Fly Fishing Gear For Beginners: Everything You Need

I guide and teach fly fishing to new anglers and they always want to know what is the best fly fishing gear for beginners. This is my checklist of all the required fly fishing gear for beginners.

What Is The Best Fly Fishing Gear For Beginners?

The best fly fishing gear for beginners doesn’t need to be expensive and can cost you less than $300 to get yourself set up and on a river fly fishing. The best fly fishing gear will include the gear you wear, the gear you fly fish with, and the tools and gear to handle the fish.

The Best Fly Fishing Gear For Beginners List

This is the same list I give to my clients when they ask me what fly fishing gear they need to get started fly fishing.

The Fly Rod

The fly rod is an essential part of fly fishing gear
The fly rod is an essential part of fly fishing gear. You need to be sure you get the right rods for the fish you want to target.

The fly rod is one of the most important pieces of fly fishing gear for beginners. Fly rods are rated by a weight system. You will need to buy a fly rod that suits your needs. as an example, if you want to fly fish for trout on a small river you will need a fly rod between a 2 weight and a 5 weight.

If you wanted to fly fish for Great Lake’s steelhead you would need a 7 weight or an 8 weight fly rod.

And if you wanted to fish for salmon I would suggest an 8 weight or a 9 weight fly rod for most great lakes rivers.

Fly rods can cost anywhere from $60 dollars to over $1000.00. Don’t worry, you and I will never need a $1000.00 fly rod and I would never recommend one.

There are a lot of great fly rods in the $150 to $400 dollar range. There are also some really bad fly rods that I would stay away from. I have cast hundreds of fly rods over the last 36 years of fly fishing and some cast and fish well and some don’t.

4 best fly rods for beginers
These are the 4 rods that I recommend on my blog website

The 3 rods I recommend to my clients are:

For information on how to choose a fly rod and a chart on what size rod weight and length is best for different types of water and for different types of fish, as well as my full rod recommendations, got to my Fly Gear page

The Fly Reel

The fly reel is an essential part of fly fishing gear
The fly reel is an essential part of fly fishing gear and you should match the reel to the rod.

The fly reel is an important piece of fly fishing gear for beginners and you need to be sure that you get the one that matches your rod and is suitable for the fish you want to target.

The fly reel also has a weighting system and you need to match it and balance it with your rod for the best performance. This means if you have a 5 weight rod you will need a 5 weight reel.

The fly reel not only holds the line but most fly reels have a built-in drag system to help you land the fish. There are some fly reels that do not have a drag and you will need to use the palm of your hand or fingers to apply pressure and act as a drag.

I do not recommend fly reels without a drag for new fly anglers. I have seen far too many of my beginner fly fishing students lose big fish on their newly purchased fly reel because it did not have a proper disc drag.

The 3 Fly Reels I Recommend To My Clients

  • TFO BVK Fly Reel  is the best fly reel around $200.00 – Check prices at FishUSA.com or at Bass Pro Shop
  • Redington’s Zero Fly Reel is the best fly reel for around $100.00 – Check prices at FishUSA.com or at Bass Pro Shops through these links.
  • Lamson Liquid Fly Reel is the best fly reel under $130.00 – Check the price at FishUSA.com or at Bass Pro Shop

What Are The Best Fly Lines For River Fishing?

An angler fishing fishing
An angler using a good high floating fly line for steelhead on a great lakes river. High floating fly lines are almost always what you want to use.

There are 3 types of fly lines that you can buy which are a floating line, a sinking line, and an intermediate sinking line. The best fly line for most river fishing is the floating fly line. I use floating fly lines 99% of the time for trout, steelhead, and salmon.

Occasionally I will switch to a sinking line or an intermediate line when I am streamer fishing on some of the bigger rivers but even that is rare because most of the time I will just use a floating line and add a sinking tip such and a polyleader. Doing this means I don’t need a separate line or a separate reel for fishing floating and sinking lines.

Fly lines are a part of fly fishing gear for beginners that can cause a little confusion. Most fly lines also come as a weight forward line or a double taper line. A weight forward fly line is when the line is tapered so that the thickest and heaviest part of the fly line is at the head of the line near the leader. This heavier section aids in casting and is the line that I recommend for beginners and advanced anglers.

Fly lines are also rated in weights just like the rods and reels are and you need to match the weight of the fly line to the weight of the fly rod and fly reel.

My favorite fly line is the Airflo fly lines because they float well, cast well with their unique ridge-line technology and they are more durable than some other lines.

I recommend you get the Airflo Super-Dri Elite Fly Line from FishUSA.com HERE or at Amazon HERE. This is the line I have on most of my fly rods.

