A lot of fly-fishing tackle these days is bought mail order or on the internet, which is fine if you know exactly what you want. However, if you are unsure, it is better to go to a traditional tackle shop and actually get the feel of the gear before making a purchase. Buy magazines to read the reviews and don’t be afraid of asking anglers on the bank or fishery owners their opinions. Even if you start out by buying economy gear, this doesn’t mean to say that it won’t be very good and won’t last you for many years. Rods and reels are now of a very high standard indeed, even when they are budget priced, so take care to buy something you really like and that you will want to use for years to come.
If you are just choosing one rod to start with, then a (9ft) or 6/7-weight is about what you are looking for, certainly for nearly all trout and grayling work. You’d even find a rod like this is capable of coping with small summer salmon in tight situations. And (3-4lb) sea trout won’t be too much for it either. Ideally, the rod will be tough, light and have a nice, easy casting action. Some rods, especially for long distance, are very fast in action and take some expertise to get used to, look for nice whippings, good-quality, cork handles, top-quality line guides and, if possible, a carrying tube for protection. Rods with lifetime guarantees are now fairly common and really worth looking for.
As your career progresses, you might find that you want to move onto very small streams. To tempt really wily trout and graying in crystal-clear water you might consider using a (7ft), 3-weight, perhaps. Alternatively, you might move onto big reservoirs where a 3m (10ft) rod will give you extra casting distance. Or perhaps you will lake up double-handed salmon fishing and gravitate towards (13ft), (14ft) or even (15ft) 12-weight rods.
And what’s all this weight business? Well, I could give you detailed explanations but, in essence, it’s broadly the way we describe the power of the rod and the weight of line that it casts best with. A 3-weight rod, therefore, hasn’t got as much power as a 10-weight rod. With a 3-weight rod you buy a light 3-weight line and with a 10-weight rod, you might buy a much heavier, thicker 10-weight line.
Reels these days, even cheap reels should be light, have a reasonable clutch system and be very reliable. Let’s assume that you are starting with the 6-weight outfit: you’ll want a reel to match, one that can take a 6- or 7-weight line with ease, along with perhaps (500ft) of backing. You probably won’t need this much to start with, but you’ll be surprised how many lines a big rainbow trout can run out.
As you progress, you might well move to tiny reels on that 5-weight rod of yours, or larger reels for reservoir fishing or attempts after salmon. For reservoir work, it is useful to buy a reel with different spools, or cassettes. This allows you to have different types of line on a number of different cassettes, enabling you to switch over quickly. ‘Arbour’ is a word in common use these days. Large arbor simply means that the spool of the reel is very wide. Mid-arbour would be my choice. With mid-arbor reels, you tend to find that the line sits nicely and doesn’t come- off like loops of barbed wire.
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Basic Weight Guide
Fly line is one item where it does not pay to economize. A good line will cast like a dream, whereas a poorer line will always be a struggle. There are so many fly lines on the market that choosing can seem difficult. As a beginner, you’ll probably just need a floating line and a medium sinking line in case you want to get your fly down deeper in the water column. There are many different types of line, some sinking very fast indeed for deep-water work in cold or hot weather. Don’t worry about these yet because they are very specialized.
It’s the same with the design of the line. Some have slightly different tapers and profiles for different jobs. The most common are double-taper or weight-forward. The killer is now the best selling line on the market and is probably your best choice for quick, easy distance casting. All weight-forward means is that the- heaviest and thickest part of the line is at the front so that it shoots out better when you cast. It’s good to have a nice visible color but one that isn’t too glaring. I like light green or even sky blue. You need to see the line a lot of the time so that you can watch for it to move, indicating a taking fish.
At the end of your fly line, you will attach a nylon leader. You can make these up yourself, but early on, it’s probably best to buy them machine tapered and ready to go. A tapered leader is important because it helps you present your fly better. Match the end of the leader, or the tippet, with the size of the fly you are using and the size of fish you’re pursuing. For example, if you’re after small trout with tiny flies you want a very light tippet indeed. If you’re after big salmon in a heavy river, you won’t be going less than 20- or 25-lb breaking strain. Balance is everything.
It’s not a bad idea to buy one of the big mail order catalogs and have a browse through to see what knick-knacks the fly angler needs. Clippers, hook sharpeners, forceps and scissors are all useful. You might need oils or powders to make your tippets and flies either float or sink. Strike indicators – pieces of plastic that stick on the leader to show bites – are also useful in certain tricky situations when they are allowed. And you will certainly need a fly box for the all-important flies.