If you are wondering whether you should buy a fly fishing kit or build one yourself, you should know that there are many advantages to building it yourself. This way, you will have complete control over the quality of the individual items in your travel kit, and you can make sure that it will be precisely what you want it to be.
As it happens, there are nine main items that every "on the go" fly fishing kit should have. In this article, we'll take you through each of these in turn, giving you advice on finding the best items in each case and some of the significant factors to look out for.
As a general rule when making your own fly fishing kit you want to have these 9 items. Some items are not entirely necessary but they do make the fly fishing experience more enjoyable.
- Fly Rod - leader, tippet, and first fly tied on. Store it in a fly rod case (2-piece 9 ft case)
- Flies - Nymph assortment and dry fly assortment
- Tippet - 3 sizes, 3x, 5x, 6x in Fluorocarbon for Nymphing and Monofilament for Dry Fly Fishing
- Split shot - Small travel set in multiple sizes
- Extra leaders - 3 packs of 9ft 4x or 5x
- Nippers & Forceps
- Waders & Boots
As you can see, there are a few things that you will need to think about here. Read on to find out more about each of these items as we delve a little deeper into how to find exactly the right items for your fly fishing kit.
1. Fly Rod
One of the most essential and fundamental things you need to know first is finding the right fly rod for your fly fishing. The first thing to be aware of is that there are always different weights attached to fly rods, and you need to know which is best for your situation. In addition, different fishing styles, and different species of fish, requires different weights on your fly rod, with weights ranging anywhere from 00 through to 14 at the heavier end.
For fish like trout and panfish, you'll only need lighter fly rods such as 0-3, whereas, for something like bass, you'll be looking at 4-7. Many people find that a weight of 4 or 5 is suitable for just starting, as those are decent all-purpose weights.
If you want to get on the water faster, you must bear in mind that you need the leader, tippet, and the first fly tied on and ready to go.
I have found that having your rod pre-rigged before you hit the water gets you out fishing faster. Most rods come in 4 pieces. By the time you place them together, add your reel, and then string your line, you could have been fishing for 30+ minutes or more.
Pre-rigging your fly rod before you go saves this time. But you might be asking, "how I'm supposed to drive to the location or hike in if my rod doesn't fit in my vehicle" This is where a two-piece rod holder is fantastic.
Loading a 4 Piece Rod into a 2 Piece Rod Holder
- Connect your rod, leader, tippet and first fly.
- After you have rigged up your rod and tied it on your first fly, reel in the line and hook the fly to the tip of the rod.
- Next, disconnect it at the middle like you would a two-piece rod. Fold over the tip to the real, keeping tension on the line. If you have slack, just reel in the additional line.
- Then take the two sections of the rod and feed them into the largest compartment of the two-piece rod holder.
When you get to the water, all you have to do is take out your rod, connect it back at the middle and add on your split shot, indicator, and any additional flies.
It wouldn’t be fly fishing without the flies. But how can you make sure you are making the right decision here? A good fly can make or break your fly fishing attempt, so you should be prepared to put a lot of attention and effort into this part of the fly fishing kit.
Remember: there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to flies. Different fish in different climates and different times of year will bite onto different flies, so it's more about choosing the right one for whatever kind of fish you are hoping to catch. For that reason, you should avoid limiting yourself to one or two flies and opt instead for a range of them. In your case, you might want to focus on two kinds in particular: nymph and dry.
The main thing in all of this is remembering to have a range of flies, so you always have one to choose from that will work out well for you. Below is a seasonal hatch chart that you can use when picking out your pattern.
The tippet is the final connection between you and the fish, so you must choose correctly. Unfortunately, there are a considerable number of sizes and types of tippets available, so making the right decision can often be challenging - especially for a newcomer to fly fishing who might not understand the subtle differences between them.
As is usual with everything you need to consider for your fly fishing kit, the exact tippet choice you should go for will depend on a range of factors, including precisely what fish you will try and catch. Tippets come in two materials: monofilament and fluorocarbon, with the latter, generally being considered the better option most of the time.
Fluorocarbon is a much stiffer material than the monofilament and also more resistant to abrasions. Plus, while the sun will degrade monofilament over time, that won't happen anywhere near the same degree with fluorocarbon. Most importantly, perhaps, fluorocarbon sinks so much better, allowing you a better chance to land your catch.
If you are dry fly fishing you should also carry monofilament. Monofilament floats on the surface more than Fluorocarbon. Which is why it makes a perfect material to keep your dry flies floating high.
The other significant consideration apart from material type is which size to use. You'll probably want to have a range of sizes of fluorocarbon in your fly fishing kit, so you always have the right one ready to go whenever you need it. Tippet size is determined by diameter and pound test breaking strength. So you get anywhere from 0x to 8x, with the smaller being, the heavier breaking strength.
You should probably carry a 3x, a 5x, and a 6x in your fly fishing kit, so you have a a variety of tippet for any occasion.
4. Split Shot
Sometimes, you need to add some extra weight to your leader or tippet - and when you do need to do that, you’ll use something called a split shot. This is just a small, round piece of metal, and adding it to the right point at the right time can help you to get to the optimal feeding zones faster and more efficiently.
When you are choosing a split shot for your fly fishing kit, you'll need a selection of a few different sizes and weights. The good news is that split shots are minimal, so you should be able to include quite a few of them within your kit.
The best approach here is to treat yourself to a small travel set, which will come with split shots in multiple sizes and weights. As long as you have that in your kit, you will always be able to add extra weight to your line where necessary.
Beyond that, there is not much to know about choosing split shots for your fly fishing it - except that you should aim to go for a kit that is well-trusted and which comes from a brand that you know and trust. That will ensure that it is going to be a good choice for your kit.
