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10 Fly Fishing Must Haves To Get You Up and Fishing

Gear is the second most important part of fly fishing. The first and most important is the respect and love of the outdoors. If you love the outdoors and respect all that it bears us, then you have the first key ingredient to becoming a successful fly fisher. After you have that down, you do have to invest in your new found hobby, and buy some pretty important gear. It is no secret that fly fishing is an expensive hobby. Lucky for me, I started young enough that my dad was the person who took the hit to his wallet. However, I have mastered finding good deals for myself and my Dad when it comes to gear.

First and foremost I am going to start by telling you the places where I find the best gear and deals. Number one on the list is  Orvis. Orvis always has a sale, and their women’s waders are SUPER reasonable compared to places like Cabelas and Bass Pro. Number two is Charlie’s Sporting Goods, right here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Charlie’s is not only local, but they are also great about keeping up to date with the local fishing, what is biting, and where the fish are. I LOVE supporting them. Third is Bass Pro. I can almost never find women’s outdoor clothing for a reasonable price, but Bass Pro always has a sale rack that has decent clothes and accessories for a decent price.

Now, not all of the gear I have is from these top three locations. My Dad and I have found gear all over the internet, even E-bay! I am not going to tell you about all the gear I carry, because it is six years worth of gear, and some of what I started with isn’t what I use currently. What I am going to share with you is my list of the top ten “must haves” for beginning a fly fishing journey.

Number 1 Rod and Reel (w fly line)

My Favorite! Sage Rod!
My Favorite! Sage Rod!

My first rod was not this sage. It was a much smaller rod, and it is still the one I use most in the small New Mexican streams, but this is my all time favorite rod. It is technically my dad’s, but I have commandeered it! This baby is what I use when I fish the big river in

New Mexico, the San Juan . This 9′ sage rod is the best rod, and I have chosen this particular rod to post, because it really is a perfect, use anywhere, rod. Just keep your eyes out for sales because sage rods are no joke! Sage rods can get all the way up in the $700 range! Yikes! The picture here shows the rod info in case people are wondering dimensions.

With your rod you need your reel and the reel needs to be hooked up with fly line. It is actually the fly line that is the most expensive. Orvis fly line is pretty pricey, but the brand White River is a great option. It is not the cheapest, but also not super expensive. My Dad has purchased Lamson reels more than any other reel, and they’re the reels that I have the most experience with. They average about $60. Not bad at all!

As a beginner, your best bet is to avoid buying everything separately and get a fly rod starter kit, you can find them starting off at about $60. They include the whole shebang: fly rod, reel, and fly line!

Number 2 Leader and Tippet

Now this is where it gets super fishy and complex, the leader and the tippet are really similar, but are for totally different things. The leaders are the monofilament strands that allow the fly line to connect to the fly. The tippet is the thinner strand that connects the fly to a dropper. A dropper is a smaller fly that will sink (ideally) beneath the water for the hungry fish at the bottom to gobble up.

LeaderThere is a lot to learn about what leader to use when. Here is how I remember it: fish in shallow water, like small New Mexican streams, are far more easily spooked by a fly line landing on top of them than a leader landing on top of them. Using longer leaders in shallow water is better. Not what you would expect, but true. Here is why New Mexico is really difficult, we have shallow water and small streams! Typically in small streams you want shorter leader, but if it is shallow you don’t want the fish to spook. I tend to always use a nine foot leader. When in doubt go to a local fly shop and ask which would be best.

Number 3: Vest and Attachments

Vest Forceps and Nippers

Trust me you want  need a vest to hold all the gear you will have for fly fishing. The attachments are easy, you are going to want forceps and nippers. Forceps tighten to your hooks to help you get a grip on the hook when you need to, for instance to get a hook out of a fish that your fingers just can’t get to. Nippers look and act like nail clippers. All you need to know about vests and attachments, is they are cheap. Places always have these items for really reasonable!

Number 4 Fly Box and Flies

This part is expensive, but simple. Buy a sale fly box from a place like Orvis and then go buy the most popular flies from discountflies.com. When you get close to the place you are fishing, stroll into the local fly shop and ask what the fish are biting and BUY THOSE. The shop owners usually know the secrets! Flies are serious business. Those little suckers sell for a buck and some change. Ya, a hook and fuzz costs that much, but hey, if it catches me a fish it is worth every penny!

Number 5 Wading Boots and Neoprene Socks

Simms Boots
Simms Boots

Now this is arguably not a necessity, but I feel that for safety reasons they are absolutely necessary. Wading boots are designed to keep your feet grounded on those slippery rocks. Simple water shoes and sandals do not have that. For this reason alone it is on my “must invest” list. Again with these, look for deals. Some boots can get pretty pricey. These Simms boots with metal spikes are my favorite (the other pair had felt bottoms). With wading boots you need neoprene water proof socks. These keep your feet dry and happy! Excuse my dirty boot picture, but now you know I do actually use them!

Number 6 Hat

Sun and water with a glare, trust me you want to keep the sun and your hair out of your face.

Number 7 Polarized Sunglasses

These help you to see the water so that you can gauge when a fish bites.

Number 8 Safety Gear

Coola Sunscreen from Birchbox
Coola Sunscreen from Birchbox

As my safety gear I always have waterproof matches, my Bear

Grylls flint and steel lanyard, and my Bear Grylls knife. Can you tell I think Bear and I should be friends? Along with this gear I also have sunscreen in my vest. I AM a girl, and I AM really picky about what sunscreen I put on my face and body. I love coola sunscreen. I actually received these cute samples in my monthly birchbox and stuck them straight into my vest.

Sun Bum Sunscreen
Sun Bum Sunscreen

I also have some oil free sun bum sunscreen for the body. All of these smell nice ( not nice enough to attract bugs) and are gentle on the skin. Lastly, you can’t predict the weather, always have a poncho in your safety supplies.

Poncho in a vacuum sealed bag to save space!
Poncho in a vacuum sealed bag to save space!

Number 9 A Giant Duffle Bag

This will keep all your gear in one safe place! Seriously, plan on it being giant. Here is the one that my dad and I use. I could fit in it!

Fly Fishing Duffle
Fly Fishing Duffle

Number 10 Floatant

FloatantThis is how you catch fish. Your dry- fly needs to stay on top of the water and not sink. Floatant gives those top-feeding fish a tasty looking morsel. To treat those fish to your fly, you need to keep it dry with floatant. After every 5-10 casts you will be adding floatant to your dry fly dry. I personally do not like anything but this powder kind. The liquid ones are a pain because you have to brush them on. Try finding the floatant that you can just shake.

Optional Number 11 Waders

San Juan Fishing in my Simms Waders--IN WINTER!
San Juan Fishing in my Simms Waders–IN WINTER!

Now Number 11 is ONLY if you are fishing a big river that may require you to get in the water waist deep. If this is your fishing location, invest in some waders. Orvis has waders under $200, which is an AMAZING price for waders. I am so oddly shaped (short, curvy, little feet) that my dad bought me some custom sized Simms waders as a gift when we first started fishing. If you can’t find your size AND you are truly serious about fly fishing then the Simms Custom Fit Waders are a perfect choice!

That concludes my top ten (eleven) must haves for fly fishing. If you are interested in fly fishing, my hope is that this list gives you an idea of the investment that fly fishing requires, as well as easy and reasonably priced options to help get you started. If you have questions leave a comment and I can respond to the best of my abilities. I hope I have sparked your curiosity to the wonderful world of fly fishing.