Let’s be honest. Fly Fishing is not an inexpensive outdoor activity. The barrier to entry is high regardless of what price point fly gear you purchase because there is so much gear to get just to get started. Unless you got handed down a treasure trove of fly fishing gear, obtaining fly fishing gear can be like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in the bottom.
There is an argument for why fly fishing gear is expensive. With that said, it doesn’t mean you have to mortgage the house to obtain suitable equipment and have a good experience fly fishing. You can enjoy fly fishing without super high-end gear.
This is not a complete list of things you need to fly fish. It is merely a recommendation on where to spend money and what you can get away with not having the Gucci gear.
Gear You Should Invest In and buy the best you can afford:
Your Reel- If a fly is to the body and chassis of a tuck, the reel is the motor, wheels, tires, and brakes. You can drive a truck with a lesser quality body and chassis, with a good quality motor, wheels, tires, and brakes. It’s not about the ride; it’s about the rider, or in our case, the fly angler. If you have limited funds, start with a good quality reel.
Your Sunglasses – Having sunglasses is a must when fly fishing. It’s not only for protecting the only two eyes you have from a wayward fly, but it’s also from the sun and all its glory. Make sure they are polarized. All lenses are not created equal. Lens color is dependent on outdoor conditions. Click here If you need help selecting a lens type and color. Our favorite lens color covering the largest range of situations is a polarized brown.
Your Waders – One of the worst feelings is having wet legs and feet. Being wet can make a tough day on the river that much worse. Investing in a solid pair of waders is essential when fly fishing. We recommend Gore-Tex, as it is a proven material for waders. That said, some manufacturers produce waders with high quality, waterproof, breathable, and comfortable materials other than Gore-Tex. Waders are one of those pieces of gear where, usually, the more expensive, the better the quality. Buy the best you can afford.
Your Raingear – Like waders, good quality rain gear is a must when fly fishing. We like jackets that are durable and breathable. You should be able to wear it as a stand-alone jacket in warmer climates like at Andros South or as an outer layer keeping your mid-layers and next-to-skin layers niced and dry in cooler temperatures like fall in Alaska. Staying dry is critical. They also reduce the bite from the wind on the long cold boat rides.
Your Socks – “Try and keep your feet dry when we’re out humpin’.” – Lt. Dan Taylor. We couldn’t agree more with the Lieutenant. Warm and Dry feet can be the difference between a good day and a bad day. Wool socks are comfortable, help keep your feet warm while wading in ice-cold rivers, and do not retain odor. Stay away from cotton socks.
Gear You Need, but Don’t Need to Spend a Lot of Money:
Fly Box – Gucci fly boxes are cool, but they are also expensive, and you don’t necessarily have to have to fish. Many of us opt for the plain ole Plano Boxes. They are lightweight, come in various sizes, are configurable, and are between $7 – $15 depending on the size. They are very affordable.
Pliers – Fish care about pliers, probably more than you do. Especially when the fish wants you to remove that fly out of their mouth, having a good set of pliers is essential, but it’s not necessary to spend $100. Just make sure it has a sturdy nose, cutters, and a good grip. We like the Umpqua River Grip Scissor Clamps. They can remove a spectrum of hooks; small flies from Trout to larger flies from King Salmon. They are sturdy enough to pinch split shot too. At about $17 a pair, they are very affordable.
Nippers – Nippers are necessary to have. There is nothing more annoying than not being able to cut leader or tippet as close as possible. You can spend between $5 to $100 on nippers. $100 nippers are cool but not necessary. The only thing you need to ensure is that your nippers will cut thick leaders to a super small tippet. Pro-tip, get a pair of small nail clippers. They are inexpensive, easy to carry, and work very well in nipping leader or tippet. Bonus, you can clip your nails if necessary.
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Got to disagree. Polarized lens material is supposedly made in a single factory and all sunglasses manufacturers buy the material from them and cut their lens out of that material.
I buy my polarized sunglasses by the dozen from CTS discount sunglasses.
I’ve handed out sunglasses to kids I’ve run across while fishing to improve their experience. They’re cheap enough to do that.