Where to Start With Fly Fishing Equipment


WFF Supporter
I'm by no means an expert flyfisher, but stronger and more experienced in some areas than in others. I remember how overwhelming it was to get started, not knowing what equipment to buy, or how to balance an outfit toward the type of fishing I wanted to do. I made many early mistakes, largely resulting from the lack of solid advice available locally. Years later, I made up a guide sheet for local fishers, to help reduce some of the confusion. It is geared toward my local fishing opportunities, but can be tweaked toward a wider range of conditions. Anyway, for beginners, it's a start. Feel free to comment and improve upon it:

Fly Fishing Equipment Guide – How to get started

Are you Interested in fly fishing, but don’t know where to start? This guide will help you in choosing the right equipment:
The first step is to decide upon the type of fishing that interests you and use the table below as a guideline. A decent fishing package does not need to be expensive, but equipment quality generally follows price. A good rule of thumb: buy the best rod you can afford, choosing one in a medium, or medium-fast action. The next most important choice is a good quality line, properly matched to the rod. The first line to purchase is a floating line, either in weight forward, or double taper design. This line is the most versatile, allowing you to fish dry flies, and, by attaching various sinking leaders, wet flies. If you plan on fishing lakes, a full-sink line would be a good addition. However, to start, most of your fishing would likely be based on a floating line. Some decent starter rod/reel/line packages can be found in the $150 - $200 range.

Reels should be matched to the rod/line weight to maintain balance. Trout reels are, basically, to store line, and need not be too expensive. With heavier systems, and larger fish, large arbor reels with stronger drags become important, and more expensive. Buy a good selection of tapered leaders, as per the chart. A spool of weight-matched tippet allows refreshing, and extension, of the leader tip, without changing the whole leader. A surprisingly small variety of flies can cover many situations. Your local fly fishers, fly shop, or fly fishing club can recommend a basic selection of flies suited to the waters and type of fishing you choose.
Accessories: Undoubtedly, the first accessory to consider is waders, either boot-foot, or stocking-foot with separate wading boots. Basic waders need not be too expensive, and again, quality generally improves with price. Next would be a vest, or tackle pack. If you will be fishing in wet weather, a waterproof wading jacket would be a good choice. Polarized sunglasses are valuable for spotting fish, and wading visibility. In any event, sun or safety glasses should be worn at all times when casting. A wading staff should be used to prevent dangerous slips when wading streams.

Rod/Reel/ Lines​
Fly rod
4-6 wt​
6-8 wt​
7 - 8 wt​
9-12 wt​
Fly reel
20 lb​
20 lb​
30 lb​
30 lb​
Fly line #1: WF floating
Tapered leaders
4-6 lb​
8-10 lb​
10-15 lb​
15 lb​
tippet (less than leader lb test )
3-5 lb​
6-8 lb​
8-12 lb​
12 lb​
Sink tips: intermediate, fast, etc
Fly line #2: Full sink
4-6 wt​
chum flies​
egg patterns​
shrimp patterns
dry flies​
egg patterns​
waders (bootfoot or stockingfoot)
polarized sunglasses
nippers, pliers, fly box, net, wading staff


WFF Supporter
I totally agree about learning how to cast, be it from lessons or from an experienced caster.
The focus of my list was to provide a baseline for selection of equipment. I'll never forget my own unguided entry into fly fishing. I came out of a local shop with an 8wt rod, 5/6 wt reel and a sinktip line, wondering why my reel would only hold 50 yds of backing. I've never forgotten (or forgiven) the bad advice I was given in that store. In the guide, I've advised that an inexpensive outfit, if that's what one can afford, is fine to start with...nothing wrong with a Walmart setup, if it gets someone out on the water. I hate hearing of people, especially kids, thinking they can't afford to flyfish. You can always improve on equipment when time/money permits.
I was invited to do the free flycasting lessons at the Haig Brown festival, here in CR, the past few years, where I hand out the guide as well. Nothing pleases me more to see someone from those sessions out on the river a short time later.

Old Man

A very Old Man
I don't know the reason that when one is a newbie in this sport, needs to buy one of the most expensive fly rod and reel. How do you know if that is the right choice. What do you do if you don't enjoy fly fishing. Then you try to sell what you have and find out you won't get what you paid for it back.

I started out fly fishing in 1957. I went to White Front and got what I could afford. A 8' or a 9' 6wt fiberglass rod(this was in 1957, my mind don't quite remember details exactly). A Pflueger Sal/trout fly reel. and a double taper fly line floating. A few tapered leaders and a few flies. I was going to only fish Skinny water. If I fished lakes, I would use a spinning rod.

I went into this blind on how to fish this way. I didn't know anybody else that fly fished. So it was all self learned. I can safely say that I have learned a lot over the years. I presently have 7 fly rods. They go from a 3wt to an 8wt. I can cast them all the same or with my quirking casting. My loops are tight and can sling it with the best.

