Beginner Equipment List Required to Start Fly Fishing

Even if you’ve only done normal fishing, chances are you’ve probably seen someone nearby fly fishing. I have always wanted to learn how, but needed to know what equipment I would need to do so. I did some research and wanted to share what I found with you.

So what is the beginner equipment list required to start fly fishing? The basic items needed to start fly fishing are:

  • A Valid Fishing License
  • Fly Rod
  • Reel and Line
  • Leader and Tippet
  • Flies
  • Fly Floatant and Line Dressing 

While there are many items that one can use when they are fly fishing, those listed above are the basic items you need to get started with fly fishing. Below I will talk a bit more about the basic items, give you some tips for commonly caught fish, and even give you a couple optional items to spice up your fishing trip!

The Basic Items and Why

A Valid Fishing License

While one might be asking why this is on the list, having a fishing license is essential in your packing list. For those who don’t know, in order to do fishing of any kind, the law requires you to hold a valid fishing license and have it on hand when you are out on the water.

It would not be a fun trip if a fish and game warden stopped by and you either just didn’t have your license with you, or didn’t have one at all. Fines can be hefty!

Fines for not having a fishing license can be hefty!

Check the requirements for your state and area to see what the fees and requirements are for fishing licenses.

If you are wondering where you might be able to purchase your fishing license, I know in my hometown a lot of hardware stores sell fishing licenses, along with a couple of gas stations. If you find no such luck in your area, check online or call your local fish and game to find out where you can get yours.

Fly Rod

Don’t start off your fly fishing experience by purchasing the newest, most advanced fly rod on the market. A simple fly rod will help you learn the skill and decide whether or not you would like to continue in the sport.

If your sporting goods or hardware store will let you, ask to test a few rods before you make your purchase.

Remember, a simple rod will get the job done! Don’t drop hundreds of dollars on a fancy fly rod if you are just trying out the hobby.

Reel and Line

One of the most important items on your packing list, is the reel.

Make sure your reel is strong enough to hold the kind of fish you are going for, but also flexible enough that it won’t snap under pressure. You wouldn’t want to break your brand new rod by purchasing the wrong reel!

Purchasing a good fly fishing reel will usually cost about the same amount as a basic fly rod.

“Start off small and work your way up to using the nicer newer equipment”

As for the line, similar to each of the other pieces of equipment, do NOT buy the most expensive box of line for your first time fly fishing. Fly fishing line is much more expensive than normal spin fishing line, and your first time attempting to fly fish may result in a couple of snagged trees and tangled casts. You do not want to see that brand new, top quality line go to waste when you are just getting started.

Start off small and work your way up to using the nicer, newer equipment.


One of the most important things you need to bring with you while fly fishing is the fly! Flies come in all different shapes, sizes, and materials. Some people even like to make their own flies. If you are just starting out in fly fishing though, you might not know how to tie your own flies. But that’s okay!

Start off with some simple store bought flies and as you progress work your way up to tying your own.

The best tip for finding the perfect fly is to learn about the usual diet and eating habits of local fish. If your artificial lure looks similar to the plant and bug life most common to the area, it will be more successful than other lures.

Leader and Tippet

Leaders and tippets are essential equipment for beginner fly fishers.

The leader is attached to the end of the fly line and will help you see the difference in your fly and line.

The best suggestion for buying your first leader is to look for anything made of tapered monofilament nylon. These are designed to help the leader travel through the air and come to a rest efficiently.

Next start looking for a tippet. The appearance of your tippet should not matter since the fish usually won’t see it.

A tippet attaches to the end of a leader, then allows you to attach a fly to your line.

The appearance of your tippet should not matter.

The point of a tippet is to allow the fly to swim naturally through the water, which will attract more fish.

To ensure you are getting the correct leader and tippet for the fly you are using, there are charts and guides to help you. Most store-bought flies have a chart on the inside of the box to help you make the right combination. Before you buy your flies, look at the chart to ensure it fits with your leader and tippet.

Fly Floatant and Line Dressing

The final items on your beginner packing list are fly floatant and line dressing. These items can also turn out to be the cheapest on your list as well.

The fly floatant and line dressing’s purpose is simply to ensure that the fly and line run smoothly and- you guessed it- increase their floatation.

There are several different kinds of fly floatant and line dressing that you can purchase. For example, there is brush on, paste, spray on, powder shakes, dip and dunk styles, and gel floatants.

The most popular type is the gel floatant, simply because you can apply the gel floatant prior to heading out on the water.

Bonus Items to Bring

Besides bringing just the basics, there are also a couple of other items you can bring to enhance your fly fishing trip.


If you are only planning on fly fishing from the shore, you may not need to purchase any waders. However, many have claimed that the best fly fishing happens when you’re out in the water.

Like the other pieces of equipment you purchased before, there are multiple styles of waders you can buy. The style you purchase simply depends on the environment in which you will be fishing.

The two general styles of waders are chest waders and waist-high waders. Like their names suggest, chest waders come up to your chest while waist-high waders other only come up to your waist.

To decide the height you need for your waders, simply observe the waters where you will be fishing. Waist high waders are for shallower waters; meanwhile, chest high waders are meant for deeper waters. If you are in a colder environment with slightly shallower waters, chest waders may provide more protection and warmth to you while fishing.

When you are buying your waders, check to see if they are meant to be worn with boots or if they have their own built in pair of boots.

Waders should last a long time if you give them the proper care they need.

Another tip is to make sure you take good care of your waders to help them last longer. Coat your waders with some water repellent and store them correctly. Waders should last you a long time if you give them the proper care.


Nippers are a small pair of scissors that are very useful to fly fishing. They help you get a clean cut in the line wihtout trouble, and are very useful if you have a knot that you just can’t untangle.

