Needs vs. wants

Gadgets are all well and good (and plentiful), but when learning to flyfish, you don't have to buy out the store

Some aspects of flyfishing can be complicated, but small stream fishing is fun and easy. Make your first excursion to a small high country stream. Libby Collins and Chris Herrman find solitude and cutthroat trout on a quiet creek away from the road.

With an endless multitude of fly patterns to choose from, below, pattern selection can be intimidating. A few basic patterns will catch the most fish. Clockwise from top: Woolly Bugger, Elk Hair Caddis, Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, Grasshopper.

“Gosh, I really want to get started in flyfishing, but I just can’t afford it. Man, it would just cost too much! Why, I’d have to buy one of them fancy high-dollar rods, and then my neighbor was showing me his new top-of-the-line reel that he just bought, and the guy on TV was talking about so many different fly lines that you could have tied up a jail full of criminals.

“And then what about all that other stuff you have to have? Some of those fishing vests look like they could hold more than a suitcase. Boy, if I ever fell over in the water, I’d need help getting up! And then there are waders, and nets, and glasses, and fly tying stuff, and float tubes, and all those boxes full of those tiny flies. Why, I’d need to add on to the garage to store all that stuff.”

“Whoa! Time-out! Wait a minute,” would be my answer. “Let’s back up this runaway train.”

Such is a typical conversation with someone who has an interest in flyfishing, but doesn’t know where to start. It is not that big a deal.

Where do you start? You start simple. Do you need all that equipment? No. Does the equipment have to be the best there is? No. Well, what do you need? Not much actually.

You certainly need a fly rod, a fly reel, and a fly line. Add to that a tapered leader and a few flies, and you are there. Go catch fish!

Now certainly there is more that can be had. There are many items one can purchase — some useful, some just gadgets. But seriously, with this minimum list of equipment, one can try flyfishing.

And this minimal list of equipment need not be expensive. Stay away from the cheap stuff, unless that is all you absolutely can afford. But you don’t have to spring for the most expensive stuff either. You can get a decent quality rod, reel, and line for $100 to $200. Especially if you buy it in a kit form.

The local shops sell kits in this price range. This is a good way to go for someone who isn’t knowledgeable about the equipment, since these kits put together matched size equipment, which is important in flyfishing.

A general purpose, all-around rod for most of the flyfishing engaged in in Colorado, particularly for trout, is one that is 8 to 9 feet long and is designated as a “five weight” rod.

The rod weight refers not to the actual weight of the rod itself, but rather to the size of the fly line that the rod is designed to cast, as in a “five weight” line.

A slightly shorter or longer rod is acceptable, as is a slightly lower or higher fly line size. Just be sure the weight designation of the rod and the fly line are the same.

For the beginner, an inexpensive reel is adequate. Look for one that is lightweight and of a small to medium size. There is a wide choice available, so shop around for your price range. Avoid the automatic, spring loaded reels. As you gain experience and decide you want to get out flyfishing more often, you will want to consider a top quality reel.

And then there is the fly line. Everyone has their opinion, but mine is that the fly line is the single most important component of the system. Buy a cheap rod or buy a cheap reel if you must, but don’t buy a cheap fly line.

My money goes to the best fly line available, even for the beginner. Even the best quality fly lines are only $50 or so, so buying a cheap one saves very little dollars, but can cost you a lot when you go fishing.

Next, get a tapered leader designed for flyfishing. Regular monofilament won’t do. It casts very poorly with fly lines. Tapered leaders can be purchased for under $5.

Lastly, and maybe the most fun, is the wide assortment of flies to choose from. You don’t need a lot. A half-dozen different patterns would be a fine start, as most fish aren’t too picky, especially if you first try a small mountain stream with little rainbows and brookies. There are recommended standard patterns that cover most fishing situations, so keep it simple to start.

Not required, but polarized sunglasses are invaluable. You might already have some, and even the inexpensive ones will make a big difference in actually catching fish.

Perhaps the best advice I can give is twofold. First, read. There are brochures, magazines, books, internet searches, online videos, and I might mention, a certain local newspaper column.

Next, visit a reputable retailer. You’ll avoid many mistakes using their advice and expertise. Good information is free, so you may as well get it right the first time. Some shops even have rental equipment if you want to try without buying.

Yes, there is much to the sport both as to equipment and methods, and lots of things one could buy, but a minimal amount is all you need to get started. And expect to catch fish.

Shop around, ask, learn, find a mountain stream, and go fishing! And don’t forget to read my column!


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