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Equipment

It is very important that you choose equipment that is well balanced and suited to the particular fishing situation.

While a particular flyrod may be used in different fishing situations, its range of applications is far narrower than that of a spinning rod.

You can take a 6 1/2 foot medium action spinning rod spooled with 8 lb. test and catch just about anything. You could throw a small trout spinner or a large bass plug. It may not be perfect, but it will work just fine.

With flyfishing equipment, you have to choose the gear with a certain type of fishing in mind. Again, there is some freedom in the equipment's range of applications, but it is not as flexible.

For instance a flyrod used for trout couldn't throw one of the large bass bugs more than a few feet, and that's if it didn't snap in half first. Likewise, a flyrod used for bass could throw any trout fly, but the presentation would be very far from delicate.

        When referring to equipment as being well balanced, we am not referring to the center of gravity, but the ability for all of the components to compliment each other and work as one.

There are six main components that compose a flyfishing outfit:

fly
flyline
leader
rod
backing
reel

 

Listed are the components in the order in which you should choose them. Your fly determines the flyline; the flyline determines the leader, and so forth. This does not mean that there is only one particular match for a certain fly size and type. You must also consider the species of fish, type of water, will you be wading or fishing from shore, etc.

Flies 

        Now it's time to choose what sizes and types of flies you will be using.
There are two main categories of flies:

flies that rest on the water (surface),
flies that go below the surface (sub-surface)

The most common types of above surface flies are dry flies and poppers.

Dry flies are imitations of the adult stage of small insects, and usually suspend themselves in the surface film with the use of a feather collar or hackle. These flies are practically weightless, and are not too wind resistant.

Poppers can imitate anything from a frog to an injured baitfish, and are usually made of balsa, cork, foam, or spun deer hair.

These flies have much more weight and wind resistance to them; therefore they require much stronger tackle to cast them efficiently.

 

There are three main types of sub-surface flies: nymphs, wet flies, and streamers.

 Nymphs and wet flies are very similar; they both represent insects in their aquatic life stage.

 This stage comes before the adult stage (dry fly). While nymphs and wet flies may imitate slightly different things, the main difference is wet flies have wings and nymphs do not.
These flies weigh a little more than a dry fly, and weight is often added to them in order for them to achieve the proper depth. This additional weight makes them a little harder to cast, but the good news is that there is almost no wind resistance.

The final group is the streamer.

A streamer is usually tied to imitate a baitfish.
They are tied on longer hooks and have long sloping wings to form the body of the fish. They are usually a little heavier than the nymphs, and the wind resistance can vary depending on the particular fly.

 

Flyline 

        Flylines are classified by weight, taper, and density (if they float or sink).
Flylines are categorized by weight into a number system, which runs from number 1, which is the lightest, to number 15, which is the heaviest. The lighter lines are more delicate in their presentation and they cast small flies well. The heavier lines are less delicate in presentation, but provide the power to cast large, wind-resistant, and heavy flies. Flylines in the 4 to 10 range are the most common.
Most trout fishing situations call for a line between 4 and 6.
For bass, line weights between 7 and 9 should be ideal. Panfish rods fall between the trout and bass rod.
For saltwater anglers, you will probably want to be in the 8 to 10 range.

 This chart may clarify things a little bit for you, but please keep in mind this chart is just a generalization. It is to be used only as a rough guide.

 
Line Weight Summary

Trout

Panfish

Bass

Saltwater

Line Weight

Hook Sizes

1-4

14-28

5

12-24

12-24

6

8-22

8-22

7

6-18

4-14

4-14

8

1/0-10

1/0-10

9

3/0-6

3/0-6

10-15

5/0-2

        The density of flylines also differs.
There are floating lines which are meant to always stay on top of the water's surface.
There are sinking lines which are meant to stay below the surface.
And there are lines that fall in between the two different categories.

Let's make this real easy for you right now;
your first one should be a floating line.
They are the most common, the most versatile, and the easiest to learn with.

 

        The tapers also differ to suit different conditions. There are five main types of flyline tapers which are illustrated below in the following order:

1-weight forward,
2-bass bug/saltwater taper
3-double taper
4-shooting taper
5-level.

