Fly fishing – How to get started

Fly fishing is a wonderful hobby that can provide a lifetime of enjoyment. While it may be more involved than the more common practice of spin fishing, it is an activity that will reward you time and time again if you are willing to put forth the effort.

If you are completely new to the sport, you may be  wondering what equipment you will need and how much it will cost. The good news is that there are many affordable outfits that will allow you to get on the water and catch fish. Fly fishing like many other hobbies is as expensive as you want to make it. You can spend thousands of dollars on the latest and greatest gear, but it’s absolutely not necessary. The fish don’t care how much you spent and neither will you once you have hooked your first fish on the fly.

Where to begin

In the simplest form, your kit can include a rod, reel, fly line, tapered leader, and a few flies. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have a pair of forceps, a line clipper, a spool of tippet and something to store your flies in.

How to select a rod

When getting started, you will most likely be fishing for small trout or panfish. A 9ft 5wt rod is the most common all around configuration and will work well for most beginners who are targeting trout or panfish.

How to select a reel

Fly reels typically can accommodate two or three similar weights.  For example, you may find a reel that is labeled 3-5 wt, this means that the reel can accommodate a 3, 4 or 5wt fly line. Many beginner combo kits can be found with both a rod and reel, that have been paired together.

Fly Line

Fly line comes in a variety of weights and should be matched to the weight of your rod. Line can be purchased in many varieties including floating line, intermediate line and sinking line. For most beginner applications, the floating line will be your best bet. As you advance, you may explore other options depending on your style of fishing. For example, if you fish streamers, a sinking line will allow you to get your fly deeper quicker than a floating line or intermediate line.


Leaders connect your fly line to your fly. A tapered leader will start out with a thick butt section and taper down to the tippet section that is used to tie on your fly. The heavy butt section is what gives your tippet the strength to turn over the fly, while your thin tippet section allows the fly to gently land in the water and hide from suspicious fish. When using a tapered leader, you will eventually need to replace the portions of the line that you have trimmed off. You can do this by extending you line with tippet. Tippet can be purchased by the spool in a variety of weights. Tippet should match or be slightly smaller than the original thinnest portion of your leader.


There is a never ending amount of fly patterns for you to choose from. As a beginner, your best bet is to visit a local fly shop or sporting goods store and have the staff recommend a dozen flies based on where you plan to fish. Some of the best patterns for beginners include poppers and woolly buggers. Poppers are a surface pattern meaning that they float on the surface of the water. Surface patterns are great for beginners because they are easy to see and offer an exciting visual when a fish takes the fly.


  • Fly Storage An old mint tin is a great (and free) place to store your flies. It will fit easily in your pocket and can carry enough flies to get you started.
  • Forceps Forceps allow you to remove otherwise difficult to reach flies from your catch.
  • Line Clipper A line clipper resembles nail clippers and can quickly snip through line when changing flies. Tippet allows you to extend your leader as needed. Each time you change a fly you will snip of some of your line. The thinnest part of your line setup is called the tippet. When purchasing a tapered leader, the tippet is already built in. Because of that, a tapered leader can be used right out of the package.

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash


Doug is a dad, designer, maker, and a kid at heart.