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7 Essential Pieces of Fly Fishing Gear for Beginners

Land More Fish With This Basic Fly Fishing Equipment List

Whether you treat fly fishing as a casual hobby or a life-consuming art, the right gear will make your day on the water more successful and enjoyable. No matter your experience level, our list of essential fly fishing equipment will help you land a fish worthy of a story. 

Flies

These tiny works of art disguise the hook to help you snag and reel in a fish. Fish are better than you’d think at detecting fake flies, so choose a fly that looks like a bug you’d find nearby. If you’re not sure about the makeup of your local insect population, head to your nearest fishing shop and ask the staff for recommendations. Flies can vary in shape, size, color, and weight, so invest in an assortment to be prepared for a variety of locales and conditions.

Fly Lines

Four sections of a fly line make fly fishing possible: the backing, the fly line itself, tippet, and leader. 

  • Backing
    The backing is a critical, but under-appreciated piece of fly fishing gear―perhaps because it’s so hard to see. Backing hides inside the reel and attaches the fly line to your reel. Since there’s so much extra line in the backing, it also puts your fly line closer to the perimeter of your reel, making each turn of the reel cover more ground and bringing your fish in faster. When a monster trout nabs your fly and makes a run for the deep, the backing’s extra length ensures you won’t run out of line.
  • Fly Line
    If there’s one thing that makes casting a fly possible, it’s the fly line. Unlike baitcasting, all the momentum of your cast is centered in the fly line, allowing you to get your tiny little midge all the way across the river. Most of the mass of your line is in the fly line, so don’t let its thickness surprise you. Choose a fly line with the features you prefer, such as a floating or sinking tip, as well as weights for fish of different sizes.
  • Tippet
    The tippet―which is a small, clear line―comes in handy when you’re tying multiple lines per day. A tippet attaches to the leader and is very flexible, making it hard for the fish to see. The tippet can even make your leader last longer, as you’ll need to cut away previously knotted line when you tie a new fly. Tippets comes in a variety of “weights,” which measure their thickness and strength. If you’re fishing for larger fish like salmon, you’ll need larger flies and stronger tippet. As with flies, consider investing in an assortment of tippets for different situations.
  • Leader
    At this point, you have a thick line (the fly line) and a thin line (the tippet). The leader acts as the “bridge” between the two. A leader line is a gradually tapered line that forms the middle section of the line between the tippet and fly line. Find the thick, looped end of the leader line and tie that to the fly line. Gradually, the leader will narrow into a thin line that resembles your tippet.

Reels

Reels are the spool of your fly line setup. This component attaches to your fly rod and is what you’ll use to actually reel in the fish. You can find fly reels categorized by features like drag, and nearly all fly reel models will come in a variety of sizes to make them compatible with specific fly lines. If you need help choosing the right reel for your setup, check out our detailed guide on how to choose a fly reel.

Rods

Fly rods are often the prized possession of a proper angler, as each rod offers a variety of features that creates a unique casting experience. Fly rods are typically organized by weight―to help prioritize strength and size of fish―but are also categorized by their type of handle and action. Since you have plenty to consider when picking one out, read through our comprehensive guide on how to choose a fly rod.

Multitools

Don’t head out for a day of fly fishing without a proper fly fishing multitool. Whether you’re tying a fly, cutting tippet, crimping a barb, retrieving a hook, or digging old tippet out of a fly, a multitool makes tedious fly fishing tasks quicker and more efficient. A solid option is the Loon Outdoors Rogue Quickdraw Mitten Clamp. Whichever multitool you choose, the ability to lock and unlock the grips is one feature that will make your fishing life much easier.

 

Waders and Boots

Fly fishing waders are a staple of fishing aficionados all over the world. Waders keep anglers warm and dry while they access both banks or deep pockets of a river. Some waders, called “bootfoot waders,” include integrated rubber boots, keeping things simple. They trap your heat inside (good for winter fishing) and create a snag-free smooth surface down your leg. “Stocking foot waders” terminate in soft sock-lock booties and require additional boots. They’re easier to walk in and generally more comfortable, but sacrifice heat and require an additional boot purchase. In general, look for waders with features like insulation, pockets, and shoulder straps.  

Fishing Net

Fly fishing nets make approaching and landing a fish easier on the angler and the fish. Look for highly durable fly fishing nets that have a fly-snag resistant basket, but keep in mind that most nets will vary in weight, handle length, and material. Some plastic nets are even designed to “disappear” in the water and will keep your fish cool, calm, and collected during your final land.

Whether you’re stocking your first fly fishing gear bag or replacing well-loved parts, the right collection of fly fishing gear will get you on the water and catching fish. If you’re looking for tips and tricks on technique and improving your form, our fly fishing 101 guide is here to help.

Zach Wendt is an avid backpacker, fly fisherman, hiker, skier, and weekend warrior. Born and raised in the playground of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Zach has been fishing since Adam West was Batman. When he’s not exploring the outdoors, Zach is a full-time engineer and freelance writer.