year. Fish it from the banks or in a boat; this fly will perform. The copper cone head allows the fly to get down quickly into the strike zone so hang on tight. Make sure to have the gold and copper colors in your fly box.
I understand that figuring out what bug you should be using can be difficult at first. However, sometimes it is as easy as flipping over rocks, getting a little dirty, and matching what flies are in your box to those on the ground. If you want to make sure that you have the exact flies the fish are keyed in on, head over to our Guide Reports page, or stay tuned to our Five Flies series on Youtube. In this series, we dive into what flies to use for each month and why they are effective!
Once you have what flies you want to have on you for a day on the water, you have to find a place to store them. That means picking out a fly box. When it comes to picking out a fly box, it comes down to what style of flies you have with you, Only going out during the summertime and fishing with dry flies ( remember these are the floating ones )? Then then I would recommend a waterproof fly box like the Umpqua UPG Medium Daytripper Fly Box. The last thing you want is to take a spill and have all your dry flies waterlogged before treating them with some sort of dry shake. If your fly box is primarily filled with nymphs or subsurface flies, then a fly box with a simple magnetic closure will be just fine like the Umpqua LT Standard Fly Box. Looking to store all your files in the same box, like me? Opt for the waterproof box. It is a little more upfront cost, but just know that a fly box will last you many years. A recommendation I would make would be, to begin with a small fly box., Getting a large fly box out of the gate will force you into this feeling of packing every single slot with flies, similar to the idea of feeling the need to fill every room in your house or wall with something. Does that make sense? It should.
There has been a good amount of reading in this post so far, let's take it down a bit and watch Russell Miller from Umpqua Feather Merchants explain how to choose the best tippet.
In this video, we welcome Umpqua's own Russell Miller to talk about choosing the right tippet material when you're out on the water. As a general rule, nylon is best used when fishing dry flies. Conversely, fluorocarbon is the best choice for subsurface presentations like nymphing or streamer fishing. Not only does Russell give a breakdown of why each respective material is the best choice, but he also details some of the advantages the all-new Umpqua leader and tippet materials (Perform X, Phantom X, and Deceiver X) have over their competitors.
A good starting point for your tippet is 2X-6X in a variety of either fluorocarbon or nylon. Any of the Perform X options from Umpqua are perfect options
After you have your basics ready to go, it is time to look at some of the accessories that make your time on the water a little bit more enjoyable. Sometimes all it takes is a proper multi-tool or a sharp pair of line nippers to turn an excellent first-time experience into a great first-time experience. Although some of these accessories are items that you will find desirable later on down the road, they are some that should make it into your initial budget.
Things like a multi-tool or a good set of pliers such as the Rising Ultralight Pliers are great examples. The tools you bring on the river should perform multiple tasks for the most part. When you head out to the water for the first time by yourself, there are many little tasks that you will perform that require the assistance of a multi-tool. From removing hooks from the mouth of a brook trout, crimping split shot above your streamer or snipping the tag ends after your tie on a big terrestrial, a proper multi-tool will prove itself invaluable when you are on the water. Other accessories you might consider are a pair of dedicated line nippers such as the Rising Nippa's. These are super inexpensive additions to your kit that are, for many, a necessity. Save yourself the $10,000 dentist bill and buy yourself a pair of $7 nippers and a pair of $20 pliers that will last you years. You can thank me later.
Another accessory item that will be helpful deeper into the sport you get is a quality tippet holder. I found this tool to be very useful after I started understanding how often to change the depth of my flies in the water column and naturally began acquiring more spools of tippet and understanding a bit better why it was good to carry different styles. Nothing is more annoying than having to take off your backpack and find a spot to set it down, only to pull off a 6in-8in section of tippet.