Fly fishing isn’t as complicated as some would want you to think. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you’d have to spend thousands of dollars to get into the sport. I’m here to tell you that this is not the case. You can get setup for about $200 or so and do quite well.
The most important investment you will need to make is your fly line. The line is, after all, the driving force behind it all. It’s what will propel your fly to its destination – an awaiting fish. Streamside Proline is a good line and reasonably priced. Rio line is also great, but expect to pay a little more for it.
The next piece of equipment you need is a fly rod. What’s important here isn’t so much a hefty price tag, but rather the ability to load the line and send it out, which can be achieved for under $100. Have you ever see guys in a sporting goods store holding a fly rod in the air and waving it quickly back and forth, wondering what they are doing? They’re looking to see if it’s too flexible or too stiff, either of which will impede on you fly line delivery.
Next comes the fly reel. This is where you have to decide if you’re in it for fun or show. It’s easy to spend several hundred dollars on a flashy reel, when you really only need a $40 reel to get the job done (depending on what species you are targeting). Obviously, for big game you will need a reel with a good drag system. If you’re only targeting smaller game though, like 8-inch brook trout, then a drag isn’t even necessary. My all-time favorite fly fishing reel is the Streamside Harmony. It’s reasonably priced and has a very smooth drag system that is rugged enough to handle Atlantic salmon on the run. And it even looks cool to boot!
Everything else is trivial to some extent. The leader can be as complicated or as simple as you make it. Some swear by tapered leaders, whereas others (like myself) prefer to simply use a rod’s length of Maxima. As for flies, they can seem overwhelming to the newcomer, but all you have to remember is what does your target species like to eat? Then it’s just a matter of looking for something that is #1 roughly the same shape, #2 roughly the same size and (a much lesser) #3 roughly the same color. If you don’t know what they eat, do what I do – Google it.
It’s quite possible to start fly fishing and never need to purchase a pair of waders. Sometimes you can easily cast from shore without any obstacles behind you to snag on, such as trees or tall shrubs; however, there are occasions when you may need to enter the water and a pair of waders will render this part of the venture all the more comfortable. I will say this about waders: you get what you pay for! You can get away with an $80 pair of waders, but they will not likely last more than one fishing season before springing one or more leaks. On the flip side, a $300 pair of waders will also spring leaks if you are not careful with them. They will last you several years if used under normal circumstances though. Less expensive waders will simply start leaking at the seams after a year or so, usually at the crotch and/or where the boot is seamed to the leg if they are boot waders. This happens because of the stress put on them when pulling them on and off for the boot part, as well as simply by walking for the crotch part.
When I started fly fishing some thirty years ago, my first setup was a Berkley fly rod and reel combo which I paid about $70 for. I used it exclusively for my first ten years of fly fishing and did quite well with it. I’ve since moved on to much more expensive setups. I’ve also resorted back to the basics in the last few years, having smartened-up a little and realized that I’m not in it for show, but for catching fish. My present go-to setup can be purchased for under $250. It consists of a Streamside fly rod, a Streamside Harmony reel and Streamside Pro Line fly line. So you don’t have to put yourself into debt in order to get into fly fishing.