Many people use a knife, or even their teeth to do this task, but the best fly fishers recommend investing in a good pair of nippers so as not to lose that big catch. (Clipping the line with your teeth is NOT healthy for your teeth or the line either).

Sling Pack

No one wants to have to constantly be getting in and out of the perfect fishing spot to grab new gear or lug a large backpack around with them in the water.

The fly fisherman’s solution to this problem is a sling pack. It’s a small bag that is worn across the shoulders or neck. It’s perfect for storing all the little pouches, tools, and flies that you need on the water. A sling pack can be easily swung around the shoulder to the chest when items are needed and swung back when they are not.

It’s best to find one with a cushioned shoulder strap or a padded exterior to make sure you’re more comfortable; however, there are many simple and cheap options you can find out there. (If you wanted to save a couple of dollars on your first trip, you could reuse that old fanny pack and sling it around your shoulder).

Hat and Sunglasses

Fly fishing is not a brief activity and you’ll often be out in the sun for hours at a time.

For this reason, it is important that you have a hat that will provide adequate coverage. Wide brimmed hats that cover the back of the neck are usually best.

Look into finding a water-resistant hat with a chin string. If you are fishing on a windy day, the string will help prevent your hat from flying away. In the event that it DOES fly away, the water resistance will prevent damage!

Along with the protection from a hat, you will need a pair of sunglasses for your fishing excursion. They should be polarized lenses and fit well so that they won’t fall off.

Polarized sunglasses are designed to help reduce the amount of reflected light off the water, and will help you be able to see your catches better.

When to Go Fly Fishing

While the time you should go on your fishing excursion relates to the type of fish you are catching, I have some general tips for you on when to go fly fishing.

For most types of fishing the best time to go is early in the day before the maximum heat of the sun, and after the heat of the day has passed in the evening.

It is at this time that the fish are more likely to be active and escaping the heat of the day.

Another thing to look out for is the changes in barometric pressure. Fish are more active when there is a slight drop in the barometric pressure right before a storm or when the pressure begins rising after an extended low pressure system has passed through.

As for the best season in which to go fly fishing, the best catching season peaks in the late spring to early summer. Later into the summer, the heat may become too much and bug bites will begin to increase. Once you get into winter and early spring, the bites are scarce but you still have the possibility of catching something.

Tips for Fly Fishing for Brook Trout

Brook Trout are a common species to find when fishing in mountain creeks or rivers. Fly fishing for a brook trout is said to be addicting and usually includes a fun adventure.

If there is not an easily accessed mountain river or creek where you are, put on your hiking boots and pack some fly fishing gear up there, not only will you get the chance to see the beauty of the mountains, but you might just find the perfect elusive fishing hole.

These are our top tips to help you catch a brook trout:

  • Find the coldest, cleanest waters
  • Use a lightweight fly rod
  • Use a bushy dry fly / or a streamer
  • Make every cast count

Brook trout live in rivers with high levels of dissolved oxygen, and a colder temperature. This is why they are often found in the creeks or rivers fed by a mountain lake where the water remains cool all year round.

A lighter fly rod is needed for catching a brook trout since there is often limited space when casting among the trees. A shorter rod will give you an advantage when fishing.

Brook trout tend to be less picky about what they feed on, since their mountain streams have limited resources. For this reason, you are likely to get a bite using that bigger dry fly. If the dry fly stops working, switch it up with a wet fly or even a streamer.

Tips for Fly Fishing for Bass

To get the best success when fly fishing for bass, you may have to change up your technique a little.

I gathered a couple of tips to help you be more prepared for your bass fishing trip. Before you start, know a little bit more about salt water fly fishing, as it is similar to bass fly fishing.

  • Go fishing in the dark (Nitty Gritty Band reference)
  • Don’t lift the rod as much
  • Find the perfect area
  • Take pause when dragging a fly
  • Keep the line tight
  • Bigger lures can be better
  • Be creative

The best time to go fishing for that monster bass is either in the early morning or later at night. In the heat of the summer, bass are more likely to be active during the cool temperatures of dawn or dusk.

Bass fishing is much different from trout fishing and requires a lot more stripping. Lifting the rod is a sure way to miss setting the hook on that big bass. The number one suggestion is to keep the rod pointed towards the fly the entire time (if the tip goes underwater that is alright).

Make sure to strip back on your line when the bass bites and apply some pressure to the rod.

Finding the perfect area may be tedious work, and can even take up the entire season; however, once you find that perfect spot the next season you will be able to spend more time focusing on other techniques.

So take your time and spend a day or a few days even testing out one location.

As you drag a surface fly, take a slight pause and begin to reel in again. Doing so will give the bass time to see the fly and the chance to take a bite.

When a bass bites, it may be subtle enough that you don’t notice. To help you feel even the subtlest of bites, keep the line tight and apply a slight amount of pressure to the rod.

Even the biggest of bass can have a subtle bite.

Bass tend to be a bigger fish and therefore go after some bigger lures. You can take your chances using a rat, frog, or even a duckling lure. These lures will be especially effective in the lower light of dawn and dusk.

Don’t be afraid to fish with an irregular or abnormal lure. Be creative! If the traditional lures are not working take your chances with a rubber creature lure.

Related Questions:

What is the best fly rod for a beginner? Fly rods have a lot of different factors, but generally, beginner rods should be about 7-8 feet long. Ask store owners for their recommendations on various materials and features. If possible, you should test rods out before purchasing, and don’t assume that the most expensive rods are the best.

What is the point of fly fishing? Just like any other form of fishing, fly fishing is often a relaxing activity that can provide a source of food. If someone is catching and releasing while fly fishing, they are most likely there for the thrill of the chase, and the soothing calmness that comes with being out in nature.

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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