Perhaps this is the time to take up fly fishing. Aggressive brook trout are donning their fall colours and big northern pike are fattening up on late summer delicacies. Many people getting into fly fishing are a bit shocked at the high price of gear. But you can outfit yourself adequately on a budget with equipment that will definitely do the job for many years. Here’s a budget conscious strategy that will get you onto the stream – and look darn good doing it.
First figure out what your expenditure limit is. If you’re wise, you’ll discuss this with your partner before you start. I suggest setting your sights between $500 and $1000 dollars. This amount can cover a rod, reel, fly line, flies, waders and some odds and ends that you’ll need to be self-sufficient. Because a fly rod is absolutely essential, spend the greatest percentage of your budget on the rod. It’s the tool that casts the line and fights the fish. Everything else (except for the fly line and fly) has a secondary function.
I strongly suggest going to a fly fishing specialty shop to purchase equipment. Avoid department store fly fishing packages because they are generally of poor quality, and you eventually end up using that rod to prop up your tomato plants. There is nothing worse than starting out with the wrong equipment and having to replace it shortly thereafter.
Graphite rods are much better tools than fiberglass. They cast and handle fish better and are more sensitive. Naturally they cost more. But if you shop carefully, you can find a graphite rod under $200 that has some kind of guarantee. Graphite being more responsive is also more brittle than fiberglass. Hence breaking a rod is a possibility. Subsequently a rod that carries some kind of guarantee is a good investment. Temple Fork Outfitters, St. Croix, Redington, Sage, and several other manufacturers have entry-level rods in their lineup that carry such a guarantee. Many require a $25-dollar fee to cover shipping and handling. This is very reasonable. When you go to the fly fishing store, advise the salesperson what species of fish you are going to primarily target. A 7-weight graphite rod can handle most applications in Northern Ontario without being too dainty for bigger fish, and “too much gun” for twinkies. A fly rod that is 9-feet in length, or 6-inches on either side of that mark, is a good length. Keeping in mind that a longer rod poses some handling difficulties.
Next you need a fly reel loaded with fly line and backing (line). Your fly reel DOES NOT need a train-stopping drag system. Virtually all modern fly reels have an exposed rim where resistance (or drag) can be added with slight hand pressure. You can also feather the line with your index finger and allow the fish to pull line off the reel if required. Choose a sturdy reel that is simple in construction and of adequate size to hold your fly line and perhaps 50-yards of backing. The reel also needs to be appropriate to the size of your rod. As fly line increases in diameter with weight-designation, then a 7-weight reel needs to be bigger than a 4-weight reel, capish?
The best fly line for all-purpose beginner applications is a weight-forward floating line – again matched to your rod size. Don’t let the word beginner make you feel less adequate. I use a floating fly line for 70% of all my fly fishing. It has many applications and is the only line to use while you master the art of fly casting.
So if your rod costs you $200 dollars, then a reel costing $100 or so would be appropriate and give you many years of enjoyment. A fly line will cost you between $50 and $70 dollars. But don’t despair. You don’t need to replace it every year. In fact, you can get anywhere from 4- to 10-years out of a fly line depending on usage and maintenance. (If you store your rod and reel loose in the back of your pickup with the chainsaw and firewood – it may not last that long.)
Now you’re going to need some terminal tackle. Leader material (special monofilament) is used between the fly line and the fly. (You can’t tie fly line onto a fly.) You’re also going to need some flies – in the same sense that a golfer needs golf balls. I don’t have room here to address that issue, but the staff at a fly shop can.
You’ll also want to buy waders if you’re going to fish during the spring and fall. You can fish during the summer without waders, but unless you’re fishing from a boat or on a very small creek, waders give you a lot of comfort. There is nothing more uncomfortable than fishing when you’re soaked right down to the giblets.
Polarized glasses and line nippers (like nail-clippers) will set you up nicely. You need the glasses to be able to see bottom structure while fishing and wading. Sometimes you’ll also see fish. Nippers allow you to clip leader material neatly without using your teeth and making a sizable donation to your dentist.
Finally, be realistic about your expenditures. Unless you’re taking up meditation or nudism, all hobbies require some initial financial outlay. Conversely, buying a $2000-dollar rod won’t make you cast like a professional anymore than the best golf club will make you Tiger Woods, or Michelle Wie.