I have also used and like the SA and Rio fly lines below:

Fly Line Cleaner

Fly line cleaners, conditioners and fly line floatants are a must-have part of fly fishing gear for beginners.

Fly lines will eventually get dirty and will start to sink which can affect your presentation. Dirty lines can also cause problems when casting the line or when the line is sliding through the rod guides.

Bug spray with DEET can also deteriorate and ruin your fly line so it’s best to clean your line off after using DEET.

One of the best fly line cleaners and fly line floatants that I use is Scientific Anglers Fly Line Dressing and application pad. This one cleans floats your line all-in-one shot without needing to wait for it to dry. Check the prices at Bass Pro Shop, or FishUSA.com, or at Amazon at these links.

Do You Need Fly Line Backing For Fly Fishing?

Fly line backing goes on the reel before the fly line does. The reason we need fly line backing is that most fly lines are around 90 feet long and they do not fill up the spool of the reel enough. The fly line backing also acts as a safety in the case you hook into a large fish that can pull out more than 90 feet of line.

Fly line backing can add 50 to over 100 yards of length to your fly line setup. The added backing fills up the spool more so that the fly reel is full. A full fly reel will retrieve the fly line faster than a half-full reel when reeling in the line.

Fly line backing is a part of fly fishing gear for beginners and I have seen new fly anglers not using it. I always have fly line backing on all my reels and I usually use about 50 yards of 20-pound backing.

A good choice for fly line backing is the Rio Dacron Fly-Line Backing. Check the prices at Bass Pro Shop, or FishUSA.com, or at Amazon at these links.

Do You Need A Tapered Leader For Fly Fishing?

Fly Casting an Ontario River

The simple answer is that you do need a tapered leader for most fly fishing because the tapered leader greatly improves your casting and your accuracy. The tapered leader acts as a clear extension of the fly line and helps you land your fly where you want it.

A tapered leader is thicker at the end that attaches to your fly line and thinner at the end that you tie your tippet or your fly line onto.

A tapered leader is a part of fly fishing gear for beginners but, for some fly fishing methods like some nymphing techniques, Spey fishing, and streamer fishing a tapered leader is not required or used.

When fly fishing on rivers you will need a 7 to 9-foot tapered leader. I use a 9-foot leader for dry fly fishing, and I use the shorter leaders when nymph fishing and streamer fishing.

Remember that you will also be adding another section to the leader call a tippet, I will get into that next. I like and recommend the RIO Powerflex Trout Tapered Leaders. Check pricing at Bass Pro Shop, or at FishUSA, and Amazon.

Do You Need Tippets For Fly Fishing?

Tippets for river fishing in Ontario

Tippets are single diameter pieces of line that attach to your leader at one end and a fly at the other end. Tippets are an important part of fly fishing and are almost always needed and used. Tippets will extend the life of your leader and they ensure that your fly is on the right size of line for the fish you are fishing for.

Tippets come in small easy to carry spools. You will need a few different sizes for different fish.

Tippets are a part of fly fishing gear for beginners and there are a few types of tippets that you might need. Fluorocarbon, copolymer, and mono tippets all have their purpose.

Mono tippets are often best for dry fly fishing because they do not sink as fluorocarbon tippets do.

Copolymer tippet line is a stronger line with good knot strength and is great for big fish.

Fluorocarbon tippet is the most invisible under the water and has very good abrasion resistance so it is the best tippet to use when nymphing.

Without getting into great details on why you need certain sized tippets this is what I recommend.

  • Small trout on small rivers and creeks, use 3 to 4-pound tippet
  • For larger trout on bigger rivers 6lb to 8lb tippet
  • For great lakes steelhead, bass, and carp 6lb tippet for super clear water and small streams with nervous fish and use 8lb for normal to dirty water situations, use 10lb for off-colored water, heavily wooded sections, fast water, or big rivers.
  • For great lakes, salmon, pike, and musky go with 10lb on clear low water with nervous fish, 12 pounds for normal conditions, and 14 pounds for pike, musky and large salmon in big rivers.

Some leader and tippet brands do not rate their leader spools properly and that can negatively affect your success.

I have seen lines saying they are 6 pounds when they are really 10 or 12 pounds and when used by anglers they do not catch any fish on them because it’s so thick that the fish see it. if you stick to the brands that I list hear they are true to their label ratings.

I like to use Rio FluoroFlex + Tippet for nymphing and streamer fishing. This brand accurately rates the product and is it is well-liked and reviewed by fly anglers and guides like myself. Check the prices at Bass Pro Shop, or FishUSA.com, or at Amazon at these links.