A flyline is usually around 90 feet in length. On a weight forward line; there is 60 feet of thin diameter running line, and a thirty foot section known as the head. The head consists of the front taper, belly, and rear taper. The combination of different tapers and different diameters of belly can greatly affect the line's casting characteristics. A weight forward line has a moderate front and rear taper, whereas a bass bug/saltwater line have a much more severe taper. The more severe taper transfers more energy into the tip of the line, which enables it to turn over the heavier and more wind resistant flies associated with this type of fishing. The double taper line has a more subtle taper to allow for a very delicate presentation. This line does not have the weight concentrated in the head like the previous two types. Instead, the weight is spread along the whole length of line. Consequently, it does not cast as far as a weight forward line. There are some advantages though, the biggest being that the line is identical on both ends. This allows you to simply flip the line around when you wear out one end. In essence, this doubles the lines useful life. A shooting taper is simply the front 30 feet of a weight forward line. This allows the angler to add their own running line, which is usually monofilament. The extremely thin running line allows for extremely long distance casting. These lines are difficult to use, and should not be considered until you are a very proficient caster. The final type is a level line. This line is the same diameter from beginning to end. The only reason this line still exists is because of its low cost. It is very inexpensive to manufacture, and therefore to purchase. It casts poorly, and should not be considered at all. Many beginner combos come with this type of line, and I feel this is the worst thing a manufacturer can do. Do yourself a favor and stay away. If you buy a combo that has this line, then plan on purchasing an additional line. You will learn much faster if you use a weight forward line. When purchasing a flyline, you will need to know how to read the flyline abbreviations printed on the box. There is an abbreviation that lists the taper, the weight, and the density. The tapers are abbreviated as follows: weight forward-WF, bass bug/saltwater-BBT or SWT, double taper-DT, shooting taper-ST, and level-L. The weight is simply the line weight 1-15, and the density is abbreviated as: floating-f, sinking-s, sink tip-st or f/s. Therefore, a weight forward line that is a 5 weight and floats would be WF5F. Manufacturer's abbreviations may vary a little, but generally they are easy to figure out.

 

 

Leaders 

        Now let's discuss leaders. 

A leader is attached between the fly and the flyline. It is made of monofilament, and is tapered from front to back.
The wide end is known as the butt, and this is what gets attached to the flyline.
The middle of the leader is called the mid-section. 
The narrow end is known as the tippet, and this is what attaches to the fly.

The leader keeps the large flyline away from the fish, and it also softens the flies approach to the water. Leaders are classified by an X system, which designates the tippet diameter for that particular leader. Every leader's X-Rating is the same. Brand A's 3X and Brand B's 3X are both .008"; however the pound test does vary among manufacturers. It must be pointed out that there are leaders larger in diameter than the 0X listed. After 0X the leaders are then classified by there pound rating.

Here is a chart of the different X-Ratings and their corresponding properties.

Rating 

Diameter

Approximate
pound test

Recommended
fly sizes

0X

.011"

12

1/0-4

1X

.010"

10

2-8

2X

.009"

8

6-12

3X

.008"

6

8-14

4X

.007"

5

12-16

5X

.006"

4

14-20

6X

.005"

3

16-24

7X

.004"

2

18-28

8X

.003"

1

18-28

Flyrods

        Now for the Rod. 

Flyrods come in all lengths, weights, and materials. Older rods were made of bamboo, and these are expensive collector's items today. Some rods are made of fiberglass, and these are usually of poor quality. They may say graphite on them, but the percentage used is minimal. You can spot one of these rods right away. If you look at the diameter of the blank right above the grip, it is very large compared to the same weight rod in a more expensive true graphite model. The most common material is graphite and this is the only one you should concern yourself with for now. It is much lighter than fiberglass, and also casts much better. More or less, you get what you pay for when it comes to flyrods. If you see a flyrod for thirty dollars, and it says graphite, you can bet it's really fiberglass. You don't have to spend a fortune either. True graphite rods start around fifty dollars and this should be your minimum. The weight of a flyrod is the manufacturer's suggestion as to which weight line it will cast the best. Therefore, a 5 weight rod should use a 5 weight line. Rods usually have a marking on the blank, just above the grip. It will tell you the length, weight, and sometimes the physical weight of the rod, the number of pieces it comes in, and the material it is made out of. It should look something like this: 8'6" 5, or 865. Both of these designate an eight and a half foot rod which should cast a five weight line. It may also look like this G906, which is a nine foot rod for six weight line, and the G stands for graphite. There are many different actions or bending properties for flyrods, but you don't have to worry yourself with that for now.

