Getting Started in Fly Fishing

By Jimmy Harris
Unicoi Outfitters

Are you thinking about getting into fly fishing but are put off by tales of the expense? You’ve heard stories of $1,000.00 fly rods, $600.00 reels and $120.00 fly lines and wondered if folks have lost their mind. IT’S JUST FISHING!

So, here’s the lowdown. I own a fly shop and obviously make more profit off an expensive rod than I do off an inexpensive rod. However, we want to put together an outfit that first and foremost will help you enjoy learning to fly fish, regardless of price. Let’s look at each component with an eye toward what you need.

Rods: Prices and performance are all over the board. Without mentioning brands, I can tell you there are some cheap rods that you cannot cast, regardless of your skill level. I don’t recommend walking into a shop that does not have staff with a high degree of fly fishing skills. You’ll waste your money and you’ll hate fly fishing. Having said that, one of our best-selling rods is an Eagle Claw fiberglass for around $35, and it’s not just novice anglers purchasing them. They are fun to fish with. For $150 – $250, you can get a rod with a lifetime warranty that can perform better than 98% of the fly anglers out there.

Reels: A common theme in any reel discussion is that in the Southeast, it’s just a line holder. Well, that is true in a lot of cases, but if you’re targeting larger fish, you need something with a serious drag. By far, most trout fishing in our area does not require a reel with a good drag. A simple spring and pawl reel for $50 or less can more than suffice when you’re starting out.

Lines: Yep, top-end fly lines these days are over $100.00. Are they worth it? If you fish a lot, yes. The best lines nowadays will cast better and last up to 10 times longer than even the best fly lines of just a couple of years ago. A Cortland 333 Classic is priced at $39.99 and has caught a lot of trout over the years it’s been in existence (which is more than just about any other fly line).

Now, we’re at around $125.00 and you’re ready to fish. If you want a graphite rod with a guarantee, the best entry level outfit we’ve found is the Orvis Encounter. A 9’ 5 weight rod with reel, line, backing as well as a protective tube is priced at $169.00. It doesn’t have the Orvis 25-year guarantee, but they do warranty against defects in the original workmanship, in which case they will replace it.

Do you need a $600 to $1700 outfit? No, but you may want one someday. If you do, I hope you’ll give us an opportunity to help you put it together.

See you on the river!