Tying Together Your Next Fly Rod Outfit
Our Picks For 2022’s Best Fly Fishing Gear
Whether you’re just getting into Fly Fishing or looking to add a new skill to your toolbox, building the right rod and reel outfit can sometimes be an intimidating process of elimination and research. Product technology has advanced rapidly over the last few years and people are using many different techniques to chase fish. Let’s take a look at a few popular fishing styles, and the outfit you need to have a killer day on the water no matter your pursuit.
These days there are an endless number of techniques that you can use to catch fish on the fly. Are you looking for an all-around setup that can throw dries, nymphs, and smaller Streamers? Maybe you already have this dialed and are hoping to find bigger fish this year, so you want a dedicated Streamer rod or you heard about Euro Nymphing and want to try it out. No matter what your ambitions are, there are a few key things to consider: rod weight and length, the proper line, and a solid reel to help rope that next trophy in.
This rig will be your go-to, the quiver killer, your main squeeze. Typically this will be a 5- or 6-weight rod—depending on where you plan to fish most often. This jack of all trades can cover nymphing, dry flies, or throwing streamers when the time is right. A few of my personal favorites in this arena are the Orvis Recon, Mystic Reaper X, and the Winston Air 2. All of these rods fall into the category of moderate to fast action and will cover you in most situations. However, if you primarily fish in windy conditions or throw big flies, you may also consider a true fast action option like the Helios 3D Fly Rod, or the Sage R8 Core.
Lines are the most important piece of the puzzle once you choose a rod, and there are some variables to consider as far as the action of your rod and conditions primarily fished. For all-around moderate to fast action rods, I really like the Scientific Anglers Amplitude Smooth Infinity Taper Fly Line and the Rio Elite Perception Fly Line. These will perform very well in most conditions and work with a variety of fishing techniques. If you go with a truly fast action rod like the Sage R8 Core, you’ll want a heavier line taper like the Rio Premier Grand Fly Line, or the Airflo Superflo Universal Taper Float Fly Line. These slightly more aggressive lines will help load fast-action rods properly and will help move large nymph rigs and turn over flies in the wind.
For the All-Around reel, there are an endless number of options in this category, and it’s almost hard to go wrong these days. You can keep it simple here, or use this as an opportunity to really tie together your own piece of modern artwork. Some budget-friendly reels are made of cast aluminum, while the mid-to-higher end offerings are typically machined from premium aluminum and built with burlier drag systems. The Lamson Liquid Series Reel is hard to beat for the price, along with the Redington Run and the Orvis Hydros Reel—one of my personal favorite workhorses. On the more premium end of the spectrum, I am a huge fan of the Ross Evolution LT Reel, and the Bauer RVR Fly Reel. These are truly magnificent pieces of machinery that will last multiple lifetimes.
So you have the all-arounder dialed, you’re catching fish, and now it’s time to bring in the heavy metal. After all, big river fish eat big flies, right? Sort of, but that’s a story for another day. Whether you’re after steelhead or getting ready to chase some warm water species like bass and carp, the conditions typically require a rod that is fast or ultra-fast action and lives in the 6- to 8-weight range. What weight and action you choose depends on the species being pursued, fly size, as well as line type. The Redington Predator offers a very powerful tool in all of these line weights and should be on your radar. The TFO LK Legacy Series Fly Rod is another excellent option—I’ve fished this rod on big water with good results.
Lines for the streamer outfit come in all different floating and sinking varieties with an unlimited number of options in between. The best line here may change day to day depending on what the mission requires. Having the right line here can make or break your day on the water, so you want to make sure you are dialed into the conditions. If you can only have one line I would recommend the Scientific Anglers Mastery Textured Titan Taper Fly Line or the Rio Predator Fly Line. Both of these are excellent all-around streamer lines that will turn over big flies and are available in both floating and sinking variations based on your needs. Another option that many anglers utilize is a floating line, accompanied by an assortment of sinking leaders like the RIO Versi-leader or a kit such as Scientific Anglers Sonar 7-Foot Leader. That is a great and very versatile option.
Reels here are a bit beefier and proper drag does become more important once you start to chase a larger quarry. The Redington Behemoth Series Fly Reel has become a proven tool in this category and is an excellent value. I also really like the Orvis Mirage LT Reel here, and If you want something with a bombproof drag and overall construction, take a look at the Sage Spectrum Max Reel. Whatever reel you go with, it also never hurts to have a spare spool for a second line if and when you do go that route.
Maybe you’ve seen it on the river, or heard your friends whispering about their 30-fish days on the local busy tailwater, but what the heck are they doing? Euro-Nymphing is a very quickly growing method for fishing trout that has its roots in competitive fly fishing. This method utilizes heavily weighted flies and light tippet to quickly sink flies. A “sighter” or multi-colored section of tippet is used instead of an indicator.
Euro Rods are quite specialized, typically running 2- to 4-weight, and are 10-12 feet long. The standard here for some time now has been the Sage ESN fly rod. I really like the Orvis Recon fly rod in the 10’ 3-weight, and have actually found that this rod does a number of things well. It’s always nice to have a little versatility just in case a hatch happens and the fish start looking up. The Hardy Ultralite LL Euro Style Fly Rod is another very solid option.
Since you don’t really cast a Euro setup, these lines are basically level running lines that are just for fighting the fish and attaching your leader to the reel. Traditionally, competition anglers haven’t even used a fly line, but rather just monofilament fishing line. Recently Rio and Scientific Anglers have introduced some great lines that help make this technique more enjoyable—the RIO Technical Mono Euro Nymph Shorty and Rio Technical Mono Euro Nymph Line are solid choices.
Euro Specific reels are fairly new to the scene overall and have really started to gain popularity in the last few years. The key factors here are balancing the rod properly for the technique, and tight tolerances or designs that won’t trap the thin running line in the spool. Redington changed the game last year by introducing the Tilt Fly Reel, which uses removable weights to help balance your specific setup. Hardy has also done a great job here with the Ultradisc Fly Reel. I anticipate we will see many more euro fly reels being released in the coming seasons.
Whether you are building your first outfit, or you are headed to Belize, our Gearheads are here to help you dial in the perfect setup. Give us a shout anytime, and we will see you out on the water this season!
Michael McMillan is a life-long angler, fly fishing Instructor for the University of Utah, and our fly fish buyer here at Backcountry. When he’s not helping our Herd dial in their gear for their next adventure, you can find him on the water or in the garden. Follow his adventures on Instagram @Windknot_Adventures