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Getting Started Fly Fishing

Have you just read A River Runs Through It and are now eager to write your own fly fishing story? Has a buddy invited you out on the river and you’re ready to test your skills? No matter what motivates you to start fly fishing – you’ll need the right equipment for the best chance at reeling in the lunkers.

Getting outfitted is important, but there’s no reason fly fishing rookies should shell out hundreds or thousands on equipment and accessories for their first outing.

To help you put your first set of gear together, RiverFly Fishing has crafted a list of 7 essential items you’ll need to get started. We’ll talk about why you need it, then highlight our favorite examples for beginners. You can use our guide for a great first day on the water without breaking the bank.

7 Things Every Fisherman Needs to Get Started Fly Fishing

Fly Rod

You can’t fish without a rod. Beginners should opt for a moderate rod in both length and weight. 5 to 7 weight and 8 to 10 feet are ideal sizes for rookie anglers and work for a variety of fly fishing species.

Premium-quality fly rods can run into four figures, but beginners only need a solid-quality and versatile rod like Orvis’s Encounter 5-weight. At 5-weight and 9 feet the Encounter can handle most trout and other freshwater fly species with ease. The Encounter Rod pairs perfectly with the Orvis Clearwater fly reel found below.

Buy From Orvis – $169
Buy From Amazon – $169

You can purchase a Redington package including the Redington Classic fly rod, Redington ZERO fly reel, line, tippet, leader, and carrying case for less than $300. Buying these items individually will easily add $75 or more to your total purchase so consider the Classic Package if you need a basic setup.

Redington – $289
Amazon – $289

Fly Reel

Your fly line needs something to spool on and that’s where the reel comes in. Reels not only spool line but help control drag to help you fight fish. When purchasing your first fly reel, your priority is ease of use. A large arbor and easy to operate drag system are two things you’ll want on a beginner reel.

Redington’s ZERO fly reel nestles nicely into the Redington Classic trout rod but will serve you well on many other rods. As the name implies, the ZERO is light but tough as nails and able to handle a variety of fish.

Unlike most basic reels on the market, the ZERO is diecast for a strong product you can’t get from machine milling. A reliable clicker drag system and large arbor make an excellent reel for all skill levels but especially beginners.

Redington – $79
Amazon – $77.59

The Orvis clearwater reel comes with an easy to use drag system and large arbor to help you rig beginner reels without getting too tangled.

The Clearwater comes in multiple weights. If you plan on smaller fish opt for the 4-6 weight but if you’re ready for lunkers go with the 7-9 weight. The Clearwater’s aluminum body is ultra-light to save your arms on long days. They’re also backed by Orvis’s Lifetime Warranty which guarantees against all material defects and workmanship issues.

Cabelas – $98
Amazon – $98


The type of flies you start with depend on the type of fish you’re going after, time of year, water conditions, and much more. To pick the best flies you’ll need to get local conditions and ‘match the hatch.’ You can use online resources to pick the best flies or visit a nearby fishing outfit.

Anglers love to talk about where they were, what they were doing, and what they were fishing with so try to start a dialogue. If you want a ‘starter pack’ or can only buy flies online check out:

It’s going to take you several days on the water to learn about fly choice and how to match the hatch, but the FishingSir Fly Kit is a great introductory lesson with up to 120 basic flies for a variety of species and conditions. The kit includes dry flies, wet flies, and saltwater flies in many different colors and patterns. You can choose from 64-, 100-, and 120-piece kits. At only $10 more, it is worth it for most anglers to choose the full outfit of the 120-piece kit.

Amazon – $26.99


Fly fishing vests let you access tools or equipment with ease. They’re not a must for your first trip but will make your day much easier and better orient you to the sport.

At under $100, the tributary is a great starter vest from Bozeman based Simms Fishing. The vest is lightweight, breathable, and features 19 pockets throughout include useful chest and waist pockets. A great fishing vest will become your best friend on the water and the Simms Tributary helps you become familiar with your preferences and needs.

