Essential fly fishing tackle for beginners

We take a look at the essential bits of fly fishing tackle beginners need to get started fly fishing for trout in stillwaters.

Essential fly fishing tackle for beginners
© Fly and Lure
Essential fly fishing tackle for beginners
Picture copyright © Fly and Lure
Essential fly fishing tackle for beginners
Fly fishing tips Estimated reading time 8 - 14 minutes

1. Fly rod, fly reel and fly line

Most fly fishers own enough tackle to start their own fly fishing tackle shop. However, you don't really need all this gear to get started fly fishing. In fact, beginners can buy all the essential bits of fly fishing tackle for less than £250.

Unsurprisingly, a fly rod is the first and most important piece of fly fishing tackle you'll need when starting out.

Fly rods are chosen by their line weight rating. For most stillwater trout fishing in the UK you'll want a five or six weight fly rod of about 9 to 10 feet in length.

Fly rods come in various actions, from slow or full flex actions which bend from butt to tip, to fast or tip flex actions, which are stiffer and more powerful. Most beginners will favour a mid flex rod as it helps them cast more easily. Faster actioned rods are usually best left to expert casters.

You'll need to pair your fly rod with a fly reel of the right size and a fly line which matches the line weight rating for your rod. So, if you've picked a fly rod with a five weight rating, you'll need a five weight line.

Fly lines come in many types, but for most uses a weight forward floating line is what you'll need. This needs to be attached to your fly reel with some fly line backing and you'll need to attach your leader to the other end using some braided loops.

Gear wise, there are loads of great fly rods and reels on the market to suit beginners to fly fishing. I'd recommend the Orvis Encounter kits.

These include a very nice quality rod, a great little reel and a fly line and backing, all fully assembled and ready to use. The whole lot can be picked up for around £150. They cast as well as rods that cost a lot more and they're backed up by Orvis' legendary customer service. 

2. Leaders, tippet and tippet rings

In fly fishing you use a thick heavy fly line as the weight when you're casting. To this fly line you attach a leader made from tapered monofilament line (either fluorocarbon or nylon copolymer) and onto the end of that you tie a thinner piece of line called a tippet.

A couple of tapered leaders ought to get you started, as well as a spool or two of tippet. Initially, your casting is probably going to result in some tangled leaders and tippets, so until you've mastered casting I'd not advise buying expensive tippet.

To connect your tippet to your tapered leader, I'd highly recommend getting yourself a pack of Riverge Leader Rings, or tippet rings as they're also known.

These provide a very simple way of connecting line together without the need to learn any fancy knots, and they can make your expensive tapered leaders last much longer.

Expect to pay about £2-5 for each tapered leader. Tippet rings are about £2 a pack, while spools of tippet can cost anywhere from £3 to £10 depending on the quality. 

Tippet rings are highly recommended for beginners to fly fishing.

3. Forceps and nippers

A cheap pair of nippers for cutting line can be picked up for just a couple of quid, as can a pair of forceps for unhooking fish and de-barbing hooks, though you can spend more if you want. If you want to be thrifty you can even use an old pair of nail clippers! 

I'd feel naked when fishing without either of these items. You might also want to buy a zinger or lanyard to attach these to, as it's easy to mislay them. 

Expect to pay about £2-10 for nippers, £5-20 for forceps. The lanyard is optional (but really handy) and can be picked up for £15-25. 

Forceps and nippers are essential for cutting line, unhooking fish and de-barbing flies.

4. Fly box and flies

It's inevitable that you're going to develop an addiction to buying flies, so you'll need a box to keep them in.

There are tons on the market which range in price from a fiver up to a hundred quid, if you want a really posh one. Most fly boxes on the market are pretty good, so just pick the one you like the look of. 

The type of flies you buy depends on where you're fishing and the time of the year. Probably your best bet is to ask your local fishery for some tips on what works best there, and perhaps buy a few from their fly selection, if they have one.

Alternatively, there are loads of excellent online fly suppliers who provide huge ranges of flies at extremely competitive prices. Be careful, though, you could easily spend a fortune.

Expect to pay £10 for a basic fly box, or £20+ if you want something fancy. You'll probably want to spend £20+ on flies. We recommend the Fulling Mill Silicone Slit fly boxes

You can get a basic fly box for £5-10, or a fancier one for £20 plus.

5. Landing net

You'll need a landing net to help you bank your catch. If you're going to be fishing from the bank, rather than wading, then I'd recommend a net with a longish handle.

If you're going to be wading, then a medium to large scoop net will be better. Be careful not to pick one too small, otherwise you may struggle to fit your catch inside. 

A decent landing net and handle can be picked up for about £30, but you might want to spend more to get a nicer one. 

If you buy a landing net, make sure you pick one big enough to hold the size of fish you're likely to catch...

6. Rod licence

To fish for trout legally in England and Wales you'll need to buy a rod licence and carry it with you when you're fishing. You can be fined up to £2500 if you fish without one. 

Children under 12 don't need a rod licence, but you'll need one if you're looking after them while fishing. Children who are aged 12-16 need a concessionary version, which costs a fiver for the year. 

If you fish for trout in England or Wales then you need one of these.

If you're fishing for rainbow trout in stillwaters or non-migratory brown trout in rivers, you'll need the "non-migratory trout and coarse fish" version of the licence. 

If you want to fish for migratory sea trout and salmon in rivers (which is a bit specialist for the average newcomer to fly fishing) then you need the more expensive "salmon and migratory trout licence". 

You can buy one for the whole year, or you can buy them each time you fish if you're not going to go that often. The basic non-migratory trout and coarse fish licence is just £27 for the whole year, so it won't break the bank.

7. Priest

If you're planning to take home the odd trout for the table, rather than catching and releasing, then you'll need a priest.

This is basically a heavy blunt weapon for quickly dispatching your fish with to ensure it doesn't suffer. To ensure it doesn't die a slow painful death, a decent priest is required so you can quickly dispatch the fish.

It's extremely bad form to let a fish flap around and essentially "drown" by not promptly dispatching it if you're intending to take it home for the table, so a priest is absolutely essential.

You can pick these up for £10 or less.

A priest is essential if you want to take home your catch.

8. Sunglasses and hat

A pair of sunglasses and a hat (even if it's not sunny) should always be worn. When you're fly casting that little hook will be whizzing through the air at about a hundred miles an hour, and it's not unheard of for them to stick in people, especially when it's windy. 

As well as protecting you from stray hooks, a decent pair of polarised sunglasses will also help you spot fish by taking the glare off the water. The hat serves as head protection and also helps with the fish spotting, too.

Any hat or cap is fine and there's no need to buy a special fishing version. You can use normal spectacles or sunglasses if you want, or you can buy a pair of polarised glasses to increase your chances of spotting fish. A yellow pair of glasses is handy for cloudy days (£5-20) while a darker brown pair (again £5-20) is best for when it's sunny. 

Glasses and a hat are absolutely essential when fly fishing and only a muppet would fish without them.

Anything else?

There are, of course, gazillions of other things you may need to buy (including specialist clothing, such as waders and wading boots) but this is the essential basic fly fishing gear required by the newcomer to the hobby.

There aren't a huge number of specialist fly fishing shops around in the UK, but if you live near one we can highly recommend visiting your local Orvis branch.

Prices might be a little higher than some other brands, but you'll get great quality products that work well and last a long time, as well as free friendly advice and even free lessons!

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