|Equipment, Fly Selection, and Everything Else:
|December 5, 2008
|It is very easy to go out and spend a thousand dollars or more on flyfishing
equipment. We at RTW don't buy the argument that better equipment leads to better fishingfor most people. As with any sport,
those who practice and fish regularly, like guides, can tell the difference and appreciate the small differences in performance
that can add hundreds of dollars to equipment costs. That said, here are some suggestions to help you buy appropriate equipment
to help you make the most productive use of your time on the water:
For most dry fly rivers and streams a #4, #5, or #6 weight rod will work best. I've used everything from a 2 weight to an 8 weight
rod - the difference is in the thickness and stiffness of the rod. The smaller the number, the lighter the rod. Thicker,
stiffer rods will let you cast greater distances more easily, but they are also heavy and cumbersome to use in close quarters.
A very light rod will make it difficult to bring in a very large fish without overtaxing the fish. It will also be harder to
cast on a windy day. The beauty of a lighter rod, however, is that every fish is a challenge, even the little ones. Simply stated,
you will have more fun with a lighter rod.
The most important thing to consider when selecting a rod is the flexibility. Even a very light 2 weight rod, if made well,
can be very stiff - the stiffer the rod the more accuracy and distance you get. Of course, stiffer rods are more expensive. So
find the stiffest rod in your price range, usually 9 feet in length, and try to go with a lighter weight. The only disadvantage
of a stiff rod is that, while it emphasized the good things you do (longer casts), it also emphasizes your mistakes. If you are
quite new to the sport, you might consider a rod of medium stiffness until you feel more comfortable with your ability to get the
fly where you want. Many fly shops will encourage
new fishermen to buy 8 weight rods (or heavier) - fishing with dry flies you will almost never need a rod that heavy. Your arm
muscles will thank you for selecting a lighter model. For most trout fishing, I think the best all around choice is a 9 foot rod for
a #4 or #5 line weight.
The reel is pretty unimportant for most flyfishing for trout. Most of the time a dry flyfisherman won't use the reel to pull in a fish - it's
just too slow. So the reel is mainly just a place to store your line when it's not in use. Stick with something inexpensive.
For dry flyfishing you will need a floating line. A good line is the most important requirement for good casting. Go for a high-quality,
line in the 45-60 dollar range. Saving a few dollars with a cheap line will really slow you down. Given a chance to put a $50 line
on a $25 reel as opposed to putting a $15 line on a $150 reel, we would spend the money on the line every time. We prefer
"rocket-taper" lines (this refers to the shape of the line - a weight-forward line is thicker/heavier at the front which helps with
casting). The weight of the line should match the weight of your rod (4-weight rod = 4-weight line), though being one
number off is usually okay.
Leader and tippet
The "line" is the thick colorful part of the setup - it is this line that provides the weight that you use to cast. The thin, clear
filament that connects the "line" with the fly is called tippet. Usually you can buy a 9 foot "leader" which tapers down from a
very thick size that you tie to the "line" to a very thin filament that you tie to the fly. For most dry flyfishing in streams
and rivers you should use a maximum of 5x tippet, preferably 6x or 7x. The higher the number the thinner (and thus more invisible to
the fish) the line is. You should also have at least 7 feet of tippet between your line and your fly - any less and your fly may
end up too close to your line. 5x tippet is usually around 4.5 lb test, 6x is usually around 3.2 lb, and 7x is around 2.2 lb. Use the
smallest tippet possible, but keep a variety of sizes. It is very difficult to tie thin line to thick line - it is best to tie several
sections of line together in descending thickness (or buy a tapered leader).
Many volumes could be (and have been) written on fly patters and how to select the best fly in any conditions. You should definitely
inquire at your local fly shop, but also take everything they tell you with a grain of salt. Fish aren't as picky as most people think.
Here are a couple of rules and tips:
Smaller is usually better. In general, sizes 14-18 flies work best on streams and small-medium rivers. Watching the water and noting
the size of the bugs flying around will give you a good idea of the proper size fly.
For the moment, forget matching the hatch and trying to imitate exactly the type and size of bug that the fish are eating. Instead,
start with what are called searching patterns. These generally imitate a large number of bugs and are meant to attract attention.
Light, fluffy flies are better than heavy, dense flies.
Colorful and sparkly flies are better than dull, drab flies.
Dark-colored flies are hard to see on the water. Do yourself a favor and start out with lighter colored flies.
Buy or tie several of the same fly. There's nothing worse than finding the killer fly and then losing your only one.
Buy or tie flies with white or very light colored bodies, and carry a selection of colored markers with you. This way if orange
flies are the only ones that are working, you can color a number of flies orange instead of having to have a large inventory of every color.