What You Need To Start Fly Fishing How And Why I Got Started

What you need to start fly fishing. How And Why I Got Started. First off you are going to need the basic things to get started. You will need a fly fishing rod, a fly reel, fly line, backing, tippets, leaders, and some flies.

Fly Rods:

To pick your fly rod you will have to decide what you are going to fish. The small streams and creeks or the larger rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. This makes a difference in what size weight and length you are going to choose. The difference is what type of fish you are going after, panfish will use a different rod than trout or big bass. Fly rods some will come in weights from 1 to 15. The most used are 3 then 5 or 6,  then 8 to 10 weight rods.

Fly rods come in 3 different classes of action, there are fast action, medium action, slow action and each has their advantages.

A Fast Action Rod:

Fast action is good for long casting or casting on windy days. The bad thing is they are hard for beginners because of the power of the cast can be overwhelming. These are not good for short casts like the small stream or creek fishing.

Medium Action Rod:

The medium action rods are one of the best for all around fishing, they do well in all conditions. They are easier for a beginner to learn how to cast over a fast action rod.

Slow Action Rod:

Slow action rods are the easiest to learn on as they are the most forgiving because of the flexibility. These are also excellent for fishing small creeks and streams for small trout or panfish. On the slow action rod, it is fun to catch small fish on this very flexible rod.

Fly rods are based on the weight of the line that they can handle. Always remember the weight of the line should match the weight of the rod and reel.

Fly Reels: Reel Arbors

There are 3 basic styles of fly reels, standard arbor, mid arbor, and large arbor.

Standard Arbor:

The standard arbor spool base which is the part you attach the backing to is in the middle of the reel. This reel is favored by some fishermen for use on the smaller creeks and streams. It will still hold plenty of backing. Because the backing and fly line are in small coils it slows your retrieval rate, which will put more coils in your line. The quality of your line does not matter because the tighter line coil will make it have coil memory.

Mid Arbor:

The mid arbor style reel is the middle ground of all 3 reels. The base has been moved out slightly from the spindle in the middle of the reel. The reel has been widened to compensate for this. These reels do have a good capacity for backing and keep the line in a larger loop to reduce memory. This will also increase the line retrieval rate.

Large Arbor:

Large arbor is the newest of the reel designs, they are larger than the others for the same line rating. They have a lot bigger diameter and are a lot wider in their design. This allows for good backing capacity and a very fast retrieval rate. Some reels can recover almost 14 inches per revolution which reduces lie memory. To a lot of anglers, these out of place but they are lightweight and balance any size of rod.

Fly Lines:

So, what is the fly line weight?  Do I really need to care about it?

The weight of a fly line is measured in units called grains. Fly line manufacturers have a unique numbering system that labels how heavy or light a particular fly line is. This numbering system runs from a 1 (ultralight) to 14 and 0ver (heavy).

In fly fishing, it is the weight of the fly line that casts the fly. Choosing the wrong weight fly line for the types of flies you use, then many problems arise with casting control.

Say you attach a tiny size 16 dry fly to a fly line that is a 7 weight, your control will be lost. Then the fly will hit the water with a big splash due to the heavy weight of the line (which pulls the fly down harder). If you attach a heavy fly to a fly line that has a lightweight, the fly will go in a destination of its own. Control will again be difficult and, once again, your fly may crash into the water.


Backing on your fly reel is a very essential piece of gear. There are many benefits to having good backing on your fly fishing reel. Fly reel backing is typically made of dacron or braided polyester. This is the first layer of a line you put on your fly reel. It is normally sold in 50-100 yard or larger spools. The backing is just a braided line made up of many small strands. It comes in many different tensile or pounds strengths. The normal size for the average trout reel is the 20# test. Most fly fishing reels are able to accept 50 or 100 yards of fly line backing.

You can get by without it but I definitely would not do so. The backing will help fill up your reel so that you can retrieve your line better. It is beneficial when you hook the monster fish of your dreams so you don’t run out of line.


The typical length of leader to use when learning how to fly fish is around 9 or 10 feet. Your leader setup is to create a taper from the butt section down to as thin as possible tippet section.  This lets the energy from the fly line transfer through to the leader and tippet in order to straighten out as best as possible.

You need to start out with 20-pound test leader material attached to your fly line and taper this down. Then your last couple feet of material will have the tippet attached to it. This will provide the best ability to fool the fish you are after without it seeing the line that is attached to the fly.


Fly Fishing Leader and Tippet – The ‘X’ System

The ‘X’ rating system for fly fishing leader and tippet is confusing at first but does not have to be.  I’d like to talk about this a bit to help relieve some of the confusion that many newcomers to fly fishing have with a fly fishing leader and tippet material.

Manufacturers are using a simple rating system, it is denoted by the ‘X’. This describes the breaking strength and diameter of the fly fishing leader d tippet material.  The scale runs from 03X down to 8X, with 03X is the thickest and strongest and 8X is the thinnest and lightest.  So the ‘X’ size of the leader determines how strong and how thick or thin the leader and tippet are.