The other consideration is length. A long rod generates more line speed, and its length helps to keep your line from hitting the water or ground on your backcast. A shorter rod is better suited to tight fishing conditions. Say you are fishing a narrow stream lined with bushes and trees. The shorter rod will be much easier to handle, and in a situation like that you will not have to make too many long casts anyway.

Backing

        Backing attaches between the flyline and the reel. It simply adds length to your 90 feet of line without adding bulk and excessive cost.
It is simply there to allow a fish to make a long run while playing him.
If you were to make a sixty foot cast to a northern pike, you would definitely need more than thirty feet of extra line to play the fish. It is made out of braided Dacron and is similar in diameter to regular monofilament. It usually comes in 20 or 30 pound test. Twenty pound is most common for freshwater, and thirty pound is most common for saltwater.

The amount of backing you choose depends upon the fighting characteristics of the fish. For a fish that does not make long runs, 50 yards should be fine. 100 yards is the most common amount of backing used. For fish that are known to make very long runs, you may choose to have 200 yards or more.

One other reason to use backing on your reel is to increase the diameter of the spool where the flyline is wound. This helps prevent tangles, which can be caused by the line being wound into very small circles. The increased diameter also helps you retrieve more line with every revolution of the reel.

 

Reels 

        There are only a few different types of reels.

 The most common being the single action, which is pictured below.

 With this type of reel, the handle is attached directly to the spool. There are no gears to change the ratio. These reels usually have a spring and pawl, or a disc drag. The spring and pawl is a simple and inexpensive drag, and is satisfactory for most smaller species such as trout and panfish. The disc drag is smoother and more precise. This is the preferred drag system for bass and saltwater anglers, where you must control a very powerful fish.

Many reels have what is called an exposed rim. This is a very important feature to have. It allows the angler to apply drag directly to the spinning spool with the palm of their hand. You should insist on this feature when purchasing a reel.

There are also reels that have gears to multiply your input, and there are reels that incorporate an anti-reverse handle. These are nice things to have in certain situations, but they are specialized in their application range.

The last type of reel is an automatic reel. This reel has a large spring inside to allow you to retrieve all of your line with just a push of a button.
These reels are not very common.
 They are heavy and do not store enough line.

 Your first reel should be a single action
When shopping for a reel, you will want to see what the capacity for the particular reel is. For example, reel X might hold a weight forward 5 weight line and 120 yards of backing, or a weight forward 6 weight and 80 yards of backing. Therefore, you should choose a reel that holds the line and amount of backing you chose earlier.

 

Conclusion

        Remember that flyrods are specialized, and one outfit can not do it all. Therefore, you should choose an outfit that lies on the middle ground for the species you plan to pursue. You can purchase the specialized outfits later.

 A good choice rod for trout and maybe some panfish, would be an 8'6" five weight, with a WF5F line, 9 foot leaders between 4X and 6X, and between 50 and 100 yards of backing.

For bass, a 9'0" 8 weight rod with a WF8F bass bug taper line, 0X or 1X leaders of 7.5 feet, and between 50 and 100 yards of backing.

Saltwater rods can vary greatly, but it should be at least 9 feet and at least and 8 weight for general applications.

 

        Don't be intimidated by all of these variables.
 Your local fly shop will be glad to help you set up a well balanced outfit. You should know what the basic variables are so you can convey what you want the outfit to do, and you can understand what the salesperson is telling you.

 A decent outfit should cost you 
between $100 and $150. 
If you can afford to spend more than this, by all means do so.
 Remember, you get what you pay for and a quality outfit is something you will get years of use and enjoyment out of.

          

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