5. Extra Leaders
Although your fly fishing kit will already have a leader attached to the fly rod, you will also want to make sure you carry extra leaders, too, just in case you might need them. To understand which to have and why it's so important, it is necessary to learn a little about what the leader is and what it consists of.
A leader has three basic sections: the butt, the midsection, and the tippet (which we have looked into above). The first fly line connection is the butt, which is the thickest piece of the whole thing. Essentially, the right level of tapering through the midsection ensures a smooth transfer of energy from the main line to the fly - allowing for the perfect action when you need it.
As with everything else in your kit, the best leader is simply the one that suits your specific fly fishing situation, which is why you will want to carry a few extras in your kit.
One of the main determining factors here is the length of the leader - some can run as long as 22ft, or they can be as short as 9ft. Just make sure that you have a few extra leaders for the kind of fish you are due to catch. If you are in any doubt, you should look at the packaging of the leader - there will always be an indication of what kind of fish it is suitable for.
6. Nippers & Forceps
A vital instrument for any angler fly fishing or otherwise is the forceps. These are used primarily to easily grab small flies, crimp any barbs, adjust your split shots, and even untangle pesky knots. They can also be used to release fish. The excellent news about forceps is that you can easily get hold of a decent pair for very little money. But if you splash out on more expensive ones, they are bound to last you a lifetime.
There are a few considerations to bear in mind when you are choosing forceps. For instance, you need to make sure that the jaws line up and that the hinge is solid.
It would help if you also considered whether the size of the finger holes is right for you. Too small, and they will be painful to use. Too large, and they will be unwieldy. As long as that is right, you should be able to make good use of your forceps.
You'll probably also find it helpful to have some nippers in your kit. These small, simple devices are convenient for clipping line, and they are so compact that there is no good reason not to include them in your fly fishing kit. It's incredible how much easier everything will be with the right forceps and nippers.
Strike indicators play a very important role in fly fishing. The strike indicator is the float attached to the fly line, and it suspends the sinking fly. In essence, the indicator is what allows you to know when a fish has caught on to the fly. It is like a bobber, but it's used specifically for fly fishing, meaning it is a much better all-around option for you.
There are a few major types of indicators that you might want to consider having in your kit. First of all, we have cork indicators, which was what the first indicators were made of and are still a good material all-round. Cork has high buoyancy, but there are many other materials that most fly fishers prefer today.
Yarn is another common material for an indicator. The main advantages of yarn are that it is easy to see and extremely sensitive to nibbles from the fish. They are therefore ideal for small flies or casting into the middle of a current. Yarn is also extremely light and easy to attach, so it's an excellent all-around option.
You can also get foam indicators, which might be worth considering if you want something extra light. Foam barely affects your cast at all and is a very affordable option. In truth, having a few different kinds in your kit is probably the best way to approach this. But the most important thing is that you have some of the right strike indicators in your equipment.
8. Waders and Boots
Waders are great to have but not a necessity. But if you plan on getting into the water I highly recommend them. They are a great tool to go wading in the water safely and effectively, and without getting the rest of your clothes wet in the process and becoming extremely cold! Waders are the way to achieve this, and you can't consider your fly fishing kit complete without a pair of decent wading boots.
There are two main types of waders: boot-foot waders and stockingfoot waders. With the former, there is a boot welded to the bottom of the waders, giving you extra stability and strength and making it a quicker and easier process to get the waders on and off. However, you generally have fewer size options, so they are not always a possibility for everyone.
With stockingfoot waders, there are welded neoprene socks in the bottom, but that means you have to wear wading boots as well over the top of them. However, this does mean that you can always have the right-sized waders on, which makes everything much more comfortable and a lot easier to manage. They are generally very comfortable to walk long distances in, so great for a whole day out fishing.
You are not going to get very far in fly fishing without a net. This is how you ultimately catch and gather the fish, and you want it to be big enough to handle the fish without causing it any damage or pain. However, you don't very often need a huge net, and generally, a small net will suffice if you are trying to do some regular fly fishing. There are a few considerations to be aware of as you choose a net, however.
First of all, the size of your fish: if you know what fish you generally go for, you should make sure that you have a large enough net for that fish species. That will ensure that you are not going to harm the fish unnecessarily.
You also need to think about the material of the net, and there are a few types that you might want to consider. Carbon fiber is generally a wise choice, as it is highly durable and lightweight, and usually of high quality. It's also easy to carry and often comes with a rubberized grip, making everything even easier for you.
There you have it. As long as you get those nine items right, your fly fishing kit will be ready to go, and you’ll be able to do faster fishing in no time.
Putting it all together
Now that you have the necessities of a fly fishing kit, you can keep it on you in your car or in your garage for easy access to get to the water. I have a rod set up at all times and keep my to-go items in a small bag to quickly grab and go out for a few hours every day.
You can make your kit as complicated or as simple as you like, and there are great new hip packs, vests, and backpacks that you can store everything in to keep together.
I currently am enjoying a chest pack for my river fly fishing and a hip pack for my shore lake fishing. I have them preloaded and ready to go, so when I do get that chance to get out of the shop, I'm ready and fishing at a moment's notice.
About the Author
Matthew Bernhardt, a third-generation Coloradan, grew up at the forefront of the state’s fly-fishing revolution, enjoying time on the water, side by side with experienced guides and lifelong anglers.
By combining his passion for fly-fishing with input from other experienced fly-fishers and guides and his fine arts degree from Colorado State University, Matthew spent five years carefully developing the Drifthook Fly Fishing System, built to help every angler catch more trout.
When he’s not spending time with his wonderful family, you’ll find him out on the water catching MONSTER trout, and he anxiously looks forward to the day when his kids are old enough to join him there.