Fly Fishing Basics – Some Tips For Getting Started

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“You want a fast one or slow one? I got two here. Gonna be strippin’ wets or you think yer gonna be driftin’ a dry to risers most of the time?” asked the man behind the counter.

I stood in silence. I had that deer in the headlights feeling inside my brain. I didn’t understand a word he had said.

He continued “Come on now boy, yer gonna have to give me a hint iffin you want me ta help ya.”

“I, uhhh, I’m not, ahh, sure. I don’t know.” was all I could muster. “I just want to buy a fly rod.”

A First Time For Everything

That was my first time to go shopping for a fly rod and, unfortunately, I wasn’t in a fly shop. I was in a Whites Auto store in New Mexico. Southern New Mexico. The desert part. The part where there aren’t any rivers running through it. Just dusty arroyos that flash flood with the summer storms and then become bone dry almost as quickly as they flooded.

I was 20 years old and had accepted a cowboy job on a ranch in Colorado. The mountain part, where there are rivers running through it. Rivers filled with trout. The boss told me to bring a fly rod. I’d been fishing for as long as I can remember but had never fly fished. I was excited at the prospect of learning how to fly fish. It was all new to me and I was just trying to do what I was told.

I wound up buying a pre-packaged fly fishing outfit that day from the tire installation specialist at the White’s Auto store. It included the rod, reel and line.

I think the whole rig cost me just under $30. I think the year was 1981.

It was never used to strip a streamer or to drift a dry to risers. It was used to dangle earthworms into little pockets of water behind boulders where little trout would inhale them.

Turns out the boss wasn’t a fly fisher either. So much for learning how to fly fish when I was 20.

Years later, (many years later, and still not a fly fisherman), someone sent me a copy of the book A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean. Good book. Great book in fact. That book rekindled my interest in fly fishing.

I read what I could find on the subject for over a year before I went fly rod shopping again. I had a little better idea of what I was after and where to go to find it this time.

Here are some of the things you should know before you go shopping for your first fly fishing rig…

Things You Really Need

Basically, all you really need is a rod, reel, backing, fly line, leader, tippet and fly or two dozen.

There are volumes written every year on each of these items. There are also what seems like about a bazillion different brands and models of each. We’ll explore each category in detail when the time comes.

Next up are some ideas about choosing a fly rod.

Oh yeah, one other thing, just in case you missed it in the beginning of this post… Go to a specialty store for their specialty. What I mean is, I won’t be buying tires from the clerk behind the counter at my favorite fly shop.

Sharp Hooks And Tight Lines,