My best rod I paid $210.00 for it. A GL3 9' 5wt. I had cheaper gear until I learned to cast better and to replace my first rod because of Stupidly. Got tangled in some brush and trying to get it out it snapped in two.

But a few lessons help and practice your ass off. You can get lessons at most fly shops. They ain't free. but valued way out there.


Active Member
Cast properly?
I've used a fly rod for 50 years and would be first to admit that I do not cast properly. I get the line out and I catch a few fish. I'm sometimes alone and at times with friends. Either way I enjoy it. Casting properly isn't an issue. Go fishing because it's something you want to do. It's not a contest and you will only get more familiar with it by partaking in it.


WFF Supporter
Regarding casting lessons, I think it depends heavily on the type of fishing you are doing.

A 30 foot cast on a trout stream makes you feel like the fuckin' man. In contrast, a 30 foot cast in Puget Sound makes you feel like you're wasting your time even being there.
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Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater....Know Grizzler
Regarding casting lessons, I think it depends heavily on the type of fishing you are doing.

A 50 foot cast on a trout stream makes you feel like the fuckin' man. In contrast, a 50 foot cast in Puget Sound makes you feel like you're wasting your time even being there.

Not sure I agree on the Puget Sound part.
No doubt distance helps, but you’ll catch a ton of fish on the sound from 50’ in.
Some days you’d think they were intent on eating the tip top guide off your rod.

Nice list by the OP.


Bozeman, Montana
Cast properly?
I've used a fly rod for 50 years and would be first to admit that I do not cast properly.
Although “properly” might be the wrong adverb here, I suspect you do cast “properly” with sufficient skill to place the fly in front of fish. If you’ve been fly fishing for 50 years and haven’t given up, you’ve got the necessary casting skill to get the job done for whatever you are fishing for. I’ve seen too many novices that have zero ability to pick up a fly rod and put a fly in front of fish (with the necessary distance and accuracy). They get frustrated very quickly especially if they’ve dropped $$$ on gear they don’t ever learn how to use “properly”.

Old Man

A very Old Man
One day when I was fishing Pilchuck Creek By my lonesome of course. I asked myself if I can get all my fly line out by casting. Had a lot of room up stream and down. I got to hauling and double hauling. I got it all out plus my 9' tapered leader. The one and only time I ever got 90' of fly line out I felt kind of proud for doing that. I don't need anymore casts like that anymore. 30 feet can get me all over the creeks that I fish now.


Living at the place of many waters
WFF Supporter
I think you guys are putting up a good list of things to think about. I know it's not equipment, but I think it's important for someone getting started to fish places with plenty of fish. They are out there, lots of stocker lakes for example. The quickest way to loose interest is not catching fish. A fisher needs actual feedback from the quarry to get better. Go find a dozen 10" fish instead of one big fish.


WFF Supporter
For what it is worth, this is what I copy and paste to everyone who tells me they want to start fly fishing. I preface it by saying that I'm only interested in rivers and trout.

Before the hot spotting police get up in my grill, all the Google maps links are to places that are thoroughly pimped out already.


Below are the main locations, within an hour and a half of Seattle.
  • Cedar River
  • Tolt River
  • Snoqualmie River Forks
  • Cle Elum & Yakima Rivers
    • 60-90 mins away
    • Open all year
    • Larger fish and moderate difficulty
    • Elevated water levels require a boat, during summer
    • Rainbow trout and cutthroat trout
    • https://goo.gl/maps/ocokxWXBHbwRUyMX8
Gear Rental

Renting is a good idea, if you think you might only try it once and not like it. If you think you will try it more than once, renting is not very economical.
  • Avid Angler
    • $25 per day, for rod, reel and line
    • $25 per day, for waders and boots


Below is a list of all the essentials, with recommendations. They are ordered roughly by necessity, but you will eventually need everything. Items prior to waders are the bare minimum. In addition, polarized sunglasses are mandatory; they protect your eyes from getting hooked and also make it possible to see through the glare.
  • Boots
    • Felt Sole Redington Benchmark ($120)
    • Felt Sole Simms Tributary ($130)
  • Rod
    • 10ft 3wt Echo Carbon XL Euro Nymph ($170)
  • Reel
    • Echo Ion 4/5 ($80)
    • Lamson Liquid 5+ ($100)
  • Fly Line
    • 4wt Scientific Anglers AirCel ($30)
  • Conventional Leader
    • 12ft 4x Rio Powerflex Trout ($5)
  • Euro Leader
    • Tactical Fly Fisher Thin Leader ($13)
  • Tippet
    • 5x Rio Fluoroflex Strong ($18)
  • Scissors & Hemostats
    • Dr. Slick Scissor Clamps ($14)
  • Waders
    • Redington Crosswater ($140)
    • Simms Tributary ($180)
    • Redington Escape ($230)
  • Fly box
    • Tacky Day Pack Fly Box ($20)
  • Floatant
    • Loon Aquel ($6)
    • Gink ($6)
  • Desiccant
    • Loon Easy Dry ($8)
  • Strike Indicators
    • Small Black/White Loon Stealth Tip Toppers ($5)
  • Vest
    • Redington Clark Fork Mesh Vest ($40)
  • Zinger
    • Loon Rogue Zinger ($12)
  • Bear Spray
    • Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray ($30)
  • Wading Staff
    • Trekology Foldable Wading Staff ($40)
    • Simms Wading Staff ($130)
  • Net
    • Brodin Davidson Metal Net ($50)
  • Net Retractor
    • Gear Keeper Net Retractor ($25)
  • Nippers & Nail Knot Tool
    • Loon Rogue Nipper w/ Knot Tool ($8)


