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What's the Best Tackle for Fly Fishing?

If you are new to fly fishing, you wonder what rod or rods do I need and what reels and other equipment. Most of us start with owning one fly rod, and maybe we rent or borrow before we make a purchase. I found early that I needed several rods, and then as I broadened my experiences I got more and more of them. But if you are just starting out, for most fly fishing, it is for trout, and for trout in most places you need to get, in my opinion, a 5 weight or 6 weight rod. I like to use a 5-weight rod and then I "overline" it, i.e., I put a 6-weight line on it. Most rods and lines perform best with a line that is slightly heavier than the design of the rod. That way you have more "weight" to load the rod and cast better, both close and far. I would recommend a reputable rod company's 5 weight graphite rod. It is a great way to start. Reels? Don't go to the cheapest and you don't have to go to the most expensive. A good reel might cost you a few dollars but it is well worth it. Lines? I recommend a weight forward, but there are lots of really good lines on the market, and more coming out all the time. They all have great coatings that give the lines great performance and are easily cleanable. You ought to clean your line often, as that really affects performance.

So, now you have a rod, reel and line. What more do you need? Leader, of course. Again, lots of leaders, premade or you can make your own. If you are just starting, I recommend a pre-made tapered leader. As a beginner, I think you are better off with a knotless leader. Later you can try the knotted ones, which some think "turn over" better. But they do catch more weeds and other matter floating in the water. So start with a knotless tapered leader. For most fishing, a leader that tapers to 5x or 6 x will work if you are using dry flies. For some situations you may have to go finer, down to 7x perhaps. If you are nymph fishing, same, you may need to stay at 5x or 6x and you may want to use fluorocarbon, less visible to the fish. If you are streamer fishing, then you need a heavier tippet (the foot or two of leader-like material that joins the leader to the fly), maybe a thicker size, such as 3x or 2x and sometimes even as thick as 1x or 0x. I tend to think in terms of "X" size rather than pound test, which has changed a lot over the years, in that the same X size now is much stronger than it was say 30 years ago. For example, 4X always used to be a 4 pound test, but these days many are a 6 pound test or thereabouts. Leaders have gotten stronger relative to the same thickness. You should carry a variety of leaders in your vest or other carrying methods, and you should have a variety of tippet spools as well.

Flies? Of course, you should have a good number of flies of various types, so that you can address whatever situation you encounter. I carry several boxes, some with dry flies, some with wet flies, including nymphs, traditional wet flies, another with streamers. And, maybe a box with less common flies, ones that you don't use much but just might, like grasshoppers, or articulated leaches. And maybe a box with small flies for when the fish get really picky. You don't have all those? Don't worry, you will pick them up over time and gradually accumulate what you need through repeated trips to the stream.

Well, now you have a rod, reel, fly line, leaders, tippet material and flies. You are set to go. Or are you? Well, of course, you need a vest or fanny pack or whatever to carry your tackle, and maybe you need waders or boots, and for sure you need a hat to protect your head from the sun and bad casts and I highly recommend glasses to protect your eyes from errant flies and maybe also polarized so you can see into the water better. Plus carry a rain jacket, you never know. Etc. etc. etc. Next time we will talk about all that gear and then where to fish. For now, content yourself with your rod and reel and accoutrements.

Questions? Email me at I will do my best to respond to you within a day or two.

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