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Gear: Fly Fishing

Like many of us, you probably dream about fishing more than you get to practice your dead drifts.
One trick that’s guaranteed to increase your days on the water is to be prepared. Keeping your gear organized, with a pre-printed checklist at your fingertips, shortens your prep time and ensures you won’t waste precious daylight. Plus, having an “essentials” list is great prevention against arriving at the stream when strikes are hot and realizing your reel is still sitting on the kitchen counter.  Of course it goes without saying that angling for different fish requires gear that caters to that species–and we’ll cover species-specific lists in the coming weeks.  But this general overview should keep you on point.

Fishing License

Obviously this is a good thing to buy in advance, and you can generally get them online. Keep in mind that you may need an endorsement for specific fish (for example, in Oregon you need an addition to your license for catching salmon, steelhead, or sturgeon.) Have your government issued ID ready. Sometimes you can print the license immediately for an added fee, or have it mailed. You can also buy fishing licenses at many fly shops, sporting goods shops, big box stores like K-Mart and Bi-Marts, and even hardware stores and gas stations. Do a quick search of your state’s fish and wildlife department website for specific details.

A Rod and Reel

If you are just getting started, consider a preconfigured package that includes the rod, reel, and line. This can take out some of the guesswork and ensure that your system works fluidly together. You don’t have to spend thousands to get your feet wet—but avoid the low-end starter packages as, to put it bluntly; they can be a waste of money.  Plan on spending $100 to $150—a worthy investment that will improve the experience, both for you and the fish. The fish you are planning on catching determines the weight of the rod you’ll need. Bigger, stronger fish usually require a heavier, stronger rod. If you are fishing for trout or bass, you can get away with most any reel, but if you are fishing for bigger, more vigorous salt or freshwater fish, you’ll need something with a drag system. Visit your local fishing store and get some tips before you buy—anglers love to talk—and while they may tell some tall fish tales about their exploits, they’ll deliver the straight stuff about equipment.


A fishing vest can help you keep your flies, nippers, hemostats, floatant, tippet, strike indicators, weights, and net organized. And don’t forget your peepers! Polarized sunglasses are a must for cutting the glare off the water. Sunscreen, insect repellent, and a lightweight rain jacket are smart additions to your pack.  You could also bring along an old ski pole or wading staff for balance in rocky streambeds. Don’t forget UPF garments such as sleeves, neck gaiter, and fingerless gloves.


Extra Line

As you’ll soon discover, it’s far too easy to tangle line on a snag or tree branch, or have that legendary fish break it as its trying to escape. The right fly line makes a difference when it comes to catching fish. If you’re fishing for bigger catch, or in rough conditions, bring a heavier line. For clear water lake fishing, it’s a game of stealth, so bring something clear and light that will become nearly invisible in the water.

Extra Leaders

This is the piece that connects the fishing line to the fly. Often, the leader is a fine piece of fishing line that is easier to tie to the fly, and less conspicuous to the fish. Tapered leaders are the best.

Proper Footwear

You can get away with wading in a pair of old sneakers, but breathable waders keep you warmer and add protection. Water shoes are the best invention since the aluminum beer can—they are designed to get wet, without allowing in sand and grit. The lightweight mesh material drains quickly, and aggressive rubber soles have great traction in amphibious situations. Avoid felt soled shoes or boots as they can transfer invasive amoeba like the Whirling Disease, from stream to steam.


The Right Flies

When selecting flies choose them from the fish’s point of view and don’t just settle for the one your Uncle Wiggy gave you for your sixth birthday. Drop in a nearby bait or fishing equipment shop and they should steer you toward the right ones. Or better yet, check the local fish and wildlife site for tips on what to buy or tie.

A Basic First-Aid Kit

Keep it small and simple: Band-Aids, Neosporin, gauze, ibuprofen, and roll of sprain tape should cover the basics of what you should encounter on the river or lake.

A Hat

As with the vest, a good fishing hat completes the look–but it also offers key protection against the sun–a wide-brimmed design will keep the sun off your neck and ears, while baseball caps are good for cutting the sun’s glare (and hiding bedhead) for those early morning casts.

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