SIMMS- $79.95
Amazon – $64.97


Every angler needs a solid pair of waders to push into streams and other areas where fish are hiding. Waders start from simple boots to full body waterproofing and protection. If your first outing is on a boat on from shore you will not need waders.

At under $100, the tributary is a great starter vest from Bozeman based Simms Fishing. The vest is lightweight, breathable, and features 19 pockets throughout include useful chest and waist pockets. A great fishing vest will become your best friend on the water and the Simms Tributary helps you become familiar with your preferences and needs.

CABELAS – $79.99
AMAZON – $75.19


You can’t understate the importance of a great multi-tool. In our beginner list we’ve included two unique multi-tools and what they’re useful for.

Leatherman is synonymous with high-quality multitools. You have many great Leatherman options for fishing but our choice for beginners is the Squirt PS4. The Squirt is packed with 9 tools including pliers, wire cutters, snips, file, knife, and much more. At under 2 ounces, the Squirt won’t weigh you down and is useful for many fishing-related needs.

LA POLICE – $39.95
AMAZON – $39.95

Gerber’s Freehander is aptly named because it only uses one hand to operate. The Freehander helps secure and tie flies, attach leader, cut, and adjust line – and much more. With one hand free you can make quick work of your on-the-water tasks including securing and tying flies, attaching leader, adjusting line, cutting and much more.

A multitool like a Leatherman Squirt is great for general purposes but fly anglers need something specific and easy to use like the Freehander. At only 40 bucks the Freehander is a must for all tackle kits.

GERBER – $43.00
AMAZON – $39.99


Because fly fishing species like trout are much more delicate than other freshwater fish, it’s important to keep them healthy and safe while landing. The specialized mesh of a fly fishing net protects natural slime coatings and keeps the fish in a low-stress environment before release.

There are three main things to look for when purchasing a fly fishing net: It needs to be light, robust enough for the fish you’re targeting, and built with a soft mesh to keep sensitive fish safe while handling. The Freestone Rubber Net hits all three of those targets. The beautiful hardwood frame is built to last so no worries about rot or mildew.

FREESTONE – $41.99
AMAZON – $32.99


If you’re certain you’re going to become a lifelong fly fisher you can purchase all the above equipment, but other anglers might want to avoid cashing out on a hobby they might not like. You can choose to purchase all the equipment above brand new, concentrate your money on important items like a rod and reel, or try these alternatives to getting started.

Used Equipment – Sporting goods stores, Craigslist, and NextDoor, are great places to scout for used (and cheaper) fly fishing equipment. It’s not recommended to purchase a used rod or reel but everything else should work fine for an angler even if slightly used.

Renting – Many fly fishing outfits near popular fishing destinations offer guided tours with equipment or offer beginner rental packages that include a rod, reel, waders, and more depending on the spot and store. Rental packages run anywhere from around $50 for a basic package up to several hundred (or even thousand) for a full day guided trip. If you can afford it, taking a guided trip first is recommended for rookie anglers.

Getting the Basics with River Fly Fishing

River Fly Fishing is all about getting more people fishing and we believe the above equipment is a great start. Check out our other beginner blogs, get yourself outfitted, and reach out to us with any other questions about starting fishing. The sooner you have your equipment in hand, the sooner you’ll be writing your own fishing story.

Frequently Asked Questions about Getting Started Fly Fishing

The basics for getting started fly fishing include a fly rod, fly reel, fly line, flies, a vest, waders, and a good multitool.

There’s no right answer for how much to spend on getting started fly fishing. Instead, set aside a budget you’re comfortable with and find the gear that meets your needs and fits your budget.

  • Total for All Equipment – $550 – $700
  • Total without Vest, Waders, Fly Kit, Net – $339 – $400

Technically, you do not need either to get started. However, it is recommended for a better experience. Waders and boots will allow you to access better fishing spots and keep you warm and dry.

Age is just a number, as they say. Fly fishing has its inherent dangers, so maturity is more important that age. In general, fly fishing a great sport for almost any age.