For a goo dry fly fishing tippet I prefer a copolymer tippet like the RIO Powerflex Tippet

Also, for more detailed information and other recommended leader and tippets go to my page What Pound Tippet Is Best For Trout, and also Steelhead Leaders – Catch More Steelhead Using These 3 Proven Float Fishing Leaders, and What Pound Leader Is Best For Salmon

Flies

Flies are a part of fly fishing gear for beginners and advanced anglers if you plan to fly fish.

Many fish eat insects in the rivers and lakes and as fly anglers, we can imitate the natural insects with flies. There are tons of flies, thousands actually and there are flies that imitate insects, fish, crawfish, frogs, mice, and just about anything a river or lake fish will eat.

I discuss some of my favorite trout flies on my page Fly Fishing In Ontario: Advice From Ontario’s Top River Guide and I dive deep into my best flies for steelhead on my page 5 Best Flies For Steelhead – An Expert Guides Advice

What Are The Best Fly Boxes?

What are the Best Fly Boxes

Fly boxes are a part of fly fishing gear for beginners but you should know that not all fly boxes are good. The wrong fly box can rust your hooks, or flatten your dry flies or even cause you to lose flies.

The best fly boxes are waterproof fly boxes that have a good foam slit section that will secure your flies. The best fly boxes will also have grooves in them that will protect the hackles on your dry flies so they do not get bent. Many of the best fly boxes will hold 200 to 600 flies.

I really like the Orvis Double-Sided Fly Box because it is a waterproof box that locks, and it has the best types of fly slots for dry flies, nymphs, and small steamers. Check price at Orvis Double Box at FishUSA.com -HERE or at Amazon.

Another inexpensive fly box that I really like is the FishUSA New Phase Go To Fly Box which has all the same features as the Orvis box except that it is not see-through.

The big fly box holds up to 900 flies while the smaller box holds 225 flies. Check the price at FishUSA.com

What Is The Best Fly Floatant?

It is important to have a good fly floatant if you are going to be dry fly fishing. A fly floatant helps your dry fly float better and for a longer time by preventing it from absorbing water. The best dry fly float is Tiemco Shimazaki Dry-Shake Fly Fishing Floatant.

The Tiemco Shimazaki has been tested and can make your fly float much longer than other fly floatants.

You can get the Tiemco Shimazaki powdered floatant at Bass Pro Shops or at Amazon.

I also use the Loon Top Ride which is a desiccant powder that absorbs the water from your fly instantly. It works great. Check the prices at Bass Pro Shop, or FishUSA.com, or at Amazon at these links.

A little trick I use is to dry my fly off with the Loon Top Ride and then add the Loon Aquel Floatant Gel. This makes my flies float much longer than just using one or the other on their own. You can get this at FishUSA.com – HERE or at Amazon – HERE

Guide Tip: For whatever reason, a high floating fly almost always works better than one that is half sunk when dry fly fishing.

Terminal Tackle Accessories For Fly Fishing

Terminal tackle for fly fishing

These are the things you will need or could use and are part of fly fishing gear for beginners.

What Weights Are Best For Fly Fishing?

Splits shots for the steelhead leader setup
It’s important to use the right weights for the steelhead leader setup and it’s also important to have them placed on the line properly.

The best weights for fly fishing are called split shots and I only use the dark-colored weights for fly fishing in sizes BB and AB. When fly fishing we use weights on the leader or the tipper when we are nymphing and sometimes when we are streamer fishing or wet fly fishing.

Weights are a part of fly fishing gear for beginners if you plan to nymph fish but it is common to see guys using the wrong weights or the wrong amount of weights.

Some brands of weights are not very good for fly fishing and some sizes should not be used. I tend to stick with the Sure Shot brand of split shots in the BB and AB sizes.

Check out my page for more detailed information on using weights when fly fishing. Go To Weights For Fly Fishing: Everything You Need To Know

What Are The Best Indicators For Fly Fishing?

A box of indicators for fly fishing

Indicators are little mini bobbers that are used when nymph fishing and are meant to help you detect a bit from a trout. The best indicators for fly fishing are the Raven and the Thill indicators because they do more than just detect a bite and these indicators will also help improve your presentation and catch more fish.

Indicators are a part of fly fishing gear for beginners if you plan to nymph fish. I highly suggest before you buy or even use an indicator check out my page on the Best Indicators and how to use them.

Check the prices on Thill Indicators at FishUSA.com, or at Amazon at these links.

What Are Tippet Rings?

Tippet rings for fly fishing

Tippet rings are very small metal rings that are used to attach two pieces of line together.

Tippet rings are great for attaching the leader to the tippet which can preserve your tapered leader’s length.

