Beginner’s Tips – What You Should Upgrade First

By Ben Wayne

I have found that most fly anglers start out in a similar fashion, the kit rod. My first fly rod was a kit rod. Kit rods are a great economic way to get into the sport of fly fishing without overextending yourself financially, if it ends up not being for you. I remember when I was ready to upgrade pieces of that original kit rod and I had no idea what to spend my money on or why. Here is what I think you should upgrade first and why.

1. The fly line: Good fly line can make your rod outfit feel completely different. Fly fishing is an expensive sport, and relative to the cost of rods and reels, upgrading your fly line will have the biggest impact on your fishing for the smallest investment. You can buy a top-of-the-line fly line for $90-$130 currently. Top of the line rods run $800-$1000, and top tier reels are $1000+. I would recommend Rio Gold, Rio In-touch Gold, Scientific Anglers MPX, or what I am currently using, Scientific Anglers Amplitude MPX. Good fly line rolls over easier, floats in the air longer, floats better in the water, and loads up your rod better.

2. The Rod: The rod is to a fly fisherman, as a sword is to a knight. Every angler has a favorite rod that he’s had countless adventures with, given a name, and intends to pass down one day. Just like the legendary swords of fairy tales. There are a lot of fly rod companies out there and the market is saturated with new rod technology. This makes selecting a new rod very confusing, or overwhelming, for a first or second time buyer. Set a budget for yourself, do some research, read/watch reviews, and the best thing you can do is to go to a local fly shop and try the rod out for yourself. The action of the rod should suit your style- I prefer medium and medium fast rods. Length and weight should have to do with what you will be fishing for the most. The 9ft 5wt rod is the Swiss Army knife of the fly fishing world but if you are a dry fly purest who only fishes tiny creeks for native fish, a 7-8ft 3wt rod would probably serve you better.

3. The Reel: The reel got the last place for me because of my area, Western North Carolina. In WNC, for the most part, you hardly ever hook into a fish that you cannot bring by hand-lining. As a result, reels are just line holders and are the last thing I would recommend upgrading. I did not upgrade my reel until I started fishing tailwater fisheries and creeks that had reputations for having larger fish. The drag system is the most important aspect of a new reel. You don’t want the reel to jerk or take a lot of momentum to start up when fighting a big fish. Where you will spend the most money on reels is in the weight and materials the reel is made of. I have owned everything from plastic kit reels to an Abel reel.

Ben has earned his reputation as a wild water specialist in Boone North Carolina through his years of exploration into wilderness areas in order to map out the best hidden gems in high country. Ben attended Appalachian State University for his undergraduate education in Biology Secondary Education and is currently working on his master’s degree in Higher Education with a concentration in teaching biology. Ben’s ability to teach clients stems directly from his years as a public school teacher. Whether it’s the biology of the stream or casting techniques, Ben can give you the knowledge you need to be a better angler.