As an avid fly-fisher and owner of this new company, I regularly run into people who tell me how they would love to begin to fly-fish, but they just aren’t ready to drop a ton of money on something they know little about or have never done.
Then I tell them that it doesn’t actually take that much of an investment to get started, and I get a curious look from them, like I’m from Mars. So this article is for those folks, and for everyone else who’s ready to get out on the water but without spending a fortune.
In previous articles on the Drifthook site, I went into detail about all of the items that I typically bring with me for a day on the water. But I sometimes forget that I’ve been fly fishing for more than 20 years, so I’ve had a lot of time to accumulate all of my gear. So this time, I’m talking about just the basic equipment a beginner will need, and I’m including links to some of the best products that my friends and I have used when assembling a first-timer’s fly-fishing kit. I’m not receiving any payments from these companies for recommending their products; I’m just confident that these are all items you’ll use and enjoy. (And then after you’re hooked on fly-fishing, come back to Drifthook to learn even more!)
1. Fishing License
Depending on your state, this could be from $25–$35, renewed yearly.
2. Fly Rod & Reel Combo Kit, $79.97
Cabela's Bighorn Fly Combo
This rod comes in two sizes, 9ft 5wt or 9ft 8wt. If you’re trout fishing, your best bet is to go with the 9ft 5wt. If you are bass or steelhead fishing, you can opt for the 8wt, but most of the time this is too much rod for a beginner fly fisher. This setup also comes with the backing, line, and leader to get you started. I fished with a Cabela’s fly rod until I graduated from high school, when my father was kind enough to gift me his old Sage rod as a graduation present. I still have that Cabela’s rod and hope to pass it down to my son when he grows out of his Spider-Man caster.
3. Fly Vest or Fly Pack, $33.95
Allen Cases, Daypack, Cedar Creek Sling, Olive
A fly vest or pack is not an essential item to catch a fish, but it will help keep you organized when you're on the water. I personally prefer a vest, because I can carry everything I need if the situation changes on the water and it feels more comfortable to me, but this handy product will get you packed out for a day on the water.
This small daypack has easy-to-use zippers, the shoulder strap is full and comfortable, and there are plenty of small straps to attach a zinger for your clamps or nippers. The main compartment has enough room for up to four small fly boxes and a compact rain jacket (or your lunch!), and there are several other small pockets for things like leaders and tippet. The waterproof zippered pouch inside holds your wallet and phone. It has pretty much every compartment and attachment you’ll need—even a water bottle holder.
4. Net, $18.99
Mounchain Rubber Net
When I was first learning to fly fish, I never carried a net, but as the years went on, I realized how vital a net was, not only to help land a fish, but also for the safety of that fish. I highly recommend getting a net, and at $19, this one is a steal. When deciding on a net, make sure to get a rubber one, as they do not harm the fish as much as a mesh net does, and your flies won’t get caught up in it.
5. Fishing Clamps or Forceps, $12.38
Dr. Slick Standard Clamps
Fishing clamps are great for two things: The first thing is getting small-sized flies out your fly box, and the second is getting that fly out of the mouth of a trout when you hook into one. They’re a must-have on the water.
6. Nippers, $5.99
Umpqua Fly-fishing Rivergrip Nipper
Also known as teeth savers, nippers or clipper are used to trim off the excess line when you’re done tying knots from either your tippet or leader material.
7. Tippet, $5-$15
Bozeman Flyworks Tippet
Numerous companies on the market make a great fishing line, but I always keep my eye out for new companies that offer value and a great product. During my searches, I found Bozeman Flyworks. They have one of the best customer service teams, the pricing on their products is fantastic, and the quality is top-notch.
They sell both traditional nylon tippet that is good for dry fly-fishing and nymphing, and fluorocarbon. The fluorocarbon is the line that I would recommend because it is almost invisible when it gets in the water and it sinks faster when nymphing to get your presentation into the feeding zone more quickly. Bozeman Flyworks also has a great price on fluorocarbon at $9.95 a spool. I recommend getting three sizes of the tippet—3x, 5x, and 6x. However, if you are starting on a low budget, go with the nylon.
8. Weights / Split Shots, $8.95
Loon Outdoors Black Drops Split Shot
Split shots are used in unison with your nymphing flies to bring down to the feeding zone faster. They come in numerous sizes, but I recommend the size #4 split shot because you can start small and add as needed. They are also not so little that it is impossible to pinch on to your line with your clamps.
9. Floatant (Liquid or Dry), $4.99
Anglers Accessories Gehrke's Gink
Floatant is an additional liquid or dry powder that you place on your dry flies to help them stay buoyant and above the water surface. There is much back and forth from guides on what is more successful. I have been using Gink since 1987, and it has been successful for me.
10. Flies & Fly-Fishing Knowledge, $68.99
Drifthook Fly Fishing System
Here at Drifthook Fly Fishing, we want everyone who gets on the water to be successful. That’s why we developed the Drifthook Fly Fishing Systems. These are fly-fishing kits that include a bombproof waterproof fly box, 60 flies, and a wealth of knowledge that will get you landing MONSTER trout the first time (or the next time) you go out on the water. In fact, we are so confident in our program that we offer a 100% money back guarantee!
So there you go—everything you need to get out on the water and start learning the fantastic sport of fly-fishing. Get started with your new hobby for under 300 bucks!
- Fishing License, $25–$35
- Fly Rod & Reel Combo Kit, $79.97
- Fly Vest or Fly Pack, $33.95
- Net, $18.99
- Fishing Clamps or Forceps, $12.38
- Nippers, $5.99
- Tippet $5-$15
- Weights / Split Shots $8.99
- Floatant, Liquid or Dry, $4.99
- Flies & Knowledge, $68.99
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.