The cheapest places to buy flies are The Fly Stop and Big Y Fly Co. I recommend buying at least three of each; running out of flies really sucks. Long term, you will want to learn to tie your own flies, as it gives you extra control over weight and so on.
  • All Year
    • #6 bead head brown Wooly Bugger
    • #10 bead head brown Wooly Bugger
    • #6 brown Slumpbuster
    • #10 brown Slumpbuster
    • #6 brown bead head rubber leg stonefly
    • #10 brown bead head rubber leg stonefly
    • #14 brown bead head rubber leg stonefly
    • #10 bead head Hares Ear Nymph
    • #14 bead head Hares Ear Nymph
    • #18 bead head Hares Ear Nymph
    • #14 brown Perdigon
    • #18 brown Perdigon
  • Spring
    • #14 Parachute Adams
    • #18 Parachute Adams
    • #14 bead head San Juan Worm
  • Summer
    • #14 Parachute Adams
    • #18 Parachute Adams
    • #6 Stimulator
    • #10 Stimulator
    • #14 Stimulator
    • #14 Elk Hair Caddis
    • #14 bead head Sparkle Pupa
  • Fall
    • #14 Parachute Adams
    • #18 Parachute Adams
    • #6 Stimulator
  • Winter
    • #10 orange Glo Bug
    • #18 yellow Glo Bug
Learning Materials

All the learning materials below are essential, but they are ranked in order of progression. Don’t skip the books; videos are great for seeing how to do something, but books are better for learning foundational topics (reading water, insect lifecycles, etc).
  • The New Fly Fisher YouTube channel (free)
  • The Orvis Fly Fishing Guide ($18 Kindle / $22 paperback)
  • The Orvis Guide to Prospecting for Trout ($9 Kindle / $23 paperback)
  • Modern Nymphing ($20 Vimeo)
  • Modern Nymphing Elevated ($20 Vimeo)
  • Adaptive Fly Fishing ($20 Vimeo)

Below are some good resources that will help to figure out local conditions.

You will need a WDFW freshwater fishing license and also probably a Discovery Pass.
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WFF Supporter
Not sure I agree on the Puget Sound part.
No doubt distance helps, but you’ll catch a ton of fish on the sound from 50’ in.
Some days you’d think they were intent on eating the tip top guide off your rod.

Nice list by the OP.

Edited to 30 feet. Is that better? I haven't spent a huge amount of time fishing PS, but it pretty much immediately made me feel like my casting sucked.


WFF Supporter
I appreciate the effort the OP and Jared have put into their lists. My suggestion is to make a friend who fishes, by a license, tag along a few times, borrow some gear and see if it’s for you. Those lists are great. Overwhelming for new fly fishers though. Like many, I started with a super cheap fly rod from somewhere (a random gift from someone who new I loved fishing), a borrowed reel, a borrowed line, some borrowed flies and a borrowed leader. I added from there as I tried to figure stuff out.

I have been fly fishing 20+ years now…. a lot, I mean like it’s most of what I do with my free time and I do not have everything on those lists. In the end it’s fishing. This hobby of ours can be super simple. River fishing for trout in particular, which I did exclusively for probably 15 years. Get a rod, reel, line, some leader material, a net, 5-6 simple fly patterns, maybe some floatant and have at it. It will be frustrating but if the journey and experience is not enough for you at first, it’s probably not the right hobby for you.

As far as casting, I am self taught. Not a lesson or a YouTube video watched. My father in law gave me a few pointers and I have figured it out from there. I am a solid caster. Nothing to brag about but accurate and enough distance that I do not worry about any application. Take lessons if figuring out how to cast does not seem interesting. It will shorten the learning curve but not a necessity.

In the end though, the thing I tell folks is if you are not interested in fishing, you are simply attracted to “fly fishing”, save your money and find a different hobby. The appeal will fade quickly and I’ll be taking your gear off you at a very steep discount….

Honestly, you’d still catch fish from 30’ in.

One of my favorite memories of last coho season was a 9-10 year old out fishing everyone on the beach making casts of 25-30 feet and hooking most within 10 feet of shore on the retrieve. Bombs can be helpful in some situations but absolutely not necessary on the sound.

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