It seems to me that most often, folks used to get their start fishing by tagging along with their dads and using any extra tackle and gear he has handy or buys for his kids. Today, it seems to becoming less common that fly fishing is a family hobby and more people want to get started fly fishing but aren’t even sure what’s really necessary to have. If this applies to you, you might also be interested in boot-strapping or putting together the necessities on a budget. This list is here to help!
Getting out ON the water
When it comes to stillwater fly fishing, having a boat is key. This may sound like an expensive venture but it doesn’t have to be. Start with a quick search on Kijiji (or Craigslist). I can bet you’ll find an adequate boat that will fit nicely on the roof of your vehicle or in the truck of your bed for somewhere around $300. The great thing about small fishing boats is they hold their value quite nicely and are easy to look after. They rarely get leaks and when they do, you’ll find products to repair them for a good price as well.
When we were in need of our first fishing boat, after a quick search on Kijiji and a short half hour drive to pick it up, plus about $300 later – we had a boat, life jackets, oars and oar locks. Since then, we’ve taken the boat out probably hundreds of times, and she’s never done us wrong.
Get yourself a rod
The next step might be pretty obvious – you need a rod. What might not be obvious is which one to buy. The key is understanding how fly rods are rated. When searching for a fly rod, you’ll need to keep in mind the size of fish you’ll want to catch and – to a lesser degree – the water types you’ll be fishing in.
1-4 wt = small fish, small trout in streams
4-6 wt = trout of pretty much any size, in rivers and lakes
6-8 wt = salmon, steelhead or large trout, rivers or saltwater
8-10 wt = larger salmon or steelhead, saltwater
10-14 wt = pretty much anything bigger, saltwater
If you are going to be fishing in the BC Interior, it’s a safe bet to grab a 5 or 6 weight fly rod. My favourite is the Remington Crosswater or path combo sets. They have a decent warranty and I have no complaints after 5 years with my rod. Maybe treat yourself and upgrade the line and the reel.
Catch some fish!
The key thing to understand about fly fishing versus gear fishing is that camouflage is the name of the game with fly fishing, as opposed to the typical lure used in gear fishing – its intention is to be a flashy attractant. A fly is typically intended to closely mimic the pattern of the insects the fish are eating.
I once heard Brian Chan mention that in Roche Lake (the BC Interior’s infamous trophy fly fishing lake), there are over 2,000 types of chironomids (the phase of insect life that fish are often feeding on) that we know of. Yikes! This is super intimidating, as a single fly can cost $2-4.
I also heard Yvon Chouinard talk about how one summer he used only one fly and caught plenty of fish. I like this approach for its pure simplicity. It’s important not to over-analyse the fly you choose to use, you could spend all day throwing your entire fly collection out on the water and never truly learning anything. It might serve you best to not stick to just one fly, but have a few options. Start by buying 10-20 flies that have a good reputation in the area you are fishing, and then try tying some on your own. Tying your own flies will keep your costs quite a bit lower than buying flies.
Anchors don’t have to cost an arm and leg
You should never overlook the need for a good set of anchors. The last thing you want when you’re in the middle of bringing in a lunker of a fish is to be drifting around on the lake, landing in reed beds and who knows what else. The solution to finding good anchors can be as easy as a trip to Home Depot and grabbing 100’ of rope and two cinder blocks for a cool $12. They work a bunch better than fancy flimsy anchors anyhow.
And just remember… Oars never run out of gas!
You may be tempted to save yourself the added exercise of rowing your own boat, but I wouldn’t worry about a fancy motor when a set of oars never run out of gas. Going motor less will simplify your boat launching and maneuvering quite a bit. I still use oars and I find it gives you more time to really observe what’s happening on the water and catch a few bugs to match the hatch. By this I mean, try to pick a fly that is consistent with the insect activity happening in the water. Generally speaking, this is a good step in the right direction when it comes to catching more fish.
Do your research and practice.
All things considered, you can get a great setup for getting on the water for around $500 that will last you many years. Take your time to decide what would make your experience more enjoyable, and then pick up the odd item here and there to improve your boat and fly fishing.
Be prepared to have a few frustrating days at the start but stick with it. read articles, forums, blog posts and listen to podcasts to get even more ideas on what equipment you can acquire to expand upon your list of fishing basic equipment. Practice different techniques, especially your casting, to figure out what works for you. As long as you’re learning and catching fish, any day out on the water is better than a day at the office.
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Tight lines out there!