The tippet ring is so small you could not slide a grain of rice through it and they are lightweight so that they do not affect the presentation of your leader or flies.

Tippet rings can be a good part of fly fishing gear for beginners but are not a must-have item.

You can also connect your lines using a few knots like a triple surgeon’s knot, a blood knot, or a uni-to-uni knot.

Check the prices on tippet rings at Bass Pro Shop, or FishUSA.com, or at Amazon at these links.

Forceps

Forceps for fly fishing

Forceps are a must-have part of fly fishing gear for beginners and all fly anglers.

Beginners may have a harder time getting the hook out of a fish than a more experienced angler, but forceps are the best tool for the job and can make it a lot easier.

Pliers are often to big for smaller trout that may eat your little flies so pliers are not recommended

You will appreciate a good pair of forceps when you have a small trout with a hook deep in its mouth.

I like forceps with scissors built-in like the Orvis Scissor Forceps.

Nippers

I use nippers every time I’m on the water to cut the fishing line when changing flies and also after I have tied a knot and need to remove the tag end of the line.

Some nippers are just crap, they are dull and hard to grip so I recommend getting a decent pair that will cut easily and last a long time. Check out the Montana Fly Company River Steel Wide Body Tungsten Carbide Nippers at Bass Pro Shops.

Retractors and Zingers

Retractors and zingers are little gadgets that you can hook thing onto.

They are good for stuff like nippers, a fly floatant bottle, and scissors.

There are the round zingers with the wire and then there is the spring cord type like the one in the picture.

I prefer the spring cord ones because they tend to be more durable. Two of the best retractors are the SIMMS Retractor and the Fishpond Swivel Retractor from Bass Pro Shops.

Clip-on Magnifiers

I get asked about these all the time especially when I flip them down and tie on a tiny fly.

These are great for those guys that have a hard time seeing that super small diameter tippet line and when tying on very small flies.

I like the Orvis Flip Focals. You can get them at Amazon HERE

Stream Thermometer

A good stream thermometer is a great idea and it can save you a lot of wasted time.

I stop fishing for trout when the water temperatures hit about 68F because it’s stressful on the trout and it can kill them.

Once the temperature gets above 68f the trout usually stop feeding and if you keep fishing you are just wasting your time.

I check the water temperatures often when fishing in the middle of the summer and if I see that the river is too warm I can often move to other sections or to another river where the water is colder and the fishing is better.

Tippet Holders

This is a very cool device to hold and organize all your different sizes of tippets.

It beats keeping them all messed-up in a pocket in your vest or in your pack.

I see a lot of anglers using tippet holders and the best one that I have used is the Fishpond Headgate Tippet Holder from Bass Pro Shops.

Wading Nets

Don’t be that guy that finally hooks a trophy trout and fights it for 10 minutes then loses it and says, “if I only had and net, I would have landed that fish”. Get a net before this happens.

Wading nets are an important part of fly fishing gear for beginners and advanced anglers. They help you land the fish, they help you manage the fish until you release it, and they are far better for the fish than dragging them up onto sore.

All the best anglers that I know have a wading net and they have the right wading nets for the job.

There are nets you want, and there are nets you don’t want. A wading net needs to be lightweight and be able to be kept on your body without weighing you down. You do not want a giant net that you need to leave on the bank while you wade out into the middle of the river.

Wading nets range from $10 to over $200 dollars and come in different materials.

As a top river guide, I need a good wading net that does the job well so that I don’t lose fish that my client worked so hard for. You will be surprised when I tell you that my favorite net is under $40.00

You also need to attach them properly because I find many nets laying on the bank or hanging from trees. I give my best tips on nets for river fishing on my page 5 Best Trout Nets And A Guides Advice On How To Attach Them

The River Gear That You Wear

You are going to need gear that keeps you dry, comfortable, and safe when you are river fishing. The gear above is all fly fishing specific but there is other gear that is used by all river anglers.

That means you will need to get yourself stuff like waders, boots, vest or packs, jackets, wading staff, glasses, a fishing hat, and more.

I go over all of this stuff in great detail and list everything you need for river fishing on my page River Fishing Gear: Everything You Need To Succeed In 2021

Winter Fishing Gear

There are times when I’m standing waist-deep in ice-cold water with snow falling on me and my boat and my clients are covered in snow. It’s damn cold but it can also be the best steelhead fishing of the year.

Want to know how I stay warm, well, I have a blog page that tells you my secretes and lets you know all the river fishing gear that really helps me stay warm so I can focus on fishing.

If you think you might be planning on fishing during the colder months this is the page for you. Fishing In The Winter – Stay Warm With These 10 Tips.

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