Here’s a simple chart that shows the typical fly fishing leader and tippet sizes on the ‘X’ Rating scale:

Tippet Size          Tippet Diameter               Pound Test         Fish Size

03X                       .015″                                        25 lb.              For Big Game Species

02X                       .013″                                        20 lb.              Larger Salmon

01X                       .012″                                        18.5 lb.            Big Striped Bass

0X                         .011″                                         15.5 lb.            Salmon, and Steelhead

1X                         .010″                                         13.5 lb.            Bonefish, Redfish, or Permit

2X                        .009″                                         11.5 lb.            Large and Smallmouth Bass

3X                        .008″                                          8.5 lb.            Bass and Large Trout

4X                        .007″                                           6 lb.               Trout Average Sized

5X                        .006″                                         4.75 lb.            Smaller Trout & Panfish

6X                        .005″                                         3.5 lb.              Trout Or Easily Spooked Fish

7X                        .004″                                         2.5 lb.              Trout and Panfish with Delicate Presentations

8X                        .003″                                         1.75 lb.             Trout & Panfish / Small Flies

Tippets are attached to the very end of your fly line that attaches it to the fly


There are 3 different kinds of flies, The first is dry flies, then there are streamers and nymphs.

Dry Flies:

The dry fly is the best-known type of fly because it is designed to float on top of the water. These are designed to imitate a bug that has fallen into the water, if a fish likes it he will take it.


Most people know fish feed under water most of the time that is why fishing with nymphs are so productive. The nymph flies represents one of the stages of insects like a stonefly, mayfly, or a caddis. Most angles will carry these types of flies because they are so productive in catching fish.


Streamer flies are intended to mimic larger water animals like minnows,  leeches, and other larger water creatures.

Fly fishing is a little different when you use a Streamer.  Instead of floating the fly above the surface with a Streamer fly, you move it by pulling on the line.  This is to move the fly in bursts, either long or short. This movement, combined with the unique design of the streamer fly mimics a live creature.  Fish are drawn to this sort of motion, especially on a larger size fly.

The fish strikes on streamer flies tend to be fast and hard because the fish is trying to keep the bait from getting away.  When you use a streamer fly, you’ll want to use a heavier leader and tippet.

Now for the rest of the story: How I got started fly fishing.

How I got started in fly fishing. I was in the construction trade specifically a drywall contractor. I had given a new sporting goods store a bid on their drywall and I had won the contract. But as you might guess this was a commercial job and they were running behind.

The owners had sold their old store and had a deadline to move out or lose the sale. One of the owners came to me and said can you help us to pick up the slack. I told him that we weren’t the ones that put them behind. I said to him we have been waiting over a month to do this job but it was never ready.

Most contractors will only work Monday thru Friday 8 to 5 which with the weather delays puts them behind. He said he would pay me for my guys’ overtime if I could get them to work longer. I laughingly said what about me I work right along with my men.

Then he said he would make it up to me he had some neat stuff coming in. I asked him what it was because I had lots of rods and reels for fishing. I had already just purchased a new rifle and scope for my dad to go moose hunting. My wife and I were both trap shooters and we already had several shotguns and reloaders. He said to me don’t worry you will love it.

Well, I and my guys worked 12 to 14 hours a day and we finished 2 weeks ahead of schedule. Then when the grand opening came he called me up and said my stuff was ready for me to come and pick it up.

My First Time Out:

Now you have to remember this was in 1973. I wish I had a picture of my face when he said there it is what do you think. It was a mannequin with waders, fly vest, a float tube hanging from his shoulders and fins on his feet. I said what in the world is that mess.

He said it was my bonus for getting the job done ahead of time and he knew I would love it. He said after you learn how to use that new fly rod and reel you won’t be able to thank me enough. I said I think I would sooner have the money. He told me that after I tried it for a few times if I didn’t like it he would take it back.

My First Rod and Reel:

It was a Fenwick 6 weight glass rod and a Pflueger Medalist reel. I wore the guides out on the rod and now I use sage graphite. Well, the first time we went out to a little reservoir called dog creek.

There was me, my brother-in-law, and his cousin and my cousin we went there one day. They did not have any outfits they were just going to watch and laugh at me.

Then after I finally figured out how to put everything on I went into the water. What an experience that was trying to walk forward with fins on, it didn’t take too long to figure that out.

Well after about 45 minutes I had caught 4 fish and I had to go to the bathroom. So I headed to shore and when I got out my brother in law said can I try it, I said sure.

Well, low and behold after the day was over we went to the sporting goods store and they all 3 bought outfits. We have been fly fishing ever since and I still love it.

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Dean Jensen

I started fly fishing in 1972 and I have learned quite a bit about this wonderful sport called fly fishing and I want to share some of the things that I have learned.

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